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Teacher Tip: Improve Your Child’s Handwriting With This Drawing Exercise

By Understood Team on

Have you noticed that your child has trouble with handwriting? Is her writing messy and difficult to read? These difficulties may be caused by , or they may be the result of limited instruction in handwriting.

These days, many schools no longer explicitly teach handwriting. There are several reasons for this. There’s a belief that kids will do most of their writing using technology and don’t need to write by hand as much. Also, schools have limited time in the day. With many more topics to cover, handwriting has gotten less attention.

Unfortunately, many people don’t understand how important handwriting is to learning to write. They also don’t understand the role that letter formation plays in kids’ ability to write well-constructed and coherent sentences, paragraphs and essays.

The good news is that you can help at home as a parent. One way to encourage letter formation is through drawing—practicing lines and shapes using large motor movements. And one of the best exercises is “tall grass, short grass,” first used by legendary Orton–Gillingham expert Diana Hanbury King.

Set up an easel with paper or a white board at home. Tell your child she’s going to practice drawing tall grass and short grass. Each blade of tall grass will be a long vertical line, and each blade of short grass will be a short vertical line. Ask your child to draw each blade from top to bottom. And as she draws, encourage her to see the difference between the tall and short grass.

Pay attention to how she draws the lines. It’s important to draw from top to bottom, beginning on the left side of the paper and ending on the right, because that’s the most efficient way to form letters.

Encourage your child to use a continuous stroke in this exercise, without lifting the pencil until she is finished with each line. Again, this is the most efficient way to write letters. For example, think about the letter b. The proper way to write b is to draw a straight line from top to bottom, then go halfway up the straight line to form the circle of the b with one continuous stroke.

To make “tall grass, short grass” even more fun, try different colored crayons or pencils. If you want to try another exercise, you can also have your child draw circles, in a counterclockwise (not clockwise) direction.

—Margie Gillis

Margie Gillis, EdD, has been teaching children of all ages to read and write for more than 40 years. She is also the founder of Literacy How, Inc., which provides professional development to teachers on research-based practices in the classroom.


Any opinions, views, information and other content contained in blogs on Understood.org are the sole responsibility of the writer of the blog, and do not necessarily reflect the views, values, opinions or beliefs of, and are not endorsed by, Understood.

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