When was the last time you wrote anything out by hand? It’s a dying art. These days, young children are more likely to learn to use iPads before they can write letters. But as many public schools do away with cursive writing altogether, and keyboards become our main method of creating the written word, it’s still important for young children to see their models — you grownups around them — doing something they themselves are just trying to learn: write by hand.
But like many elements of fitness and physical education, writing by hand starts with the training of muscles. Control of the hand in preparation for writing is developed through many exercises, including specially designed tasks in the use of the pencil. In the Montessori classroom, such exercises begin with very young children and extend over several years so that mastery is gradually, but thoroughly, attained.
Writing begins as reading beings. And the shapes of letters are the first thing children learn. The Moveable Alphabet is made up of easily manipulated plastic or wooden letters that are used for the early stages of phonetic word creation, the analysis of words, and spelling. They facilitate early reading and writing tasks during the period when young children are still not comfortable with their own writing skills. Even before the children are comfortable in their handwriting skills, they spell words, compose sentences and stories, and work on punctuation and capitalization with the moveable alphabets (Age 4-6).
The students practice making letters from the time of their first initial “explosion into writing” at age 3 or 4:
- At first, by tracing letters into sand.
- Later, by writing on special tilted, upright blackboards: unlined, wide-lined, and narrow-lined.
- Later, by writing on special writing tablets, becoming comfortable with script.
- Cursive writing (typically around age 6)
- Word processing (normally beginning around age 7)
- Calligraphy (whenever the child is interested, often around age 10.)
In your daily routine, don’t forget that the skills your children learn are “practical” skills — things they see you do everyday. But writing by hand is disappearing. Instead of sending an email, write a note. Write out your grocery list. Do these things where your child can see. Seeing a grownup write by hand will inspire the young child to master the same skill, and pass on a tradition we used to take for granted.
About Pinewoods Montessori
Pinewoods Montessori in Hillsborough, NC provides an authentic Montessori education in which children develop of love of learning within a safe, peaceful setting. To learn more, visit our web site or call (919) 644-2090.