You may wonder why preschool teachers use different sized lined pages in early handwriting lessons. You may simply assume that your child will simply learn write on store-bought lined paper, but this may lead to enormous frustration and stress for your young child.
Let’s establish one simple rule ~
Always teach large – to – smaller
- Start with very wide spaces on blank paper. Pre-school teachers use blank paper and fold it into quarters = 4 lines.
- Then fold the quarters in half and = 8 narrower lines. Teach young preschoolers to draw their lines or circles between the folded lines.
- You can draw or print different colored or dotted lines ~
But you can appreciate that all these lines are very confusing! Where does your child know where to start?
Here’s my proven CAT or MAN tip:
- First, chose the line width to match your child’s skills – wide for beginners, narrower as they master their fine motor skills and spatial recognition.
- Draw a margin down the left side of the page.
- Now draw a cat in the margin. The cat body is a circle that fills the middle body lines, the cat head fills to the top line and the tail hangs to touch the bottom line. Many teachers draw the body line in blue: blue = body
- Now you can refer to every letter stroke ~
- All letters sit in the body line. Most letters start on the top body line. (There are 2 body lines! See why this is difficult for some children to ‘see’?)
- Tall letters (like b, d, f, l & t) all touch the top head line. Some start here.
- Some letters have a ‘tail’ (like g, j, p, q & y) which hang to touch the bottom line.
- All UPPER CASE letters and all numbers start in the ‘head’ line.
- All UPPER CASE letters and all numbers ‘sit’ on the body line.
- No upper case letter or number hangs below the body!
- Next, teach the child to draw a stick man in the margins of their lined page.
This is very important! Once the child starts any handwriting lesson on lined paper, FIRST draw in the men! This helps the child know where to start and finish each letter stroke. (This is not art, it is a quick reference! Don’t let them waste time here!)
- Eventually, before any handwriting lesson, we used a quick abbreviation of the man = my children drew a DOT in the ‘head’ line and a VERTICAL DASH in the ‘body’ line, and skipped open a line. A quick dot-dash-skip … dot-dash-skip … all the way down the margin prepared them for their handwriting or copywork lesson. They started all body letters in the lines with the vertical slash and all uppercase or tall letters in the line with the dot.
- When buying lined exercise notebooks for your children, look for widest lined pages. Don’t be afraid to use lots of paper and spread each letter over 3 lines (head, body & tail) and skip a line.
- Then your children can work with normal lined pages, again using 3 lines and skipping a line.
- Children work by then working on Irish lined paper. These are much narrower than the normal lined paper, but, working over the 3 lines and skipping a line, the size of the handwriting is much smaller and more like the normal handwriting size.
- Finally, when working on 1 line and writing ‘normally’ some children need to be reminded to work halfway up in the body line. You may try ~
- Draw in a faint pencil line halfway through the body line.
- Place a special lined guide chart under the page – I simply drew black lines on cardstock to slide under the lined page and the faint outline could still be seen. The halfway line was dotted. This worked very well in my classroom where some children either wrote too small or too large, or varied their sizes too much.