Capitals versus Lower Case:
There is much debate over whether to teach capitals only or both capitals and lower case in kindergarten. 50% of typical students are not yet ready for lower case letters before 5 years old. Capital letters tend to be easier to learn because they all start in the same place and cover the same spacial area on the line (always start at the top and cover 2 line spaces). Conversely, lower case letters require higher visual-spacial skills including: re-tracing part of a letter, shifting directions, differently sized and different spacial locations on the lines. That said, children see lower case letters more in the classroom due to reading and this may help them to be more familiar with them. Further, most children entering kindergarten already know how to print some letters, usually letters in their name. My advice is if a student is having extreme difficulty learning lower case letters, you may want to consider switching to capitals only, at least initially in kindergarten. (Again, this would only be after the student has mastered the pre-printing shapes and has developed a functional pencil grasp). Then, as the kindergarten year progresses, start to introduce lower case letters, starting with the more simple letters (see below) and progressing from there.
When teaching children printing:
- always give explicit instructions on how to form the letter
- group similar letters together to build on previous learning
- always give the structure of the bottom, dashed middle and top lines
- teach a consistent ‘verbal path-of-movement’ for each letter (eg: t – down, lift, across the middle)
- have students evaluate their best letters
- pay special attention to a, j, k, n, q, u, z as these letters tend to be the most difficult
In order to improve handwriting skills practice is essential for improvement.
Once the student no longer has to think about how to form the letter correctly, s/he is ready for practice sheets. The purpose of the practice sheets are to move the student from a thinking or cognitive level to an automatic motor level. Usually, students in grade one or two are ready for a cognitive approach like the one used in the Printing Like a Pro Program.