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Handwriting in the Foundation Stage 

The main reason for writing is to communicate meaning. From the earliest mark-making children are showing an understanding that messages can be recorded. As they realise that print carries a constant message they recognise the need for more conventional forms of handwriting which other people can read. 

By the end of the Foundation Stage the majority of children will be able to use a pencil and hold it effectively to form recognisable letters, most of which are correctly formed. 

Children progress through developmental stages before they have the necessary hand-eye co-ordination, fine motor skills and visual discrimination to produce conventional handwriting. Children should not be asked to copy lines of individual letters or words. 

Gross Motor Skills
Whole arm and shoulder actions developing anti-clockwise and vertical movements

  • Wash windows–large paintbrushes,scraper and buckets of water.

  • Wash bicycles and cars–sponges/water.

  • Painting walls and ground with water and large paintbrushes.

  • Making large patterns with paint on old wallpaper.

  • Climbing equipment.

  • Swing ball type activities, for example, suspend hollow balls on string and provide bats.

  • Hoop rolling.

  • Swirl sticks with ribbons. 

P.1 Developing Gross motor skills

Hand-eye Co-ordination and Fine Motor Skills

  • Cutting with scissors,for example,collage area.

  • Playing musical instruments.

  • Cooking–real or play-stirring,kneading,cutting.

  • Pouring water.

  • Ball and bat games.

  • Painting–various sized brushes,finger painting.

  • Using clay tools.

  • Drawing–felt-tips,chalk,pencils,crayons.

  • Make patterns in wet or dry sand with fingers.

  • Pegging dolls’clothes onto a washing line.

  • Small world toys.

  • Use malleable materials,for example,clay,play-dough,compost, plasticine, shaving foam, pasta, with a variety of tools, for example, chopsticks, cutters, scissors, potato mashers, rolling pins.

  • Lacing and threading,for example,lacing beads onto string, peg boards. 

P.1 Developing Hand-eye Co-ordination and Fine Motor Skills

Visual Discrimination

Noticing shape, direction and orientation.

  • Matching shapes and pictures.

  • Identifying differences between shapes or pictures,for example,odd one out, spot the difference.

  • Jigsaws.

  • Reproducing patterns, for example, threading beads, assembling multilink.

  • Sorting letter shapes,for example,magnetic letters. 

P.1 Developing Visual Discrimination

Beginning Letter Formation

From the beginning, during modelled and shared writing sessions, the teacher should explicitly demonstrate letter formation orally describing how each letter is formed emphasising orientation. They should provide a supportive climate in which children are encouraged to ‘have-a-go’’ for example, using white boards.

Teachers should ensure that children have ample opportunities to experiment with writing in a range of purposeful contexts, for example, during play – telephone notes, invitations, appointment books; cross-curricular opportunities – personal recounts, instructions.

As each child’s co-ordination develops and as letter-like shapes appear in emergent writing, specific guidance on correct letter formation should be given. Teachers should ensure that children hold pencils and writing tools effectively and attention should be drawn to posture.

As fluency develops (in Year 2) children may practise writing longer texts, for example, jokes, rhymes, songs. Care must be taken to ensure that such practice should not become a meaningless copying exercise.

Remember that not all children will be ready at the same time. Instruction should take place with individuals or small groups. Teachers need to:

• Observeclosely;
• Intervene at the child’s point of readiness; • Scaffold the learning;
• Work from where children are.

In this way teachers can ensure that children move confidently from scribble to script. 

P.1 Beginning letter formation