Handwriting links

I think it’s worth understanding the history of handwriting, and the study of different ways of writing our alphabet (‘palaeography’) when thinking about teaching children to write.

I’ll add bits and pieces here whenever I find them – online tutorials, interesting images, that sort of thing – partly because I think it’s lovely stuff, but also to help broaden/deepen the debate about how handwriting is taught in English schools.


Modern handwriting in English schools – policies, National Curriculum, etc.

(Further suggestions welcome!)

Handwriting in the 2014 National Curriculum (Primary)


History and Palaeography

Alphabet of Secretary Hand (England, 16th-17th centuries)

Brief explanation of terms used to describe handwriting.

Conventions for transcribing handwriting from Cambridge University’s wonderful online course – also useful for understanding the forms used in the handwriting itself.

Huge list of Medieval European handwriting forms.

Latin Palaeography

List of palaeography resouces

Online palaeography tutorials provided by the National Archive

Rosemary Sassoon’s Handwriting of the Twentieth Century is an essential reference book. You can see part of it on Google Books.

A nice little blog post on cursive handwriting from the Tudor Tutor. Cursive seems very much under threat in the US.


Physiology, ergonomics, dynamic movement etc

A lovely film on handwriting in French schools.

A Paper on Procedural Knowledge and Handwriting (useful list of references at the end – I’d love to know about other similar work, too).

‘The programs to perform the complex movements required to produce a written word are stored in the brain, not in the muscles.’

The National Handwriting Association emphasises the importance of a ‘dynamic’ rather than a ‘ball-and-stick’ letter formation, and the value of an exit stroke, or ‘flick’.

The School Run has collected a number of NHA videos on their Youtube channel; this one, on the correct formation of letters, is very good, I think.

For those struggling with a handwriting model which has an entry stroke, I found Debbie Hepplewhite’s resources very useful – the entry strokes are straighter and simpler than other entry-stroke models, which means that there’s a clearer distinction between the entry strokes and the letters themselves, and the strokes are limited to a small number of variations, which makes it easy for learners to understand. Our left-hander, especially, found the straighter strokes very helpful as a way in to the entry-stroke form of school cursive. Until I found this video, and we watched it together, he was avoiding using his ‘literacy handwriting’ whenever possible, but he’s now much happier with it.

Caveat: The National Handwriting Association has told me that there has been little or no research that they know of into the relative value of learning entry strokes or just using an exit ‘flick’ which is later lengthened to create a join. Sassoon is very clear that she sees an exit stroke as more helpful, and over all this has been our family’s experience. However, others may have had the opposite experience – it would be useful to hear all viewpoints, because I get the impression many people swear by it, and it’s an issue I’m particularly interested in.

Sassoon’s book Handwriting: The Way to Teach It is also very helpful, and discusses the process of deciding on a handwriting model for a school, as well as issues of ‘neatness’ masking a lack of fluency, and all sorts of other things.

@DamsonEd recommended this one, too: Jane Taylor, Handwriting: A Teacher’s Guide – Multisensory Approaches to Assessing and Improving Handwriting Skills (2001)



Modern handwriting in English schools – forms

A good guide is Rosemary Sassoon’s Handwriting of the Twentieth Century. You can see part of it on Google Books.

I am in the process of tracing the origins of the rounded entry-stoke style. the lovely person at Cursive Handwriting has been kind enough to explain how she got into making handwriting styles for schools, and how the styles she used were developed. She based her styles on specific teachers’ handwriting, and tweaked the styles to create the current selection at other teachers’ request. I think it’s likely that these styles derive at least in part from Paula Chapman’s style for the Berol scheme (see p. 146 of Handwriting of the Twentieth Century), as a result of teachers adopting and adapting it over time, although there are some noticeable differences in the formation of the letters.

I’m looking for any information, anecdotes, or history relating to the introduction and evolution of this particular set of styles, since it seems to me there are two main stylistic groups: this one with entry strokes of which Debbie Hepplewhite’s is a rationalized form, and the exit-flick model such as the Sassoon font which is used by Jolly Phonics  and the CUP Penpals scheme which uses its own exit-flick font. Italic seems vanishingly rare, at least among currently available schemes.



4 thoughts on “Handwriting links

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s