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5 MORE HANDWRITING STRATEGIES for GRADES 3 4 5: Practice Writing Activities for Students

One of my constant thoughts in the classroom was, “I don’t have enough time.” Because of this thought, I found myself putting handwriting lessons and activities to the back of the list of things to do with my students. But when I worked 1:1 with students or even in small groups for conferencing, this was the time that handwriting strategies saved the day for my students.

Conferencing to Improve Handwriting

Conferencing daily with students about their writing was always non-negotiable in my classroom. That, and a read-aloud were my essential daily activities. No matter how crazy our day was, I knew those two things were going to happen.

For conferencing, I love Lucy Calkin’s strategy of teaching a mini-lesson, sending students off to practice then mid-lesson pause and provide a quick tip for them to test out in their writing right away. I used that mid-lesson reflection commonly for something I wanted students to look and improve with their handwriting.

For tutoring now with students, I use Rule of 3 the most. Here is a link to that handwriting strategy. I use it ALL the time! Even in the classroom, that was my number one strategy; it is also one of the most straightforward strategies. You are asking students to pick three things per sentence that they are willing to erase and re-write. For my most reluctant editors, they would use this strategy, and quickly I saw improvements in their word choice, punctuation, and handwriting. I use that strategy with the below new five handwriting practice techniques.

Identifying Which Handwriting Strategy is Best for Students Needs

Each student has such different needs. I wanted to provide you with as many strategies to help use the method that will work best with your students or with your child at home. I had horrible handwriting as a child. My teachers use to blame it on my being left-handed, and I was offended by this and made it my mission to improve upon my script. My drive to improve, led me to practice writing endlessly.

Overview Description of Lesson:

This lesson was designed to help students grades 3,4, and 5, improve their handwriting. First, I used these strategies with my students in the classroom, and now with my students, I tutor 1:1. Each method has only three steps to follow and gives a practice opportunity to test out the technique. The video lesson starts with making a "Before writing sample", then asks students to reflect and make a goal for the lesson. Pausing during the video lesson will help students have enough time to write and follow-along.

Video Lesson from Moreno Made YouTube Channel

Five Handwriting Strategies For Students Grades 3-5

Laffy Taffy Letters

Students improve the height and width of their letters.

I explain to students that their letters should look like they have been on a candy puller if their letters are too broad and short. Then, I use my hands to visualize to students that they need to utilize the top and bottom line on their paper for their handwriting. This strategy works well for students that have a good script, but the letters are oversized. I use this strategy most before FSA Writing Testing. My children only get three pages to write an essay for that assessment, so this strategy teaches them to fit all their great ideas onto the paper provided.

Eight is Great

Students practice reducing the size of their print.

I use this strategy with LAFFY TAFFY. For example, after a child writes a sentence, I have them count how many words they could fit per line. Counting one line varies in effectiveness because of the length of the words students write, so we sometimes count each line in a paragraph if needed. But the goal is not to hit eight words per line, but instead, that is a phrase I use to remind them to focus on the size of their letters, so they fit about eight or more words per line. At the beginning of the school year, we practice this activity daily and find the average words per line. For instance, mine is 13 words per line; for other students, it’s four. If they average about eight- that is great! If it’s less, this is a strategy they should use to help them practice improving the size of their print.

Slice & See

Students focus their writing height and using the lines on their paper as a resource.

Sometimes lowercase letters look like they are capitalized due to their unintentional height. When that occurs, I use SLICE & SEE to help students identify which letters they need to constantly check as they write. The goal is not to draw a line for every sentence they write but instead to check occasionally. I also make pretend lines and slice their line to point out minor corrections that could make a big difference in the legibility of their words.

Line’s Don’t Bite

Like Slice & See, students, use the lines on their paper as a guide.

Just like indenting is a struggle for some students, the struggle is also present for some students to get their letters to touch the bottom or top of their lined paper. I use to write incredibly small to improve my handwriting. I currently have a student that prefers writing overly small because it helps him form his letters correctly. When this happens, I like to use LINE’S DON’T BITE with SLICE & SEE together. For this technique, students are asked to identify letters that they tend to move off the lines. By critiquing their writing sample, they can slowly re-write a sentence and stay closer to the line.

This strategy requires more erasing than students tend to enjoy. So I try and make it more fun by making it a challenge before they start writing to see if they can use the Rule of 3 and only erase and fix three letters in their sentence by the end of this activity. I also try and use funny voices and sounds when I see them right off the line to help make this less of a chore and more of a fun challenge. I know how long it took me to have better handwriting, I know it doesn’t change overnight, and when children tend to not write on the lines correctly, this is a stricter skill to correct.

Here is a to view Rule of 3 Strategy that works well with this handwriting technique.

Focus Your letters

Students are reflective and able to analyze their handwriting to identify which letter they are writing incorrectly and practice forming those letters correctly.

This culminating strategy that I use after I teach about three techniques to students. I am constantly taking notes about specific letters that students make errors forming. When I first introduce this strategy, instead of writing something new, I like to show them something they wrote previously. I’ll ask them to find three letters they feel they form correctly, and any letters that they notice are not formed perfectly. After a discussion where I add my own observations, the student writes a new sentence and slowly writes. I remind them of their pencil grip and model how to form the letters 1-3 times before having them practice. Students will need to do this independently in the video lesson, but I show what this looks like for my handwriting as an example.

Reflection & Goal Setting with Handwriting Strategies

I highly recommend using the goal sheet at the beginning and end of this lesson to reflect upon which strategy helped your student(s) the most. Then I would ask students to practice with this strategy daily for at least one sentence. Then, after a week, ask them to analyze their writing progress again and see if the techniques are still working for them or if they should add another method to help as well.

Lesson Handouts PDF

Please see the below link for the handouts for this lesson. For the google slides for this lesson please visit Moreno Made Basic Skills Resources.

5 More Handwriting Strategies
Download PDF • 8.59MB

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Hopefully you found these strategies useful for your classroom or home. I love helping students, teachers, and parents in any way I can, so if you have a specific literacy skill your child or students need help with, please contact me at or @Chris.C.Moreno or @LiveLearnLiteracy on Instagram.

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