Teacher tip: Improve your child’s handwriting with this drawing exercise

By Margie B. Gillis, EdD on Jan 01, 1970

Have you noticed that your child has trouble with handwriting? Is your child’s 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.

How to help

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 “We’re 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 your child draws, point out the difference between the tall and short grass.

Pay attention to how your child draws the lines. It’s important to draw from top to bottom. And to begin on the left side of the paper and end on the right. This is the most efficient way to form letters.

Encourage your child to use a continuous stroke in this exercise, without lifting the pencil until 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.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Margie B. Gillis, EdD is the founder and president of Literacy How, which provides professional development for teachers on research-based reading practices in the classroom.