I once spoke to a coroner who said that while doctors were often unfairly stereotyped for bad handwriting, it was a real problem for many. Though he saw handwriting as a life skill, his bottom line was simply ‘can I read it?’
Legibility is king, so the coroner has a point, but you do have to follow a structure, and one active approach to handwriting intervention comes from Morrells, using something new called the ‘bounce technique’.
Morrells’ resources cover the key stages of the writing process from letter formation to cursive writing and centre on the idea that it’s important for children to create letters stroke by stroke on paper. There are six workbooks in all, three devoted to letter formation and three to joining letters, all based on ability rather than age and unique in their approach to teaching handwriting. All of the workbooks, including the teachers’ book, use Morrells’ newly developed bounce technique.
Letter Formation Workbook 1 teaches the letters in the correct handwriting families and ensures that old handwriting habits are corrected, progressing through six levels step by step. Workbooks 2 and 3 offer further letter formation and handwriting practice to help writers print confidently and at speed. They also teach the correct letter spacing and embed the placing of letters on the line before moving on to joined-up handwriting. Workbook 3 is my favourite because it practises, amongst other things, high-frequency words, parts of speech, contractions and conjunctions.
The first Joining Letters workbook uses the bounce technique to show the correct horizontal and diagonal joins used to master joined-up handwriting. Books 2 and 3 embed the joining technique and help writers to gain fluency and speed, focusing on muscle strength and storing handwriting style in the writer’s muscle memory. Again, I particularly like Workbook 3 as this gets writers to practise their handwriting using synonyms, homophones, direct speech, reported speech, punctuation, story openings, story endings and paragraphs.
Other than the front covers, the books are consciously free from graphics, so as to avoid distracting from the task at hand. While primary resources are usually the materials to adorn with fun-loving characters and designs, sometimes less is more. The books are still attractive, and I don’t think they are any poorer for it.
Don’t expect to have to implement a scheme with the Morrells resources because there isn’t one. There are no weighty teaching manuals to plough through either. What you do get is a Teachers’ Photocopy Book, which is all you need to explain the thinking and rationale behind the resources. You will also find notes to support the teaching of handwriting for left and right-handed writers, extension pages for letter formation and letter joining, and extra handwriting practice for homework. The book offers invaluable help for assessing handwriting and selecting the correct workbook, identifying problems and how to correct them, help with grip and posture, and support for writing a whole-school handwriting policy. What I’d love to see is some sort of Morrells YouTube videos showing best practice in action, to give students a visual guide.
Do these resources offer the digital generation something different? Well, they provide a pile of opportunities for targeting spellings, grammar, vocabulary and sentence construction using a fresh, modern and structured approach to handwriting. They could be your must-have for rectifying illegible handwriting and they’d be worth recommending to parents and home tutors too. If all that’s not enough, another draw of the Morrells materials is their value for money. At £4.95 per book they are as cheap as the proverbial fried potato, and that can’t be bad, can it?