Teaching Your Child Correct Letter Formation

person writing on white paper
Table of Contents

Often overlooked, correct letter formation is an important skill for children to learn their letters, have legible handwriting, and for handwriting speed.

When teaching your child how to form letters correctly, it is important to use a range of sensory modalities including visual, auditory, and tactile. Using a multisensory approach in letter formation practice can teach young kids this skill in a fun and engaging manner!

Importance of Letter Formation in Handwriting

Handwriting, as we know, is a fine motor skill. Though it may appear to be easy for an adult, in reality, it is a complicated process involving many skills.

Handwriting is one of the most important skills to learn in childhood to pace up academic development. Sometimes, this skill is comparatively neglected which can affect the child’s future in the long term.

In fact, difficulty with handwriting can make the individual struggle with certain issues their whole life. However, with proper training and practice, this can be taken care of. Better handwriting involves quite a lot of aspects.

Among them, letter formation is one of the most basic skills to learn to achieve legible handwriting. Typically, during the academic life of children, it is expected that they grasp the technique to write readable, neat, and clean letters.

Here comes the role of letter formation skills. If students are trained to form the letters accurately and legibly, they will achieve good, neat handwriting over time and practice.

Benefits Of Letter Formation

Letter formation has numerous benefits in a child’s academic progress. Attractive and well-formed handwriting can create a positive impact on their academic growth. Letter formation skill is the basic key for achieving good handwriting.

  • Students can obtain better marks in their studies by creating a good impression with handwriting. This can be easily achieved by letter formation skills.
  • It plays a great role in enhancing the efficiency of forming letters. 
  • It will help improve the readability of the writing.
  • Correct letter formation can help to improve handwriting speed.
  • It becomes easier to teach kids cursive handwriting when they have learned the correct letter formation for each letter.
girl holding pencil

Difficulties That Children Face To Learn Letter Formation

The most common difficulties that students face at the time of learning letter formation are listed below:

  • Students suffering from a lack of a strong visual perception face difficulties to form the letters correctly. They may have trouble copying the letter as their brain has trouble interpreting the shape and size of the letter.
  • Children can struggle to grasp the writing utensils properly and thus, find it difficult to form a letter.
  • Poor motor skills affect the process of learning letter formation.
  • Poor visual-motor skills land the students in difficulty to efficiently form a letter.

If students stumble to form a letter, it can be a distraction in the procedure of remembering and forming letters properly. Therefore, it will lead them to put a lot more effort into the writing process than answering the question and thinking critically.

Students with the poor skill of letter formation are often observed demotivated and frustrated. Thus, it affects their entire academic advancements and leads to poor grades.

boy writing on printer paper near girl

Use Of Multisensory Strategies For Letter Formation

Using a multisensory approach to practice letters is a great way to consolidate correct letter formations, especially for those children who have difficulty with visual perceptual and motor skills.

Here are some multisensory letter formation activities to encourage children to practice and learn letter formation with ease:

Make Use of a Writing Tray

Using a writing tray will help to stimulate the sensory system and work as a motivation to form letters properly and achieve good handwriting skills.

Fill the tray with anything that has a texture like rice, sugar, or salt. Food colors can also be added to make it more fun for children.

Take a printout of letter formation cards or worksheets so that the little one can follow while making letters in the tray. This will help your child “feel” the letters as they form them.

Ziplock Sensory Writing Bags

This process of multisensory writing incorporates sight and tactile learning in an exciting way.

Pour some hair gel and add food color and some glitter to make it colorful and sparkly.

Ziplock the bag and keep it on a flat surface and spread the gel. Encourage children to trace letters on the bag using their finger search with the correct strokes.

Add Smells and Textures to Paint or Glue

Get your kid to form a letter with the right strokes with liquid school glue on any flat surface. Before it dries, sprinkle some smelly or textured stuff such as sand, glitter, or salt. This process will help them to learn and remember the letter formation techniques better.

Some other tools are available that can be used to make children learn and pace up letter formation involving the multisensory system.

child touching white painted wall during daytime

Use Verbal Instructions

When teaching letter formation, there are multiple verbal rhymes and songs to learn the alphabet letters, both lowercase letters, and uppercase letters.

As your child is writing the letter, say the verbal instructions as they write each letter.

Letter Formation with Play Dough

Colorful play dough can be used to make letter formation fun and interesting while involving the multisensory system.

Encourage your child to take a small ball of playdough and form any letter.

Adding smells to the dough, in the form of essential oils, may also help with memorizing this practice.

Depending on where your child is at with learning their letters, parents or teachers can assist kids if they find the process somewhat difficult.

For example, if the child is writing some letters in reversal, the parent or educator can draw the letter on a piece of paper for them and then get the child to make the letter on top.

For children who can recognize letters, it is important for them to develop the correct letter formation, starting and stopping at the correct places.

Forming Letters in the Dirt or Sand

The practice of forming letters in the dirt or sand will also require the functioning of the multisensory system.

Children can use their fingers or a stick to form letters on the sand or dirt with the right strokes. These multisensory activities will benefit the students’ letter formation learning process.

Use of Everyday Objects to Form Letters

Train and encourage your little one to form letters with proper strokes using any everyday objects available in the house or at school.

Children can make use of any object to revise their letter formation skills. They can also be creative with blocks and legos. Putting together and pulling apart these construction items can also help with fine motor skills.

Using different shapes and sizes of different objects can actually improve their cognitive development.

Caucasian kid writing a Christmas wishlist

In What Order Should Letters Be Introduced?

Teach lines and prewriting shapes

Before teaching your child correct letter formation, it is important for them to draw lines and pre-writing shapes.

Once they have mastered curves, circles, and drawing diagonal lines, it will be much easier for them to practice letter formation.

kids writing letters to Santa Claus

Teach Letters in Families

Different early childhood education may teach lowercase letters and uppercase letters in different orders.

In Occupational Therapy, we suggest teaching letters according to their letter families. Letter families are a grouping of letters with similar patterns – for instance, c,d,o.

This way of teaching has maximum impact on the learning process as it becomes easier to remember and achieve mastery in letter formation.

Letter Families for Lowercase Letters

Here is the grouping of letter families that we use for lowercase letters.

Magic C Letters – a, c, d, g, o, q, s

Short Straight Letters – i, j, m, n, p, r, u, y

Tall Straight Letters – b, h, k, l, t

Diagonal Letters – v, w, x

Odd Letters – e, f, z

How we grouped these letters into letter families is based on how the letters are formed.

All magic C letters start with drawing in an anticlockwise direction and are based on the letter “C”.

There’s a differentiation between short and tall straight letters as where they start are slightly different. If you look at children’s handwriting workbooks, there are different colored lines to indicate where to start. Short straight lines start in the middle of the lines, whilst tall straight letters start at the top of the line.

Diagonal letters, similar to shapes with diagonal lines (e.g. diamond, triangles, hexagon, etc.) can be tricky for children. Therefore, these letters are grouped separately.

And then there are some odd letters that do not follow the rules. These letters should be focused on but learned separately from the other letters.

Child with digital tablet and headphones writing in notebook

Letter Families for Uppercase Letters

Similar to lowercase letters, letter families for uppercase letters are based on how they are formed.

Anticlockwise C Letters – C, G, O, Q, S

Straight Line Letters – B, D, E, F, H, I J, K, L, M, N, P, R, T

Diagonal letters – A, V, W, X, Y

Odd Letters – U, Z

Kids Writing I Love My Self

Future Implications of Poor Letter Formation

Poor letter formation habits are easy to form but can be hard to undo. Therefore it is important for children to learn the correct formation once they start learning letters.

Incorrect letter formation can negatively impact the future development of handwriting skills for your child.

  • Poor handwriting legibility
  • Reduce handwriting speed
  • Inability to develop cursive handwriting
  • Unfamiliarity and reduced automaticity of forming letters
  • Dislike for handwriting tasks
  • Reduced ability for letter recognition
  • Constantly needing to trace letters
Kid Writing in Notebook.

Tips To Improve Letter Formation

Here are some important tips to accelerate your child’s ability to correctly form letters.

Provide Opportunities for Practice

Throughout the day, provide many practice opportunities for your child to draw shapes and letters.

Whether they are using a writing utensil or just their index finger in a multisensory approach, give them multiple activities from them to choose from so they can learn correct letter formation.

Integrate Writing into your Daily Life

Showing them different uses and reasons for handwriting can teach them the importance of handwriting.

Whether it is writing a letter to their friends, writing a shopping list, or in their diary. These are all great ideas for teaching kids the importance of writing.

Use a Multisensory Approach

Using a multisensory approach helps little one to achieve proper letter formation skills. This makes it easier for them to remember the strokes for forming a letter for a long time.

toddler sitting on desk

Include Letter Formations in Gross Motor Activities

Try to make letter formation activity a part of motor activity. For instance, ask your child to crawl or hop to each letter and identify it. This play-based approach will encourage them to practice the process in a fun regimen.

Trace, Copy & Then Write with Cues

For children who have trouble learning letters by themselves, try and break down the task for them.

As a parent or educator, guide the child to first trace the letters. Then teach them to copy the letters. After that, provide them with the cue to start writing a letter.

boy in gray long sleeve shirt holding pen

Use Correct Formations

Although learning the letters according to the letter families is the best way, it is also important to make sure it is functional for the kids.

Teaching kids how to write their names is a great starting point for children to thrive and develop confidence. In addition, this is probably the word they are going to write mostly in the early years.

Therefore, kids should learn the correct formations with the letters of their own names. Teach them to write their own names correctly. This will build a strong foundation of letter formation for the letters in their names.

Ensure the Right Place & Flow

As mentioned before, incorrect letter formation can have lasting effects on your child’s handwriting.

Some children may have poor visual perceptual skills or poor visual-motor integration skills. This means that they may write their letters in reversal or form the strokes incorrectly.

Thus, It is vital to pay attention at this point to observe the child in how they form each letter.

person holding pencil writing on notebook

Summary

Letter formation is a foundational skill for children to develop efficient and legible handwriting.

Although it may be overlooked, teaching letter formation at an early age has immense benefits to accelerate the academic growth of children.

Here are the key takeaway points from this article:

  • Before learning letter formation, it is important for them to learn to draw lines and prewriting shapes.
  • Teach letter formation using letter families. There are different letter families for uppercase and lowercase letters.
  • When teaching letters, it is important to use a multisensory approach. This will help children use all their senses to learn the alphabet letters.

If you are having trouble teaching your child correct letter formations, you can talk to your local Occupational Therapists for further activities for your child.

References

10 Effective Multisensory Writing Activities for Kids. (2021). Retrieved 23 December 2021, from https://www.kidsacademy.mobi/storytime/multisensory-writing-activities/

26 Ways to Improve Letter Formation Without a Pencil | WooTherapy. (2021). Retrieved 23 December 2021, from https://wootherapy.com/improve-letter-formation/?v=7516fd43adaa

Helpful Activities to Teach Children to Write Letters & Numbers. (2021). Retrieved 23 December 2021, from https://educationandbehavior.com/activities-to-teach-children-to-write/

How to Easily Improve Your Handwriting Speed – Effectiviology. (2021). Retrieved 23 December 2021, from https://effectiviology.com/how-to-easily-improve-handwriting-speed/

How to improve letter formation- the first recommendation. (2021). Retrieved 23 December 2021, from https://magiclinkhandwriting.com/improve-letter-formation/

Letter Formation – The OT Toolbox. (2021). Retrieved 23 December 2021, from https://www.theottoolbox.com/letter-formation/

Letter Formation Tips and Strategies. (2021). Retrieved 23 December 2021, from https://www.ot-mom-learning-activities.com/letter-formation-tips.html

Schmitt, A. (2021). Does Letter Formation Really Matter?. Retrieved 23 December 2021, from https://colorfullyenthused.org/does-letter-formation-really-matter/

What is Letter Formation and Why Is It Important?. (2021). Retrieved 23 December 2021, from https://www.yourtherapysource.com/blog1/2019/09/20/letter-formation/

Why it is Important to Teach Correct Letter Formation. (2021). Retrieved 23 December 2021, from https://teachhandwriting.blog/2018/03/15/why-it-is-important-to-teach-correct-letter-formation/

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