Handwriting with the Little Smarties in Room 16

Sometimes I feel like I update the Little Smarties in Room 16 blog more than my own blog.

Last week in my Five for Friday post I shared a picture of my student’s new handwriting bags. I thought I’d share a bit about how we’ve been using them.

In the P-2 early years area at my school, we try to include a specific handwriting session each week to focus on letter formation, thus, I’ve been modifying how I’ve previously taught handwriting (very paper-based!) to make it a little less damaging on the environment!

What’s included:

  • A name-tracing card in our State font (Victorian Modern Cursive, for those not from Australia), laminated
  • Lowercase and Uppercase alphabet and numbers in our State Font (this is from one of our handwriting books), laminated
  • Dotted-thirds writing paper (actually on the back of the alphabet page!), laminated
  • Mini whiteboard
  • Whiteboard marker (I got them in packs of 5 for $2.80 from Daiso)
  • 1/4 Chux Magic Eraser

And everything is kept in a large-size snaplock bag (I use Hercules bags) in their tubs.

Our handwriting program:

Currently our handwriting session is on a Thursday morning after our Literacy/Guided Reading session.

Students collect their bags, put them on their tables and join me on the floor for a focus session on our letter for the week. We use a program called Track, Trace and Copy to observe and practise forming letters correctly using our Interactive Whiteboard (IWB). Depending on the letter (and it’s relative complexity) I might have students bring their mini-whiteboards to the floor and we’ll practise forming letters together, or we might form them in the air. I also have students come out and model correct letter formation.

At the end of the mini-lesson students go back to their tables and use their writing packets. We’re developing a formula (slowly) so that students stay on task:

  1. Students start by tracing their name (at least once). For my Preps it’s good practise revising how to write their name correctly, and it’s just as good for my Grade 1s who, even though they can write their names independently, struggle with letter formation, capital letters and letter size.
  2. Students trace the lowercase and uppercase letters on their laminated tracing sheet.

Then, the handwriting task is differentiated for my Preps and my Grade 1s.

The Preps:

  • practise writing the letter focus on their mini-whiteboard 10 (or more times) and circle their best go,
  • use our weekly brainstorm of words to practise their handwriting, and,
  • practise writing out sight words (we use the Magic 100 Words program).

The Grade 1s:

  • use their personal dictionaries to practise writing words using our letter of the week on the dotted-thirds laminated sheet,
  • use our weekly brainstorm of words to practise their writing on dotted thirds, and,
  • write a sentence and illustrated it on their mini whiteboards.

All the students are responsible for cleaning their laminated sheets and whiteboards and for ensuring that their whiteboard pens have their lids on them and that everything goes into their bags at the end of a session.

While students are working independently I pull students out in small groups (or independently) to work on a specific hand-writing skill – using a variety of whiteboard activities, IWB activities or sheet-based activities (although I’m moving away from having handwriting sheets, unless I can reuse them!).

I also usually have a fantastic parent-helper during this session who is really good with the kids. (I taught her middle child in his first year of school in my first year of teaching, and now I’m teaching her youngest in his first year of school!) She knows all the tricks, and helps correct pencil-grip, letter formation and knows how to encourage even the most reluctant writer. I’m super-lucky to have her helping me out!

Now – this isn’t a perfect program, but already it’s starting helping me to really target the students that need specific instruction in letter formation (which is really tricky in Australia, because our State handwriting fonts are SO different to what students see everyday – sometimes I wonder why we don’t teach print handwriting, but that’s another story!).

I’m also hoping to include a few little fine-motor skill activities into handwriting as well, because some of my kiddos really need that extra support.

Do you teach handwriting? What do your handwriting sessions look like?

12 thoughts on “Handwriting with the Little Smarties in Room 16

  1. This is super helpful for me – I am currently not teaching a handwriting lesson at the moment with my Preps though I will need to start formal lessons next term.

    At the moment, we are forming letters in the air and rainbow writing in our literacy scrapbooks when we learn a new sound. We do rotations once a week and one of our activities is letter formation with my teacher aide. I feel like I’m not doing enough though and my deputy is all about automaticity and we’re just not getting there yet.

    I used so.much.paper last year so I think using the whiteboards will be much kinder on the environment. Your handwriting bags are such a good idea! =)

    Lifelong Learners in Prep


    • Hi Casey,

      I’m so glad you got something out of this. I love teaching handwriting, but it’s one of those things that can (inadvertently) get rushed over a bit when timing gets away from me. It lends itself so much to kinaesthetic supporting activities as well. My kiddos love writing letters in the air and rainbow writing, too (when we get the opportunity to do it). They also love chalkboards – which I find really strange, but as a special activity it’s great for them, tracing letters in sand/salt/rice trays, and using different tools (crayons/pencils/markers/pastels/highlighters/etc).

      But I am SO relieved to be moving away from paper-based handwriting. If we were using handwriting books, I think it would be different (because I’m not against handwriting books in any way), but because we don’t booklist them I think the photocopying is a bit wasteful.

      I’d love to hear about what you do when you start formal handwriting lessons with you kids next term!



  2. I teach in NSW and we are required (by our principal) to teach handwriting lessons 3 times a week (which is a stretch as our curriuculum is sooo crowded!!) We have a lined handwriting exercise book and each lesson includes the long date, a focus letter, words or a sentence using that letter and a pattern. I love, however, your handwriting bag and I think I will start using these handwriting bags next term for extra practise during my guided reading groups!!

    I am not a blogger YET but have been stalking blogs for quite awhile now, yours is one of my favourites!!
    Kelly 🙂


  3. Hi Stef

    I love your handwriting bag – I teach prep at a Montessori school and things such as small chalkboards and whiteboards are available for the children as well as a range of tracing activities. I really like the individual name templates you have created and have been searching for a way to do this for my children – are you able to tell me how you created them?


    • Hi Kelly,

      Thanks for stopping by to leave a comment. If you ever dive into blogging, let me know, I’ll definitely add your blog to my reading list!

      I made the name cards with one of the Vic Cursive fonts (that I found YEARS ago and haven’t been able to find again online since) and just printed and laminated them. If you want the font, send me an email (stefanie.galvin@gmail.com) and I can forward it to you. It’s been such a lifesaver font – so useful for my Preps!



  4. Hi Stefanie,
    I love your handwriting packs, such a great idea. I am a graduate and teaching a prep/1 composite this year. We do handwriting once a week using a handwriting book, I don’t think it has been very helpful for most prep students! I love the name cards, and have been looking for a vic modern cursive channeling font everywhere! Wondering if you could email it to me as well? My email is catherine@lunn.id.au
    Thank you in advance!


  5. Hi Stefanie,

    I would love a copy of the font too if that would be ok? My email address is claire.brett@hotmail.com

    I am a teacher and used to have the font on a previous computer, but haven’t been able to find it again….its so frustrating.

    Absolutely love your handwriting bags, is such a great idea. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Thank you in advance

    Claire :0)


  6. Hi Stefanie,
    Love your blog! I have just spent the first morning of my holidays engrossed in all your amazing posts. I was particularly excited about this handwriting post as we are looking to spice up our h/w lessons next term. Can I be really cheeky and ask you to email me the font you used for the name cards? I have never seen it before and I love the idea of having a small focus group during handwriting going over the basics.
    My email address is…

    I’m also in love with all the hats/headbands you do with your kids- I’m a big fan!


  7. Hi Stefanie
    I nearly wept tears of joy when I saw that a teacher in Victoria is actually teaching handwriting in this way. I have been struggling with my local primary school’s approach (practically non existent) and gone so far as to approach the Dept of Ed – only to be told I would have been the first parent ever to have complained about a child’s inability to write and that I was not to worry about it. Stefanie, I have been trying to source some practice materials to use at home – what would you recommend? – now in grade 6 and I fear it is almost too late


    • Hi Gael,

      I’m glad that my post had such an impact on you. Handwriting is, unfortunately, one of those things that’s getting pushed aside due to high demands on other core subject areas. Not a great thing, by any means.

      I think the most important thing with handwriting is persistence and consistency. Some of the resources I really like (beyond the materials in my blog post) include Pascal Press’s Targeting Handwriting books and Firefly Education’s Writing Time (which is currently F-2, but they’re expanding up to year 6, I believe!).

      Another really great strategy for promoting correct letter formation is tracing different kinds of lines (straight, jagged, wavy, spiral etc) because these form the basis of most letters. Creating artwork using different lines might be a way of engaging older children into developing good handwriting skills.

      Good luck!



  8. Hi Stef,

    I’m wondering if you could send me the font you used too? I emailed you about it but I’m not sure if you check your emails! I know I rarely do!



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