Here we answer frequently asked questions (FAQs) on a number of subjects:
How does Handwriting Without Tears align with the Common Core State Standards?
We know that handwriting is an important part of a child’s language and literacy development. Therefore, the majority of our products and resources correlate best with the English Language Arts standards for Common Core despite there being few specific handwriting standards. Our products and resources meet the goals of multiple standards. Often, a variety of activities and products will achieve the same goal or standard, making it easy to reach children’s various learning styles.
Why do you instruct children to write using a vertical style of printing and cursive?
We use a vertical style of print because it is easy to write and familiar to children from their books and environment. We teach a vertical style of cursive because it is easier to write and to read. If a child has mastered cursive formations and connections and is developing a slanted style, that’s OK as long as the writing is neat and legible.
How do I find someone to tutor my child in handwriting using Handwriting Without Tears® (HWT)?
Look at our website for handwriting specialists. These people are trained in HWT and are certified to administer The Print Tool® evaluation. Many of them are in private practices or offer tutoring services.
You can find a certified individual in your area through the Level 1 Certification website. Feel free to contact anyone who is listed about your questions.
Although the best practice may be to teach handwriting before students actually have to write words and sentences, this is not always possible with all the demands placed on teachers. How should this be addressed?
Even though research suggests that students benefit from explicit and supplemental instruction in writing the letters of the alphabet, children are often expected to write before being taught how to form letters. Teachers should incorporate a few minutes of consistent, daily instruction in their schedules. They will quickly begin seeing more productive work as the children are able to write more naturally with instruction.
Handwriting is best taught to the entire classroom through teacher demonstration on a board or flip chart. Consider the three stages of learning:
Though our goal is for students to get to independent writing, we must begin by demonstrating correct letter formation.
Can more than one capital be taught on the same day?
Yes. Simply teach from similar groups of letters, ensuring that all students have mastered one letter before beginning the next.
How do I transition children from double lines to triple lines?
Children who receive good instruction forming letters correctly on double lines can transition to all styles of paper. The average classroom has 5-9 styles of paper and we want to teach children how to write on all of them.
You are the child’s best model. Say, “We use double line paper most of the time when we write. But you will also have to write on other types of paper. I will show you how to write on other paper so that you can make your letters look nice.” Every time you encounter a book or worksheet that gives children something other than double lines, make sure you take time to demonstrate letter placement. Being able to transition to all forms of paper will help children apply their good handwriting habits consistently.
How can I use the HWT program for a left-handed student?
All of our student workbooks are left-hand friendly. We put models for the children to copy on both sides of the page so that left-handed students don’t cover the model they are asked to copy. This alleviates the problem of left-handed individuals having to hook their wrists to see the models and enables them to maintain correct positioning.
How can I use my board more effectively to model?
It takes some practice to learn how to position yourself so that your students can see how you form letters when using the board for instruction. Position your body to the side so that your writing hand is visible. Your students will be able to watch the formation and skills you are teaching. Practice holding the chalk or dry erase marker a little farther back than usual. This will help your students see how the letters are formed. The double lines are easy to draw on your board using music staff markers found at teachers supply stores or our Double Line Writer.
Why does HWT teach only capital letter formation in Pre-K?
When children learn to write their names, capitals are easier. We teach lowercase letter recognition in Pre-K, but we only teach capital writing in Pre-K.
Capitals are easy:
Lowercase letters are more difficult:
Can I purchase a program to load your unique font on our computers?
You can create worksheets with our unique font with the A+ Worksheet Maker.
I am presenting the Handwriting Without Tears program to my school/school district, and I need help. Where do I start?
We’ll give you in-service materials to help you present to your school or school district. We can send handouts (brochures, handouts, research, scripts, and overheads) to help you present. Visit hwtears.com/advocate from more information.
Are there Wood Pieces for forming lowercase letters?
Lowercase letters are formed using a continuous stroke. We don’t use Wood Pieces to teach lowercase letters because they can lead to individual separate strokes and inappropriate pencil pick-ups.
Are your Pre-K materials age-appropriate for very young children? The materials list shows many products that we might want to adapt for our 3-year- olds.
The My First School Book activity book is designed for the Pre-K year to prepare students for the formal instruction of handwriting that will begin in kindergarten. However, there are many parts of the Pre-K program you can implement with 3-year-olds. Here are some suggestions:
For more information, visit Get Set For School.
You might consider attending one of our Pre-K readiness workshops in your area. You will receive materials to get started and will learn how to implement the program.
We are interested in adding handwriting to our curriculum. Why should we choose Handwriting Without Tears®?
HWT is easy to teach and easy to learn. Students who succeed in handwriting do better in all their written assignments. Children with fluent handwriting have more time to think about the content of their writing and score better on tests. The curriculum is so effective, it reduces the need for spending time or money on OT evaluations and other extra resources. The best costs less.
We are interested in your program. Please tell us exactly what it means to say a state has adopted the Handwriting Without Tears curriculum?
A state adoption means that the state board of education has approved a curriculum for use in the state’s public schools. In other words, schools and districts can use their state funds to purchase only adopted program materials. Some states do not approve curricula and others approve multiple curricula for a single subject. Regardless of the state process, curriculum selections are made at the district, school, grade, or classroom level. For more information, contact your school or district administrators.
We have adopted the Handwriting Without Tears program and would like to train our teachers. How do we do this?
You have several options available for training:
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 t’s and dotting i’s. 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 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 The 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 now have a website dedicated specifically to Level 1 Certification and the Print Tool (hwtcertification.com), and we are always seeking to expand such resources for therapists.
I work with three-year-old children. Can I use the Pre-K program?
We designed our Pre-K program specifically for four- and five-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 three-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, 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:
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 from right to left. 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.
Number 6 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 more 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 Handwriting Without Tears into your school. 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. 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.
Why is the Handwriting Without Tears® teaching order different? How does it work?
The HWT teaching order is successful because it follows a developmental teaching sequence. We teach easy letters first, beginning with capitals and then teaching letters in groups of similar stroke sequence. When students master easier skills, they are better prepared to learn more difficult groups—those prone to reversals or having diagonal lines. As a result, children gain mastery and confidence more quickly and can focus on the content of their work rather than the mechanics of letter formation. The HWT teaching order results in writing that is fluid, legible, and automatic.
Your program emphasizes a vertical style of print and cursive. Will my child be able to develop her own style?
By using HWT techniques, your child will learn the handwriting basics and develop a solid foundation to become proficient with letter formation, placement of letters on lines, spacing between letters and words, and differentiating the size of capital and lowercase letters. Eventually, your child will develop her own style after the basics are mastered.
Why do you use paper with double lines? My child’s school uses three lines. Won’t this lead to confusion?
Our double lines help students master handwriting and develop an internal sense of size and placement that makes the transition to other styles of paper easy. Our Double Line Paper eliminates line confusion. By using two lines, we eliminate line confusion. Directions are plain and clear. The base line keeps the writing straight and the mid line controls the size of the letters.
What are specific benefits of the HWT program for students struggling with their handwriting?
The HWT method and strategies work for children who aren’t successful with other handwriting methods. The simple vertical style of print and cursive that is developmentally easier to learn. In addition, HWT uses multisensory teaching strategies that appeal to all styles of learners and child friendly, consistent language in all grades.
What activities does your program use to help Pre-K children with fine motor delay?
The methods are based on the developmental abilities of young children and uses a variety of multisensory (visual, tactile, auditory, and movement) teaching strategies. We use music, movement, Wood Pieces, letter play, building, and coloring to develop skills.
My child is still struggling with his printing, but his class is moving to cursive. Can he move on to cursive if he’s still struggling with printing?
Yes, he can get a fresh start with cursive. Begin with the Handwriting Without Tears third-grade materials. Move slowly, and always show him how to form the letters before he practices in the workbook. The Blackboard with Double Lines is great for demonstration. Instruction should occur daily for 15 minutes.
Why do you teach capital letters first? Won’t children struggle with their lowercase letters later on?
We teach what’s easiest first, and capitals are much easier. They are all the same size, all start at the top, and share the same placement positions on paper (starting above the mid-line and going down to the bottom line). They are also formed with only four strokes (Big line, Little Line, Big Curve, Little Curve) Children who learn capitals first are better prepared for lowercase writing.
It seems that cursive writing is easier and less fatiguing than printing. Why is this?
Cursive can be easier for some people than printing. Letters are connected to each other, creating a continuous flow of thought and movement. When mastered, cursive is generally faster than print because print starts and stops with each letter that is formed. Printing is the best place to start young children in handwriting, but cursive has its place with older children and adults.
If a teacher uses a different style of paper in the classroom, will it confuse the child to use the HWT Double Line Paper?