How to Teach Letter Formation – Preschool Handwriting Tips

handwriting, teach letter formation

Figuring out the best order to teach letter formation can take up WAY too much time for us teachers when we should be eating goldfish and climbing up the slide. Preschool handwriting can be tricky! If you are working on Cognitive IEP Goals for preschool or special education, fine motor skills, or handwriting occupational therapy, deciding what to teach first takes time. Or maybe you have a reluctant learner when it comes to teaching handwriting or you are just looking for some fresh ideas for your handwriting scope and sequence? 

Believe it or not, handwriting is important! Which means teaching letter formation is important, too. Handwriting leads to vocabulary and language learning (don’t you learn better when you write it down?), reading automaticity, and that all lends to better reading comprehension! And correct letter formation supports those goals.

Preschool handwriting or writing in general can be the most challenging area of development especially for our kiddos with disabilities. I remember getting the call from school that my son had come in from recess (already agitated because, well, RECESS), and they went right into a writing task. So, he threw his book at another kid’s head. /sigh/

Writing is hard. But baby steps win the race! Consider building up to teaching letter formation by working on basic coloring and tracing lines and shapes. These build fine motor skills as well as making the connection between the brain and the hand.

teach letter formation, handwriting

One of the most well-known handwriting curriculums is Handwriting without Tears. I love it! I have often used their resources to teach handwriting. Whatever curriculum you use, the most important part is to follow a logical and systematic order.

Uppercase Letter Formation

Here's a commonly used sequence:

Vertical Lines: Start by teaching letters that consist primarily of vertical lines, such as “I” and “H.”

Horizontal Lines: Letters with horizontal lines, such as “E” and “F.”

Diagonal Lines: Move on to letters that include diagonal lines, like “A” and “V.”

Circles and Curves: Letters that incorporate circles and curves, such as “C” and “O.”

Crosses and Intersections: Letters with crosses and intersections, like “T” and “X.”

Complex Shapes: Finally, teach letters with more complex shapes, such as “B,” “D,” and “P.”

Here’s the order I put together that I think makes the most sense. And I named them funny names to help me remember.

uppercase letters
uppercase letters
uppercase letters
uppercase letters

Lowercase Letter Formation

When it comes to lowercase letters, the same logic applies to group them together in an order that makes sense for the student. 

Vertical Lines: Start by teaching lowercase letters that consist primarily of vertical lines, such as “l” and “t.”

Horizontal Lines: Letters with horizontal lines, such as “e” and “f.”

Diagonal Lines: Letters that include diagonal lines, like “a” and “v.”

Circles and Curves: Letters that incorporate circles and curves, such as “c” and “o.”

Crosses and Intersections: Crosses and intersections, like “x” and “z.”

Ascending and Descending Lines: Letters with ascending and descending lines, such as “h” and “y.”

Dots and Short Lines: Letters that include dots and short lines, like “i” and “j.”

lowercase letters
lowercase letters
lowercase letters
lowercase letters

Remember to provide ample practice and reinforcement for each letter before moving on to the next. Individual students may have different needs, so be attentive to their progress and adjust the order accordingly.

Check out some great letter formation activities!

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