For starters, just what is letter formation?
Letter formation is the ability to form the letters of the alphabet correctly. Children will learn to create notes in a way that matches widely accepted standards when learning letter formation.
Letter formation is a crucial stepping stone that children will need to overcome before they can start developing their handwriting. They’ll first need to master each letter to learn to write efficiently and quickly. Regular opportunities to build upon and develop this skill will help kids in their efforts to understand good letter formation.
What are critical letter formation skills?
Now that we’ve tackled the question of ‘what is letter formation?’, let’s explore the essential skills that children will need to develop to form the letters of the alphabet by hand appropriately. These basic skills are:
- Fine motor skills
- Pencil grip
- Pencil control
But what do these terms mean? In this next section, we’ll develop a deeper understanding of ‘what is letter formation?’ by exploring these three skills.
1) Fine motor skills
Fine motor skills are small movements that children make with their hands, fingers, and wrists. These are skills that we as adults might take for granted, but they can be a significant hurdle for young children to overcome. Nevertheless, they allow children to complete tasks such as holding crayons, threading beads, and precisely placing objects. For this reason, they’re also the first step to proper letter formation.
Fortunately, there are plenty of practical activities for developing fine motor skills using everyday materials and fun activities. From painting to drawing to opening things and even moving things like coins around, there’s a lot you can do to build your child’s skills at manipulating small objects!
2) Pencil grip
How a child holds a pencil or pen can significantly impact how easily they can make shapes. The dynamic tripod grip is the most stable and efficient hold for writing. This grip involves lightly holding a pencil/pen between the thumb, index finger, and middle finger while the ring and little finger curl gently into the palm.
You can help children to progress with their pencil grip by encouraging them to use a range of instruments to make marks, such as twigs in mud, wax crayons, or brushes when painting. These activities will allow children to use different muscles and encourage them to progress in their grip development.
3) Pencil control
Now that we’ve found the answer to ‘what is letter formation?’ and explored two of the critical skills required for it, there’s just one more that we need to learn about: pencil control.
Pencil control is different from pencil grip, and it relates to how a child moves the pencil over paper, creating turns and shapes. Children need to become able to make letters, join conditions, and stop and turn according to lines on paper. They also need to learn to make smaller and more accurate shapes as they progress with their writing. Another way of looking at it is that pencil control combines pencil grip and fine motor skills!
You can work with your child to improve their pencil control in several ways. Here are just a few excellent pencil control games and activities:
- Dot-to-dot puzzles are great for developing pencil control. These require children to draw lines carefully, guide the pencil to reach fixed points on the page, and change the pencil’s direction.
- Kitchen activities like cooking offer many opportunities for children to form letter shapes using various tools. For example, encourage children to make swirls in cake mixture or write their names in a pile of flour using their fingers. These activities are fun and help children develop grip and hand movements while forming letter shapes.
- Tongs and tweezers games: Opening and closing tweezers is the perfect way to develop a tripod-style grip. As a start, children could use tongs and larger objects, like dry pasta. Then, they can use tweezers to move smaller objects like frozen peas or sweetcorn.
- Playdough letters: Children can improve their knowledge of letter shapes by forming them with playdough. Roll out long, thin playdough sausages and allow children to create notes out of them.
Why is letter formation important?
So far, we’ve discovered the answer to ‘what is letter formation?’ and learned a little about the skills needed to master it. But why is there such a strong emphasis on letter formation in schools?
The benefits of learning handwriting might not be evident in today’s digital age. However, letter formation skills are incredibly beneficial for children and their progress in school. Fine motor activities have been shown to stimulate the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain involved in planning, problem-solving, and self-regulation. Regular practice of handwriting can positively impact these abilities. Additionally, an efficient script allows children to focus on thinking and processing the information they’re writing about.
If children struggle with handwriting, this can become a distraction, as they have to focus more on forming and remembering letters. This means they put so much effort into the writing process that they don’t have the mental space to answer questions or think creatively. This can impact their learning, making it essential to provide extra support with learning letter formation.Top of Form