All this is often visual noise to kids with sensory processing issues and ocular or visual-perceptual issues. These problems are sometimes subtle and appear to be behavioral. The kids who “hate to write”. The kids who look away when you are demonstrating how to write a letter or spell a word. The kids who cannot seem to remember where to start a letter, even after repeated practice. These children often do much better with HWT’s double-lined paper.
Let’s drill down into the design of this unique paper:
Double-lined paper provides just two lines; the baseline and the midline. Knowing where to start uppercase letters and tall lowercase letters is important, and this paper encourages practice and awareness while still giving some structure to writing.
There is a wide empty space between sets of lines. This is intentional; children have room to place the tails of lowercase “y” and “j”, for example, without blocking the uppercase or tall lowercase letters of the next line of writing. For many kids, not knowing what to do about crowding and spacing is a good reason to stop trying to write well, or sometimes even write at all.
This sturdy paper is pre-punched to be used in a 3-ring binder. The quality of the paper is very high, which means that it doesn’t tear easily when a child erases a mistake. Most schools provide the thinnest paper for teachers to use as handouts, creating the potential for a disaster when given to a child that struggles with grading their force on an eraser, or makes multiple errors in a word.
Brains get practice in sizing and proportion. Once kids have a pattern of letter formation, it is easier to accomplish without the extra midline. But so many kids need that “training wheel” effect much longer than scrolls recognize. Many kids need a day or two of double-lined paper use to start understanding the way a letter “h” is twice as tall as a letter “a” and the same size but aligned differently than the letter “y”. Of course, pointing it out is important, and so is working on other writing qualities such as letter and word spacing.
Kids write faster. Because they are guided to proportion and start letters correctly, they don’t waste time thinking about it or erasing incorrect letters. Again, this doesn’t mean their brain isn’t taking it all in. If that were true, we would start every kid on single-lined paper in preschool.
There are three line sizes, so you don’t have to abandon the double-lines when your kid enter middle school. I will admit that I wish the pre-k/K paper were thicker. But it is still fairly sturdy.
You can alternate using this paper with single-lined paper to see when to “take the training wheels off” and stop using double-lined paper. Kids should always have a chance to practice with standard paper, but when the choice is between fighting and crying, and quickly executing a homework assignment, it is no contest.
It seems so simple: if a child can write all of her uppercase and lowercase letters independently, she should be able to use paper with only a baseline as an anchor. I see too many kids in kindergarten and first grade go from proud writers to discouraged writers when the “training wheels” of extra lines come off too early. Why does the loss the of the midline and top line (or the mid line of Handwriting Without Tears) totally blow their minds and destroy their legibility?
I think I have the answer to this one.
These kids have not been taught, or have failed to grasp, the proportion and placement rules of letter formation. They don’t have an internalized sense of placement. This is what adults do automatically. You can draw a midline and a top line through any adult’s writing easily. A child that can’t place letters correctly will get a lot of red marks on their compositions. My suggestion? Emphasize placement as early as late pre-K, and avoid handing back all those papers covered in red!
Placement on the baseline and proportions of lowercase letters are handwriting details that don’t get enough attention in our world of early test prep for all. Even for preschools that teach lowercase formation well, teaching sizing and placement concepts are often overlooked or taught too quickly. Sometimes it is because half the class of kindergarteners are still shaky on mental and perceptual concepts of “middle” and “left/right”. They haven’t fully mastered those important pre-writing skills. It is also very, very hard to teach children to write using only the baseline if they do not know the correct start/sequence. Correct sizing and placement are only dreams if a child is struggling to remember if the letter “r” starts on the midline or on the baseline. What do you see with single-line handwriting if a child has’t been taught lowercase/uppercase proportion and placement?
the letter “t” will be the same size as an “i”, and crossed in the middle, since even 4 year-olds have mastered a vertical cross.
letters like “t” and “l” will start on the baseline. Kids are looking for an anchor spot to start their letters, and since they don’t have those other lines, they go for the baseline.
the letter “l” as a huge straight line, and if it is D’Nealian, add a curly tail that makes it look like a backwards “j” without the dot.
The tails of both “Y” and “y” sitting on the baseline. Sometimes the “y” is half above, half under as the child remembers there is a difference but can’t recall exactly what it is.
You get the idea.
Simply put, letters like “t”, “l”, and “h” are twice the height of “a”, “e’, and “o”. Stack two “o’s” and you should be at the correct height for the letter “t”.
If a child can stack two LEGOs and visualize the ratio, than they can learn this principle with writing letters. If they do not have the physical control to write lowercase letters this way, go back to writing uppercase letters. Use those larger letters to refine control, getting smaller and smaller, removing starting points and lines along the way. Just don’t make red marks all over worksheets and wonder what is happening…