Category Archives: printed handwriting

5 ways to keep beginning readers engaged

The younger the reading student, the more activities a teacher needs to keep the student engaged during a lesson.  For four- and five-year-olds, I come prepared with a bagful of reading activities such as

  • A stack of pictures showing CVC words (flag, map, dog, cat, and pen) which the student sorts into two piles: those that have the desired vowel or consonant sound, and those that don’t.
  • Letter tiles which I use to form words, phrases and sentences for the student to read. Sentences using the student’s own name attract the youngest readers.  Letting the student create some of the words. also keeps the student engaged.
  • Stories written with the simplest CVC vocabulary which the student and I read together, and then which she reads independently.
  • Twelve pictures of rhyming words on index cards .

Another kind of reading assignment that my youngest reading students like is reading and answering silly questions like the following:

  1. Can an ant wink to a cat? Yes   No
  2. Can a bug land on a lip? Yes   No
  3. Will a duck swim in a mug? Yes   No
  4. Can a big cat fit in a bag? Yes   No
  5. Will a dog dig with a pen? Yes   No

The questions consist of whatever examples of the reading concept we are studying at the time such as CVC words, blends, or two-syllable short-vowel words.  Almost all the questions are ridiculous and the more ridiculous the better.  Having colored pencils or markers to use intensifies the fun.

I find that the more hands-on the activity, the better.  Early readers sometimes cannot print letters, but they can make ovals around words or draw matching lines.  They can hold a small stack of pictures and sort them into piles.  They can move around letter tiles.

The more busy their bodies are, the more likely they are to stay engaged.

Printing, cursive writing and keystroking

Is there a best sequence in which to learn printing, cursive writing and key stroking?  Yes, according to research.

clip of child holding pencil upside down

  • First children should learn to print letters, using either a pen or pencil, from toddler years through second grade.
  • Then, during third and fourth grade, children should learn and switch to cursive handwriting.
  • Beginning in fifth grade, children should learn to keystroke.

This sequence is connected to how the brain of a child develops.

Holding a pencil, forming letters correctly, printing neatly on a horizontal line and using correct spacing to form words is a complex skill requiring coordination of many processes.  By four or five years old, most children are capable of this.

Around fourth grade, using cursive writing seems to help children with spelling and composing.  The reason is not clear, but researchers speculate that joining letters together in cursive writing helps children to form words from individual letters.

When a child learns to type properly on a keyboard, the fingers from both hands are used, unlike when handwriting.  Using both hands might activate connective tissue in the brain which joins different parts of the brain together to perform a task.

(Common Core Standards recommend that children learn to print in first and second grades, but learning to write in cursive is not recommended.  As a result, cursive writing is no longer taught in many schools.  The Common Core Standards recommend learning to use a keyboard.)