The Common Core curriculum that guides schools today does not include requirements and proficiency standards for handwriting. In a Montessori environment, handwriting is a skill that is considered essential.
As we continue here in presenting the reasons and thought processes that went into developing these programs, it is necessary to begin by "taking out the elephant in the room" by explaining why we chose to start with D'Nealian cursive rather than print format. We believe that it is necessary to eliminate the time, effort, and confusion created by having students first learn and then to “unlearn” manuscript, or print, and then to go back to learn D’Nealian cursive handwriting techniques. After all, the purpose of teaching handwriting is the development of necessary skills used in cursive, rather than print.
As Montessorians, we have concrete tools to help students develop muscle strength and learn proper formation of letters. Beginning in early childhood, students are presented with puzzle maps, knobs on materials, push punch, and so many other concrete approaches to developing their pincer skills, that will ultimately translate and carry over to the way they hold their pencils. However, in this case, our challenge in designing, and developing this program was to establish specific tools and materials that are found in the elementary environments. Through our research we sought to supplement these tools with additional materials that address both the students’ needs and the administrative logistics of teaching the curriculum. Our mission was to design, adopt, and implement a cursive program that could aid students with learning differences and accelerate the learning process involved. (For those Montessori teachers interested in developing handwriting techniques for the early childhood level we recommend making use of the large scale hollow letters).
The resulting curriculum, presented here, includes all the materials required to make it possible to differentiate instruction for individual students, while at the same time, allowing them to move toward mastery based on their individual skills, and development.
What makes this approach different from all the other work currently available for the Montessori market, is that our approach to cursive handwriting is taught through explicit instruction using a multi-sensory approach. Students use visual, auditory and tactile senses to complete individual letters with the goal of precision letter formation. This multi-sensory method offers access points to aid pencil grip, letter formation, legibility, and heightened literacy for cursive script and printed materials. Handwriting mastery that is automatic and comfortable offers students a sense of accomplishment and success as writers and readers.
In implementing this program, what you won't find is the rote repetition often found with other Montessori handwriting programs. We believe that copying text in order to practice one's "handwriting" techniques is truly the work of the child, and in turn that of the teacher, who may recommend the text. Instead, we focused on the actual technique and the mastering of this technique.
Our focus was the implementation of a handwriting program that was specifically geared toward the lower elementary level (6-9). For this reason, one will notice a careful selection of specific instructional steps. Our first step is the development of gross motor skills. We accomplish this through the 3D acrylic hollow letters. We chose to make the hollow letters out of acrylic, so that children don't have to worry about blue or red letters, but rather focus their attention on the movement of their instrument in order to accomplish the desired letter formation. The acrylic tablets are smaller, as compared to those often found in the early childhood level. The focus is development of muscle memory, using the aid of this three-dimensional tool. The second step, moves the child into more abstraction. The guided approach to handwriting offered through the hollow letters has been replaced with the skill of tracing those same letters using water based Crayola erasable markers. This second set of motor skills now involves hand-eye coordination. The acrylic tablets have been replaced with our plastic cards but now they are constructed from plastic. The colored marker will also reveal any imperfections in their tracing techniques allowing the child to self correct. The third and final step is one that moves the child purely into abstraction and it is accomplished through the use of black-line masters. In each step the idea is to move from concrete to abstract, simple to complex, while always working through a three-year sequenced approach.
Finally, once the individual letters have been mastered, children move into mastering the techniques required in working with cursive letters presented in groups. These letter groups are based on how the writing stroke begins. The lowercase section is the first section in the sequence for teaching the cursive handwriting curriculum. The second section is that of the uppercase letters:
Lowercase or uppercase letters
Overhill and Back: a, o, c, d, g, q
Uphill: e, i, u, w, j, p, r, s
Uphill High: t, l, b, h, k f
Overhill and Down: n, m v, y, x, z
Practice Review Sheets
This is a full program based on theory and research, and it includes the following:
One set of Acrylic hollow letters (lower case or upper case)
One wooden tracer thin for the hollow letters
One wooden tracer thick for the hollow letters
One set of the handwriting tracing cards on plastic
Two pencil grips
One set of blackline masters for the Overhill and back
One set of blackline masters for the Uphill
One set of blackline masters for the Overhill and down
One set of blackline masters for the final review sheets
One container box for the Acrylic hollow letters
For additional information and to purchase the handwriting programs please follow the links provide below: