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TOS Review: Peterson Directed Handwriting

Recently I was given a handwriting program to try out in our home school. There are many useful products at Peterson Directed Handwriting but I am focusing this review on the Reproducible Lessons Grade 2 E-Workbook which is the 80 page cursive program that sells for 19.95.  Peterson Directed Handwriting is the most unique handwriting program I’ve experienced.  It teaches techniques that encourage legible and fluent handwriting in a non-tortuous way. Practically unheard of!  Until recently, I have given minimal direction to my seven-year-old son regarding his writing.  He picked it up well enough by tracing and a little coaching from myself while he was in Kindergarten.  Being that I had been given only minimal direction to my son’s writing, I was a tad intimidated by this very “directed” handwriting program, but after using it a few times, it was easy to use and more fun than simple tracing.

What’s behind this program is the idea of creating muscle memory which helps a child to write more fluently and legibly.  Peterson Directed Handwriting teaches the following steps be used:

1.  First the teacher illustrates for the child how to form a letter and speak as it is drawn. Each stroke of the letter has a word or words to describe it, called Action Words, and spoken rhythmically.
2.  Next the child writes the letter in the air and says the Action Words for each stroke along with the teacher.

3.  Then, the child finger traces the letters on their paper, again speaking the appropriate Action Words for each stroke of the letter.

4.  Finally, the child may use their pencil to write each stroke or letter and speak the Action Words while writing.

From the E-book Peterson Directed Handwriting says, “The trick is to PRACTICE the right kind of movement.” So, the child need not focus on practicing the letters but first focus on the movements that make up the letters. Smooth and controlled movement should be the goal.

The Difference is Rhythm!
In the Peterson Directed Handwriting program, there are four basic strokes which make up every letter in the cursive alphabet: Sharp Top, Loop Top, Round Top and Roll Top.  Saying the Action Words while making each stroke in rhythmic movement is the right way to practice each stroke.  If done properly, the child will be able to say the Action Words and write the letter accurately with their eyes closed.  That’s not to say the program wants children to write with their eyes close, but that this ability demonstrates the child has accomplished muscle memory by way of the Action Words and rhythmic writing.

Customer Service I was very pleased by the live online training with Rand Nelson of Peterson Directed Handwriting.  He provided a very clear description of the program and showed how to implement each technique.  Something that I’ve been thinking about since that meeting is the idea of gross motor skills and their relation to handwriting.  Mr. Nelson described gross motor skills like “a super highway with traffic going all different directions”.  Gross motor skills will translate well into fine motor skills.  However, fine motor skills are like a one-way street and do not influence a child’s gross motor skills.  Therefore, it’s of great value for a child to spend enough time writing their letters in large-scale before writing in adult-like small-scale.

Another aspect of the online training with Rand Nelson was a discussion about writing position.  The writer should be able to see their goal as well as the words they have already written. For my left-handed son, I turned his paper even further clock-wise so he can see what he has written. He isn’t as likely hook his wrist when the paper is turned far enough in that direction. Can you tell how excited I am?  My right hand dominated self is thrilled to know how to help my left-handed son and his younger brothers (also left-handed) when it’s their turn!

On cursive writing, Rand Nelson shared in the online training that print writing wasn’t used in the U.S. until the 1930’s and that, historically, students learned cursive writing with chalk (gross motor skills) and didn’t use a quill or pen until 4th or 5th grade.

Personally, I decided to use cursive in Kindergarten for my son because it’s a more fluid way of writing which made sense as he was learning to read around that time, blending sounds together to form a word. So he also blended the cursive strokes together to write his name. I also recalled back when I was in 3rd grade how other children hated writing cursive and did not want my son to be so put off by it.  Finally, I didn’t want him to start over again learning to write the alphabet when he reached “that age”.  He does know how to print – how could he not? – he reads print all the time!

If you’re not certain which handwriting program to try or if you would like to feel more confident in instructing your child in handwriting, check out Peterson Directed Handwriting.  Browse their website and you will find many resources that will help you decide if this is the right program for you.  For an Individual License (reproducible pages) of the E-Workbook, the price is 19.95. You can download and reproduce it to use with each of your children.  The program offers your choice of the Basic Kit or the Complete Kit.

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