Letter formation was something that I never really thought too much about until one day when my daughter was in the 3rd grade and I noticed her printing some letters. My eyes followed her pencil as she started at the bottom line and maneuvered (what appeared to me) a complicated maze up and around to finish a perfectly legible letter. I was shocked to see that she had designed her own method of printing letters!
Initially when I began teaching her how to print, I assumed that she was copying how I printed the letters, and saw no cause for alarm. After all, she produced stacks of papers filled with written words that always appeared to be correct; however, how she was forming the letters was not. With cursive writing coming up next in her school curriculum and my son at the beginner writer stage, I began to research letter formation.
After reading the book The Write Start by Jennifer Hallissy, I learned that…“Children who teach themselves to write… are often at a disadvantage. They meander along when it comes to letter formation. When you watch them write, you get the sense that they’re reinventing the wheel with every letter they attempt. They seem to draw each letter, as opposed to writing it, tinkering with it until it looks just right. Easily frustrated… they focus too much attention on the how of writing at the expense of what they are writing.”
She described our situation perfectly, so I immediately made a list of things I could do with my daughter to help correct her form. I decided to start by making up a set of these felt finger tracing cards.
To make a set of your own you will need:
- Thick cardstock
- 2 colors of felt (for letters and dots)
- ¼” circle paper punch
- Liquid glue
- Rotary cutter and mat, corner punch (optional)
Follow These Steps:
- Cut out the cards. I decided to make a complete set of both upper and lower case cards so I cut fifty-two 4”x5” cards with my rotary cutter and then used a corner punch to round the corners.
- Create a Word document. Type each letter in the font Arial Narrow, font size 275, and bold the text.
- Print the document and cut out each of the letters to make templates (keep these templates for future projects).
- I decided to alter two of the lower case letters. I trimmed down a lower case “d” to make an “a” and drew on more of a hook on the letter “q”.
- Trace each letter with the printed side face down onto the felt (this way if you happen to go off the lines when cutting out the letter, the pen will be on the back of the felt letter).
- Punch out the “dots” in the contrasting color.
- Glue the letters onto the cards. You will notice from my photographs that I positioned the letters as though they were written on invisible lines. For example: the hook of the “f” goes up to the top line and the tail of the “g” hangs down to the bottom line.
- Glue the dots at the “starting point” of each letter.
How to use the cards…
- Have your child place their finger on the dot and trace the letter in the same manner that they would follow if they were printing the letter. After a while have them close their eyes so that they “feel” how to print the letter.
- The cards can also be used for other kinds of learning activities such as spelling words, names, or making signs for imaginative play. They also work well with the activities in the Playful Learning book, “Alphabet Photography” (page 63) and “Alphabet Search” (page 65).
- A set of number cards could also be made for learning number formation and to use with math games. (there are oodles in the Playful Learning book!)
Two years later and my daughter’s printing and writing abilities are flourishing! She loves to write poems and short stories and her cursive writing and printing is very neat.