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New WriteWell Handwriting Programme

31 January 2019

New WriteWell Handwriting Programme

Find out about WriteWell, our brand new handwriting programme designed to guide children from their first steps in mark-making to the development of clear, confident and speedy joined handwriting that can be adapted for a range of purposes.

Much ink has been spilt over the idea that handwriting is a dying art form and that today’s technologically savvy children, who learn to use an iPad before they can hold a pencil, have little use for print, never mind cursive handwriting. But even if we were to concede that the vast majority of communication is now conducted electronically, be it through writing emails, typing essays or tapping emojis, it would be a mistake to conclude that this renders handwriting obsolete.

Handwriting is more than just a means of communication. It is intimately linked to the way that children (and adults) learn. Brain scans clearly show that forming words by hand leads to increased brain activity – sharpening focus, improving comprehension and aiding long-term memorisation. Handwriting also plays an important role in the development of early reading by encouraging visual recognition and abstract representation of letters, as well as helping children learn to spell correctly by encoding spelling patterns in muscle memory. Some studies have even shown that handwriting can lead to better idea composition and expression.

With so many benefits to writing by hand and with a renewed focus on handwriting in the 2014 National Curriculum, we wanted to provide schools with a handwriting resource that would help all children – not just those (often girls) with a natural inclination towards neat writing – to achieve handwriting mastery. Over three years in development, WriteWell is just that resource; a complete course designed to develop pupils’ handwriting in a systematic and consistent way from Reception to Year 6, so that by the end of primary school, they can communicate their ideas on paper quickly, clearly and comfortably. 

A developmental approach 

As handwriting development can vary greatly from child to child, WriteWell follows a developmental model that allows every child to progress at their own pace, as their handwriting skills flourish. Learning is split into four discrete Stages based on the National Handwriting Association’s eight ‘S Factors for Success’: Shape; Space; Size; Sitting on the line; Stringing together; Slant; Speed and Style. Each S Factor represents a feature of successful handwriting, and the factors are arranged in order of developmental demand.

Each WriteWell Stage is covered in detail, ensuring that learning is firmly embedded before children move on. Stages 1 and 3 require more pupil books than the other Stages because they teach the formation of letters and joins, as outlined below. 

  • Stage 1: Shape -  This Stage begins with writing patterns and boosting pencil control in Book 1, before introducing the correct letter formations for lowercase letters in Books 2 and 3, and for capital letters and numbers in Book 4. The lowercase letters are introduced in five motion-inspired ‘letter families’. This helps to focus not only on the letter shapes, but also on ensuring that they are formed in the correct direction, starting and finishing in the right place.
  • Stage 2: Space, Size, Sitting on the line - Once letter formation is secure, children learn how to arrange their writing on baselines and to form letters of the correct relative size. They also learn about spacing letters within words and leaving appropriate spaces between words. 
  • Stage 3: Space, Stringing together, Slant - Stage 3 is the most detailed Stage in which children are systematically introduced to the basic diagonal and horizontal joins. Throughout this Stage children also build confidence by using to joins to join longer words and to develop a consistent joining style. 
  • Stage 4: Speed, Style - Once joining is secure, the focus shifts to developing a personal style that is fast, fluent and legible and can be adapted for different purposes and tasks. Children are encouraged to adopt a slanted style and to experiment with changes to their joined style, such as looping. 

Structured practice

Handwriting is a skill and like all skills it requires intensive practice to achieve fluency. The WriteWell pupil books offer plenty of opportunities for children to practise new learning and careful consideration has gone into all of the activities to limit cognitive demand so that, while drawing on learning from areas such as phonics, spelling and grammar, the emphasis is on handwriting first and foremost. 

Each pupil book contains 15 units, together with a child-friendly introduction and at least one longer ‘WriteWell challenge’, giving pupils the opportunity to show off their best handwriting. All the units provide a clear handwriting focus, followed by targeted practice activities that gradually increase in difficulty, progressing from simple ‘Try it’ and ‘Practise it’ exercises involving tracing and copying activities, to more challenging ‘Apply it’ activities that encourage children to use the handwriting focus in a realistic context.

Throughout the programme children are encouraged to practise their handwriting skills through a variety of physical and multi-sensory activities, such as sky writing or making patterns in sand, as well as in their everyday writing by, for example, circling their best letter shape or comparing each other’s writing.

Teacher guidance and support 

As well as incorporating extensive practice materials for pupils, the WriteWell programme offers in-depth support and professional development for teachers in a single, comprehensive Teacher’s Handbook. Mirroring the structure of the pupil books, it includes a detailed set of teaching notes for each Stage, as well as useful tips for teaching individual units and comprehensive letter formation and joining charts featuring technical information on the mechanics of each letter and join (as well as common difficulties and strategies for tackling them). Photocopiable assessment and intervention resources for each Stage help you monitor progress and target key areas of difficulty.   

The handbook also includes a ‘Curriculum Chart’ and ‘Scope and Sequence Chart’ so that you can navigate the pupil books at a glance, alongside an extended introduction providing essential guidance on improving the teaching of handwriting in your school, covering everything from paper position and pressure to writing readiness and wrist warm-ups. Further free resources are available online, including downloadable activity sheets and animations for each letter and join.

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