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5 fun ways to practice handwriting

You know that your first graders need to practice their handwriting, but you don’t want them spending hours filling out worksheets? Do your students groan every time you introduce handwriting instruction? Are they getting bored with the typical tracing worksheets? I’m here to let you know that practicing handwriting can be fun! With a little imagination, you can get students to buy into practicing this important skill! Here are 5 fun ways to practice handwriting in your first-grade classroom!

make the pencils fun

The Power of Pencil Grips

Use fun pencil grips as fun ways to practice handwriting your students will love.

I know this might seem a little silly. You have probably spent a lot of time planning how you will teach handwriting and how you will get your students to practice handwriting, but I bet you haven’t considered the role the writing utensil can play in their engagement.

Making the pencils more fun is one of the easiest ways to spice up handwriting practice in your classroom.

The way I loved to do this was by having a variety of fun pencil grips that my students could use. You’d be surprised how much more focused they would be just by choosing a pencil grip. I know – crazy, huh!

It is also a great way to give a little help to those students who might need more support with their grip without singling them out!

SMALL BUT MIGHTY

small golf pencils are a great alternative for handwriting practice

Small, golf pencils are another great option for practicing handwriting. Not only are students enamored with these miniature pencils, but they are actually really good for our young students. The smaller pencil size really helps them to control the pencil better. It’s also great to help little hands to master that pencil grip. And if you find yourself gravitating to a specific brand of amazing pencils, no worries. Ticonderoga comes in mini pencils too!

The small size also encourages students to make smaller movements. They are less likely to use their entire arm in the writing process and really develop those small wrist and hand movements needed for good handwriting.

special pencils and accessories

You can also make students excited for handwriting by pulling out the “special pencils.” You know, the ones with different colors and patterns on them. Better yet, the really special pencils that just grab the students’ attention.

These special pencils remain special because they are only used for handwriting practice. That’s what helps them keep their novelty. If you let students use them everyday then they are no longer special.

You can also add some special accessories by using fun pencil top erasers or clip on critters. Not sure what to do, just Google pencil clip on critters and you will not be disappointed! Anything that helps the writing utensil take on a new and fun form will help engage students in handwriting.

Lay the Ground Rules

lay the ground rules so students know what to expect with pencil usage

As with anything different, you want to make sure that students know what to expect. While adding on these pencil upgrades will make your first graders more excited to practice their handwriting, I highly suggest making sure that you lay ground rules before introducing them.

First, give the students time to explore any pencil add-ons or upgrades. This will help them make a choice more easily down the road as well as help them focus more on the task versus playing with the add-on during the instructional block.

Then make sure to discuss the expectations such as how they will get to choose the add-on, what happens if they misuse it, etc. Doing this will help set you up for success while also keeping your students jazzed about handwriting practice!

Use different materials

Though your end goal is for students to write legibly on paper with a pencil, don’t rule out the power of using other materials to help support handwriting practice!

Ditching the pencil every now and then and bringing students back to the basics with line formation and fine motor skills practice can be helpful.

Plus, switching up instruction by introducing new materials is a perfect way to increase your students’ engagement level!

My favorite way to do this is to set up a writing practice station that has different materials available for students to use to practice their handwriting.

In the station, I include materials such as play dough, sensory trays filled with different items (salt, sand, rice), paint, q-tips, small wooden dowels, sandpaper letters for tracing and more. Each of these provides students with a different sensory input when they are writing.

Ways students practice handwriting with different materials

practicing letters in different ways helps students improve handwriting too

Here are some of the many different activities students can do in the handwriting center:

  • Roll out play dough and use small dowels to write letters or make different types of lines
  • Paint letters with q-tips
  • Using their finger to trace letters in the sensory tray or on sandpaper
  • Use play dough to form letters using the guide on the letter mats

By providing students with a variety of different activities you are able to really reach all your students and their learning styles. Students also learn that handwriting doesn’t always mean lines and lines of writing. By making a handwriting center something they look forward to, that excitement will also carry over to other handwriting activities too.

games to practice handwriting

Never underestimate the power of gamifying your curriculum. I’m sure you have games that you play for math or science, but did you know it is very simple to add games to your handwriting practice? Here are two of my favorite games to incorporate into my handwriting instruction!

Handwriting scavenger hunt

After students complete a piece of writing, conduct a handwriting scavenger hunt.

Students must find the letter or type of letter you are asking for in their own writing, circle it, and then re-write for extra practice.

This turns handwriting practice into a game while also getting students to pay attention to their own handwriting. Also, it gives you a chance to complete a formative assessment of their writing. You can easily hone in on the letters they are circling and look for any common errors that might need to be addressed!

You could ask the students to find:

  • The letter “t” (or any other letter you want to target)
  • A lowercase letter
  • An uppercase letter
  • A letter with a curve
  • A letter that uses 2 lines

Guess the letter

I love using the Guess the Letter game as a partner activity during handwriting instruction. Each pair of students is given a set of letter cards. Then one student draws a letter card and does not show it to the other student. They then slowly begin writing the letter on a piece of paper while their partner tries to guess which letter they are writing.

You could focus on uppercase and lowercase separately or at the same time depending on what kind of practice would be most beneficial for your students. Different groups could even have different combinations of letters to really differentiate their practice time.

The goal of this game is to help students slow down their writing and really focus on formation.

I tell them that we want the letters to be really clear so that their partner can guess them. This gets them to take their time with each stroke and reinforces that appropriate formation!

Rainbow writing

Get out the markers or crayons and let your students practice writing using all different kinds of colors! You would be surprised how adding a pop of color into your handwriting practice can keep students engaged! There are 3 ways that I incorporate rainbow writing into my students’ handwriting practice:

  1. Write a letter or word and then trace over it multiple times with different colors to get the rainbow effect.
  2. Writing the same letter or multiple times, each time in a different color to make a rainbow across the page.
  3. Write a letter or word in pencil and then trace around the letter or word with different colors to help recognize the different shapes and heights of letters.

This activity can also double as word work, so it is a win-win!

Want to learn more about word work in the primary classroom? I’ve got more info for you here.

make handwriting fun

Ultimately by incorporating one or more of these ideas you can make handwriting a fun activity in the classroom. When you do this students will be more engaged and learn to love handwriting. And with increased engagement comes increased learning.

Save these fun ways to practice handwriting

Be sure to save this pin to your favorite classroom Pinterest board, so you’ll be ready to help boost your student’s engagement with these fun ways to practice handwriting.

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