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Handwriting Without Tearms


Why should I tell teachers to use Handwriting Without Tears rather than D’Nealian or the Ball and Stick method?

D’Nealian is a handwriting curriculum in which many letters have added tails. Their goal was to help children transition to cursive. Research has shown that this curriculum does not help children transition to cursive and actually leads to reversals. Zaner Bloser no longer uses their Ball and Stick method. Their curriculum for lowercase letter formation now requires students to form their letters with a continuous stroke, with the exception of crossing ts and dotting is, etc. In fact, Zaner Bloser’s approach to lowercase letter formation is now similar to that of Handwriting Without Tears, but with different teaching methods and materials.

Handwriting Without Tears is the most effective curriculum for teaching handwriting to all children because it uses multisensory techniques and consistent habits for letter formation to teach handwriting to all students—from pre-k through cursive skill levels. In addition, Handwriting Without Tears provides parents and teachers with the instructional techniques and activities to improve a child’s confidence, pencil grip, body awareness, posture, and so much more! We use fun, entertaining, and educationally sound instructional methods. The well-planned lessons need minimal preparation time and are easy to teach and easy to use.

Are you going to develop a Cursive Tool?
Yes. The Cursive Tool is on our product development list, but we do not yet have a specific date for release of this product.

When will the Print Tool be standardized?
We are aiming to standardize the Print Tool within three years. We now have a website dedicated specifically to Level 1 Certification and the Print Tool (, and we are always seeking to expand such resources for therapists.

I work with 3-year-old children. Can I use the Pre-K program?

We designed our Pre-K program specifically for 4 and 5-year-olds. This readiness program prepares young children for the formal handwriting instruction that begins in kindergarten. However, there are some elements of the Pre-K program that you can use with 3-year-olds.

Is it acceptable to have children trace letters and numbers?
Our Pre-K program has a workbook that is just for tracing because it is developmentally appropriate. Tracing can be a step before the child forms the letter independently. However, we discourage you from having a child trace dot-dot letters or shapes, because these are visually confusing and provide no instructional benefit. If you want children to trace, have them use a highlighter. It is important to watch children as they trace because they may incorrectly trace a letter from the bottom up, etc. Therefore, always model a letter for them and have them trace over a yellow highlighted letter. Finally, ask them to write the modeled and traced letter independently.

Why doesn’t Mat Man have a neck?
HWT wanted to keep Mat Man simple and easy for children of all abilities. However, you can easily give him a neck by adding two little lines.

My classroom already has large chunky crayons and markers. I don’t have the budget to buy new crayons. What should I do to help my students with their grip?
We prefer small tools because large tools promote a fisted grip, whereas small tools promote a mature grip. If you have large, chunky crayons, break them into small pieces. Put away the markers and take them out just for a few activities during the school year. Use crayons on a daily basis. Ask around and collect old crayons. These are ideal for breaking into smaller pieces.

My classroom is using a phonics program that also has a handwriting component. It teaches letters in a different order on triple lined paper and the language it uses is unlike HWT. What should I do?
Even though reading and handwriting share the same symbols, they require different skills to learn. You can teach each in one of three ways:

  1. Separate the handwriting and reading teaching orders. Teach both separately, although during handwriting remember reading and remind them of the letter sounds. During handwriting instruction, remember the learned letter sounds.
  2. Integrate the handwriting and reading teaching orders. In other words, during handwriting integrate the reading instruction for a letter. During reading, integrate handwriting instruction for a letter.
  3. Follow the reading teaching order. During reading, teach the reading order and during handwriting, teach in the reading order.

Remember to dedicate 15 minutes a day to handwriting. Lessons should be multisensory. Children will integrate onto different styles of paper if you show them how to do it.

How do I determine handedness in a child? At what age should this be determined? If the child is left-handed, shouldn’t we teach them differently?
You should teach left-handed and right-handed children the same way, with a few exceptions. Many left-handed students will hook their wrists to accommodate for having to copy material on the left, which their hand would cover. You can solve this either by having students copy under a word, by placing the word for copying in the middle of a page, or photocopying an extra worksheet from which students can copy. You should allow left-handed students to cross letters requiring a cross stroke. In addition, left-handed students should tilt their paper to the left to follow the natural arc of the writing hand.

Why is there a loop in b, l but not h, k, p?
If you put a loop on h and k, the law of motion takes over. Cursive h and k often end up with a gap. If these letters don’t have a loop, they are more likely to stay together. Cursive e, l, and b have loops because we want the motion away from the letter.

I do not like number 6. It looks like a lowercase b. Why doesn’t it start in the center?
Number 6 starts in the starting corner to prevent reversal. When children learn the correct direction for 6, they will often add the natural curve, because the arc of the hand promotes that curve.

My school uses various methods to teach handwriting. I want to use your materials, what should I do?
We have resources to help you bring HWT into your schools. Contact for more information. In the meantime, you can use HWT, but you have to be aware of what your teachers are using in the classroom. For example, if a teacher is using the D’Nealian method, and you have a student who struggles with adding the tails, you could ask if the teacher would allow the student to form the letters without the added tails. The Magic C letters will start the same way in most handwriting curricula, so you can help students with these letters using Mystery Letter games and other HWT techniques. You could also help teachers and parents understand the importance of teaching handwriting everyday in the classroom, promoting good physical habits, using a multisensory and developmental approach to handwriting, and demonstrating the importance of modeling letters and numbers before expecting children to write independently.

Is the Roll–A–Dough gluten free?
The dough in Roll–A–Dough Letters™ are gluten free.