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PostPosted: Sun May 18, 2008 10:47 pm    Post subject: Handwriting Reply with quote

Our school using a joined style handwriting from Year 1 onwards and all of our current resources/text/print is in this font. It called 'boring boring' (can't believe they called it that!). The link is here:

It is based on the kingston style handwriting -

I would love to know if it was at all possible for me to convert the SOUNDS BOOK ACTIVITY SHEETS to this font as I think that the sheets are so valuable to the teaching of your programme yet want to stay in line with our school handwriting scheme.

What do I do?? Smile
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PostPosted: Mon May 19, 2008 9:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is a really interesting issue and worthy of discussion!

First of all, I can say that we have considered providing resources which people can 'change' if they would like to adapt them - obviously in the hope that people don't change them so much that the integrity of the resource is lost in the changing!

I have a couple of suggestions as to what you could do in the interim or if we decide not to unlock the resources - or all the resources - in the future.

The Phonics International programme is published in a font which is very popular and common to many other educational programmes and children's modern literature, reading books and comics - particularly in the UK. I think it is a pleasing font and it is easy to read. I suggest that teachers can always 'by hand' add the chosen font of their school in the handwriting sections on the Sounds Book Activity Sheets to support the actual learning of the writing element of the three skills (blending, segmenting and handwriting). This is what I do myself when I use the sheets with children who have been introduced to the joined handwriting style. I simply add a 'joined' example.

What I am going to say next will be a bit controversial and it is really important that this is taken in the spirit in which it is intended!

I have some concerns about 'lead-in' strokes when these are not a clear 'diagonal' to half-height of tall letters (and to the top of the short letters). Writing can sometimes look quite cramped when children join 'up' the letters rather than join diagonally across.

It is only a matter of my personal preference of course but could it be that many teachers haven't even considered that there can be different angles of the 'lead-in' stroke?

When joined writing is taught through a discrete letter approach (which is how I teach joined writing at first), I think it is important that as soon as whole words are written in the joined script style, that these are actually 'joined' - rather than the word being written with all separate, but with lead-ins and exit strokes, letters.

If you look at the words 'Boring boring' on poppetsam's link above and note the juxtaposition of the letters 'r' and 'i', you will see that the 'r' finishes with an off-the-line exit stroke and the 'i' starts with an on-the-line entry stroke.

This might not be a problem if the learners are very carefully taught how to progress from the letter 'r' to the letter 'i'.

I really don't like to see whole words written with separate joined-style letters.

With a diagonal lead-in to the top of the letter 'i', there seems to me to be greater clarity between what is the 'join' bit and what is the 'letter' bit. The diagonal join, in effect, leads to where the letter 'i' actually starts (which is at the top). It isn't such a big step, then, to go from the exit of the 'r' across with a 'washing line' join to the top of the 'i'.

I have seen schools which use some kind of joined writing with lead-ins and exit strokes leave their pupils 'in limbo' regarding the joins from one letter to another - particularly when the preceding letter does not finish on the line.

That is not to say, popppetsam, that your school leaves the children in limbo! I have turned this discussion into a general discussion about joined writing and my intent is not to infer criticism of your school re their chosen font! I am simply using this as an opportunity to draw attention to some potential problems when teaching a joined handwriting style which may not have been properly understood or addressed for all learners.

You see, it is very easy for children's writing to look quite impressive when they write in a joined style - but closer scrutiny of the words often reveals that children are not secure as to how to join some letters together. Some schools, also, allow children to write in a sort of half-print (not joined), joined style and, surely, this defeats the object of learning a joined style?

If you use a rather exaggerated diagonal join at first (along with the 'washing line' join), it is so clear which part of the letter is the 'join' and which part of the letter is the actual letter. Then you encourage the learner to think for him/her self as to what they are doing when they are writing. "Where does the letter start, where does the letter finish? How do you join that letter to that letter?" The learners engage their thinking processes.

Another thing I don't prefer (oh dear - I am sounding so negative...), is handwriting programmes that involve lots of repetitive joined, loopy patterns. For a start, words for children are rarely that long and words do not involve the SAME patterns over and over again - rather they involve a constant change of shape and pattern apart from occasional 'double' letters.

And yet programme after programme seems to involve long (inane) strings of patterns most unlike real handwriting.

All I am doing here is to lead teachers to be truly evaluative of everything they do in the classroom that they might have automatically acquired from practice of old.

I think the tendency is for much of our practice to be what we have seen previous teachers teach - whether or not this is the best practice! That is how whole language and mixed methods have managed to perpetuate even as reading and writing standards deteriorated over the years in English-speaking countries.

Oh dear, poppetsam, all you did was to ask about the possibility of adapting Phonics International resources to your preferred font!

Schools across the world also have preferred fonts - including print fonts. For example, in Australia each state seems to have a preferred, different, font. In America, the preferred print is often of the 'ball and stick' variety.

Well - what do people think? Please will others give their opinions about fonts and how much it matters (or not) that the resources are able to be changed? Question
Debbie Hepplewhite
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PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2008 10:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for replying Debbie. I would never take your comments in a negative way and it has most certainly given me some food for thought!

I agree that the font you currently use is pleasing to read and write and I think in the meantime I will add the lead ins to the Sounds Book Activity Sheets and resources. I don't think you should unlock the Phonics International resources. You could be right about people adapting and possibly changing it so much that the programme becomes something different from what you intended. I hope you didn't think that I wanted to change your programme in anyway! I think you have done a fantastic job and was simply adding a little thought!

I think I added a little confusion to the matter by adding Boring Boring! The boring boring font is just the font that we use when writing things up on the computer as it is the closest font that we can find to the scheme we use. (I say scheme it is a bit more relaxed than typical schemes as we are only getting to grips with implementing whole school) I thought that it maybe a useful link to see the font that they have designed. If anyone knows of a font on the computer that is the same as Kingston Cursive I would be pleased to see it!! Smile

Or alternatively...if there was a phonics international cursive font! Oooh, now that would be exciting! I'd love to get involved if you did that!

The actual font we use is Kingston Cursive. (It was actually the style I was taught when at primary! My old Year 1 teacher came back and took the INSET to introduce it to my school)

The scheme progresses from a basic pattern to joined writing. Each letter of the alphabet has an 'approach stroke' and 'carry-on stroke'. Letter can be joined as soon as the pupil has learned two or three letters.

The style is fully cursive, with looped descenders, each letter being initially taught from the baseline. The Kingston scheme introduces a letter and a sound symbol relationship to establish an aid to both spelling and reading. We have NOT adopted this part of the scheme in the hope that we could link up the handwriting to match the phonics as I do believe that handwriting can help with spelling too. (e.g the multisensory aspect- children knowing the visual ch image, the aural /ch/ sound and the physical movement for /ch/ all adding to the links to store that sound more effectively)

Although the initial stages of the scheme show some patterns for children to follow - the scheme itself leads very quickly on to forming words with a combination of the letters. (Not just pattern making) For example: every time a new letter formation is introduced then the letters taught previously are also included to show how each leads to each.

These are some links from the schemes website:

I really feel that in the 2 years we have rolled this out at our school, handwriting has improved drastically. I feel that learning this font has really helped children with speed too. The children who have accomplished all joins have a fluent style (some better than my own ha ha!) I understand what you are saying about children's handwriting looking beautiful but not really being joined in the right way. However, I think if children are achieving a beautiful handwriting style that is fluent and written with speed then then may have adopted their own unique style. This may move away from a scheme taught.

I agree with your point about the letter r and I have had interesting discussions with my Year 2's about this too! We teach each letter and the way each letter is joined to every other letter in the alphabet. We drop down to the line after the r to ensure that the i can lead back in again. However, most children, when fluent - tend to adopt a quicker 'washing line' approach. This seems to (for some children) happen when they've mastered all joins and are writing at speed.

I can see why many people do not like separate joined style (half print). I have found that when writing like this in Year 1, by Year 2 most children, with instruction can join the letters into a joined style quite quickly. We found that by teaching the lead in/'half print' we are showing them the stage before they join. We hope that this cuts out having to learn a whole new way of formation when learning a joined script. For example: learning the letter r without a lead in. If we initially teach the letter r printed, when we eventually teach a joined style we will have to actually teach letter formation again (the pen starting in a different place and ending in a different place) With the Kingston style, every letter starts in the same place. Therefore, teaching the half print means that when it comes to joining the letter the children have to just learn to connect these approaches and exit strokes rather than learn a different formation for a letter. Oh I hope that made sense!!

I do not think that the Kingston Cursive scheme/programme is by any means perfect and I do take all your comments on board. I love a discussion! We are hoping to adapt our handwritng resources in light of your phonics programme and hope that others will add to this discussion too!

I found this link which was an interesting read - is it useful? I thought it highlights the importance of our discussion.
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PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2008 11:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for your very positive and interesting response! I must admit my heart was in my mouth wondering how my comments above would be received!

I have looked at the links to the handwriting style and much of it is not unlike the joined handwriting that I promote myself in schools - although I am not overly impressed with such an 'open' letter 'p'!

The letter 'x' and 'z' are the same that I was taught many years ago in the top junior class ('top' as in the class before secondary education) and that brought back a few memories.....

The truth of the matter is that I have a bit of a passion about handwriting. I have found that I am an effective teacher of joined writing - not only for the beginning stages but also to remediate pupils' poor handwriting at all ages.

I have kept some evidence over the years of the 'before' and 'after' for all ages of pupil and the results are quite dramatic.

What never ceases to amaze me is what abysmal handwriting teachers tolerate from their pupils. I believe, however, that this is invariably the teachers' responsibility and not the pupils.

I do tend to think that teachers often don't know what is possible with good, effective teaching and a good, attractive handwriting style.

Even when pupils are taught well, however, it takes every teacher in a school to maintain the standards. I have heartbreakingly seen many a pupils' handwriting look far worse years after they passed through my hands because teachers did not insist on maintenance of either the writing style or a high standard of writing and presentation.

Does presentation count? Yes - I think it does. It encourages learners to take a pride in their work - and I'm sure it is more satisfying to be able to both write and draw to a good standard of presentation and clarity.

The bottom line is that I am going to write a simple handwriting programme myself when I get a chance. I have started the introduction but then other priorities have taken over as usual.

Whenever I have been in a position to influence colleagues regarding handwriting, I have suggested that they really need to model writing on their whiteboards (or blackboards, or flipcharts) in the same style as they expect from their pupils and to a good standard. I also think they should use the 'school style' when they do their marking of books.

This is in contrast to what seems to be everyone else's view that pupils should be able to 'express themselves' with their own idiosyncratic style of writing. I really don't agree as this usually, in reality, amounts to a child-like semi-print or print and, yes, the girls inevitably seem to dot the 'i's with circles or hearts - not really very original then!!!

My approach is that our responsibility as teachers is to make sure that pupils are able to write really competently and with flair, spell well and present work neatly whilesoever they are in our jurisdiction.

When they leave our hands, they can then write exactly how they please! If they wish to regress that's their own business but at least we discharged our duties as teachers and made sure that these pupils COULD write well - giving them choices as adults as to which route of handwriting and presentation they take.


It's the same with reading and writing - our pupils may never choose to read widely in their own time or as adults - they may never wish to put pen to paper beyond their 'wish lists' or 'to do' lists - but at least we will have given them the technical skills and broad background reading and writing experiences to give them the best start for their future choices!

You have spurred me on, poppetsam, to give more thought and attention to designing a handwriting programme. Thank you very much. And thank you for your comments re whether we should unlock the documents of the PI programme.

Watch this space! Wink
Debbie Hepplewhite
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PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2008 1:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Our school certainly agree with you on the open letter p and we have actually closed it in all of the scheme books and we model it closed. The letters x and z are how many of the staff here were taught and although the scheme offers the choice we as a school have chosen to stay with the more traditional joins for the letter z anyway.

I agree that it takes maintenance to ensure handwriting is of a high standard and understand what you mean about them leaving your hands and sometimes regressing!

A handwriting programme designed by yourself Debbie will only be another added bonus to a well thought out programme such as Phonics International. Good luck and if there is anything I can do to help please let me know! I too am passionate about handwriting!

It would be really interesting to get some other views on this post to see what others think too.
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PostPosted: Thu May 22, 2008 8:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just a quick addition so you know that others are reading!

I have good handwriting even though I'm left handed. This is useful as many of my tutees are left handed too. Being left handed really is no excuse for poor handwriting or a 'funny' grip, IMO it's down to the initial teaching.

My mum taught me handwriting using the Marion Richardson style that was popular at the time. Thanks mum!

The Promethean Trust have produced the following handwriting sheets- you may find them of interest: Sound Foundations handwriting tracing sheets
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 11, 2008 11:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This old Reading Reform Foundation piece on handwriting shows my preferred style for joined handwriting.

I continue to receive queries regarding handwriting and it is certainly my intent to write a simple handwriting package which can be used alongside the Phonics International programme with this handwriting style in the future. Wink
Debbie Hepplewhite
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