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How to Encourage Neat Handwriting

Janelle Cox


Handwriting can be a challenge for some children, especially elementary-age boys. Fine motor skills develop at different stages and some children, despite all of their effort, are never able to write neatly.

Then, there are the children that put forth no effort into their penmanship. How do teachers encourage neat handwriting when it isn’t something that is graded for their report card? Despite the increase in technology in the classroom, students’ schoolwork is still, for the most part, handwritten. Here are a few teacher-tested tips to encourage neat handwriting.

  • First and foremost, it is essential that students understand that they are writing for a purpose. Make sure they know who they are writing for and why they are writing. Once they understand this, then you can choose a way to encourage or reward them to print neatly.
  • As a teacher, you have to remember that our students live in a high-tech world. Neat handwriting and letter formation is going to be as important as an encyclopedia. Make sure to tell students that in order to give them a grade, you have to be able to read it.
  • Tell students that in order for you to be able to share their work with others or put it up on a bulletin board, you have to be able to read it. Say, “I can’t share it, if I can’t read it.”
  • Show students an example of what you expect of them. Then, create a project that their handwriting will be seen.
  • Spelling is graded, so tell students that lack of correct letter formation leads to incorrect spelling.
  • Give a sample writing assignment in the beginning of the school year.  Inform students that the way they form their letters now, will determine how much more writing practice they will get throughout the school year. Tell students neat papers equals less writing practice homework.
  • Each day of the week choose a letter of the day to “judge.” For example, on Monday you will be looking for correct letter formation for the letter “Q.” After students turn in their work, quickly look it over and the students who didn’t form the letter of the day correctly must do a practice worksheet, and/or come to you during recess for letter boot camp.
  • Whenever you come across a perfectly neat paper, write the word “CANDY” on the top of their paper. This stands for C-carefully, A-and, N-neatly, D-done, Y-yea! When a student sees this on their paper, they tear off the top of the paper that has the word and their name on it and they put it in a jar with the other “candy” papers. Then, at the end of the week the teacher draws a name to win a prize.
  • Each week on Monday, send home a handwriting practice packet and give students the whole week to compete it.
  • Create a handwriting station during writer’s workshop, or add a station to your learning centers.
  • Poor handwriting can be improved by practicing their fine motor skills. Create a center that has students cutting, beading, threading, or any other fine motor activity.
  • Create a class-made writing rubric together and make sure to add handwriting to it.
  • Create “teacher time” to work on fine motor skills with the students who are struggling.
  • The “Handwriting without Tears program is a great program to encourage students to write neat, and can easily be implemented into any curriculum.
  • Sometimes students are encouraged to write neatly just by seeing their peers get rewarded for doing it. Each week choose a “king” and “queen” of handwriting and display their work on the bulletin board for all to see.

Recent studies show that when children write by hand it improves their fine motor skills, as well as their creative writing skills. Even with rampant technology in the classroom, studies have shown that elementary students can write faster by hand then by keyboard. With the Common Core State Standards’ emphasis on note-taking and writing, it is essential for students to be able to have correct letter formation, as well as to print carefully and neatly. The best way to encourage students to write neatly is to communicate the importance of clearly writing in the written form.

How do you encourage neat handwriting in your classroom? Share with us in the comment section below. We would love to hear your ideas.

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Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for, as well as a contributing writer to and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators

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