5Th Grade Penmanship Challenge

Updated on December 04, 2006
M.F. asks from Southaven, MS
19 answers

I have a stepson whom we just gained custody of in June. Needless to say we have gotten to this point because no one has ever sat down to work with him on his penmanship. We used to on our every other weekend schedule, but you can imagine how hard it is to teach something with so little time.

Since June, we have tried having him keep a journal to get practice writing and hopefully to improve. It seems it has not helped him improve to a better penmanship, but to perfect the poor penmanship. Now we have an idea of purchasing a kindergarten level alphabet book which teaches how to correctly make the letters... hopefully to get him through learning to write his letters over again, and get a manuscript tablet for him to practice on.

Any other suggestions we might try? He will soon start making failing grades if the teachers can't read his answers. Most of the time he can not read his own answers.

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So What Happened?

We recently took him for a "routine" eye check up. The source of his problems with reading, comprehension, and writing are his eyes. (go figure)... he has convergence inefficiency. No other eye doctor caught it until now. We are going to do vision therapy with him and see how he progresses.

Thanks again!

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answers from Atlanta on

I know this sounds harsh, however, when he brings you homework that you can't read, either tear it up or draw a line through it to make him write it again. He will get tired of rewriting his work and write it better the next time. This has worked for my 5th grader. He used to have perfect handwriting while in Private school at ages 5-6, but in public school they don't start correcting their writings until 3rd grade.

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answers from Jackson on

I agree with Jennifer that using a kindergarten tablet may affect your stepson's self confidence. So -make it fun - one of the programs i've heard of from some of my school teacher friends is called Callirobics (check is out at www.callirobics.com) it combines handwriting skills and music.
Good luck - keep us posted.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Hattiesburg on

Please let me know what works, my 21 year old brother writes like a first grader.



answers from Atlanta on

Hi M. -

You may need to get an evaluation by an OT (occupational therapist). He may not be writing correctly because he physically cannot write correctly. Maybe he has just learned improperly, like you are guessing now, but there is something called "muscle memory" and his hand muscles may now need to be retrained. If it is a physical need such as this, it will take a therapeutic intervention. If a qualified OT screens him, they should be able to tell you what he needs, if anything, and make suggestions for help. I am a school counselor and I see this kind of thing frequently.
Hope this helps!



answers from Chattanooga on


I would also check to see if maybe his handwriting problems could be something to do with his motor skills. Some children have tactile problems and the gripping of the pencil or pen is awkward. The child doesn't normally know that they have this so asking him won't work. You could have him tested to see. My son breaks pencils, and crayons because he can't get the grip right.



answers from Atlanta on

My son has terrible handwritting also. It was suggested to me that he see an occupational therapist to work with him on his small motor skills. I was just told this today so I can't tell you if it's going to work or not. Good luck!!



answers from Knoxville on

I taught 5th grade for many years before becoming a mom, so I know all about poor penmanship!

Have you spoken with his teachers to let them know you're aware of the problem and are trying to fix it? The first step is communication with the teacher. Does the teacher require cursive writing or can he print? Many children, especially boys, have difficulty with cursive. Perhaps the teacher will let him print if you explain the situation. Does he rush or is he in a hurry to complete the assignment so he can move on to something he thinks is more fun? Perhaps, you can try having him redo each one until he realizes that rushing through is not the way to get done quickly. Or, could he do his assignments on the computer? This was often the answer for some of my penmanship-challenged students! I really hope this helps!



answers from Atlanta on

What about a tutor? I know my children respond better to comments and suggestions from outside sources than from me.



answers from Atlanta on

Hi M. I am a pediatric occupational therapist and I work with many kiddos on handwriting skills. My favorite program is Handwriting Without Tears, it is a wonderful way of teaching printing and cursive skills in way that doesn't seem to frustrate children, and many OT's are trained in it. I suggest getting a referral from your pediatrician for an Occupational Thrapy Evaluation to assess your stepson's fine motor skills. Good Luck, SIncerely, R.



answers from Birmingham on

I know what you are going though because I myself have really bad hand writting. Just don't get his coffidence down. My parent's also made me practice with kindergarten stuff and it was awful it made me fill like a baby. And I really did try my hardest I found that if I worte bigger that helped and writing with a pencil also helped. I have really shaky hands and with pen it was harder to control. Just make sure to lift him up so he does not feel like a failure.



answers from Savannah on

Hi I definately can relate to that short weekend delemma you are having with your step son, I have an 11 year old step daughter whom my husband and I are working on gaining custody of after the holidays. We have to re train and re teach her manners and respect for others belongings every other weekend. As far as anyone getting her to sit down and do work or read a book in the summer time when we have quiet time, it was very difficult. I can suggest for your step son maybe getting him involved in writing tasks such as a shopping list for food items or gift list for Christmas or birthdays. Let him help you and feel involved in something important, also what we tried with my step daughter was labeling everything so she could see print and the correct way words were spelled. I hope some of that was helpful.



answers from Chattanooga on

Letter writing, for anybody, has gone out the window. Perhaps have a relative he likes a lot, cousin, grandma, aunt, write him a letter. It is always cool to get mail, even if you 30 something. That may encourage him to write them back, so they can and will be able, to read it!

Just a suggestion!

B. A.



answers from Decatur on

two ideas:

1) Discuss with his teachers....would they be accepting of him printing everything, instead of writing cursive? (until he gets better at it, anyhow?) Could he use block letters? (show him some examples like architects and engineers use on their drawings) or must he print in the manuscript style that's taught in kindergarden? It's my guess that he'll not be very excited about working from a kindergarden penmanship book....just because it's for "little kids".....and if he can buy into the idea that block letters are a cool way to write to ensure legibility, maybe he'll be more willing to really give it his best shot.

2) Make it a fun challenge. Have him write a full page in his journal, and then show it to an adult who has no idea what it might say. If they can read the whole page without any help from him, he gets a quarter (or more, if you like).

If he has trouble thinking of something to write, have him copy a page out of a book, and then show it to somebody who hasn't seen the book (so they don't know what to expect).

If he can do it in block letters, let him try it in manuscript printing, or cursive. That's worth a little more than a quarter, maybe??

He's 10 years old, after all. He'd probably rather be doing anything than practicing his penmanship. If you can make it a fun challenge though, and help him feel successful when he produces something legible, he'll feel more confident and be willing to try harder, maybe.

Bottome line: He may never have "pretty" handwriting.....but neither do a lot of doctors. The main thing is that people can read it....and that he feel good about himself for his successes and not constantly feel like he's failing at this.

A word of encouragement: My son didn't learn to make letters properly in his early years of school, either. We moved several times, and I think he must have missed that part of the curriculum at each school or something. I worried about it quite a lot....but it was generally legible, so it wasn't a show stopper. I do remember him getting down on the whole school thing for awhile because people made such a big deal about his handwriting. He almost stopped trying for awhile there.

His writing is fine now. He's in grad school. Nobody worries about what his handwriting looks like as long as they can read it. Most everything of consequence is produced on a word processor nowadays, anyway. There are a lot of people with prettier handwriting who never finished college.

Make sure your son understands that the legibility is what matters most....and that pretty handwriting doesn't mean a person is smarter than other people....but of course, it does need to be a way to communicate his ideas...so it needs to be legible.



answers from Memphis on




answers from Montgomery on

A great site I found that you can print out writing exercises is http://www.handwritingforkids.com. They even have simple math and other things on there. Check it out!



answers from Memphis on

Another idea to go along by the previous mentioned member " had to use pencil to write with", is the angle he writes on his paper. Sometimes if you turn the paper side ways or in a different direction when you write, it can change your handwriting. I have terrible hand-writing myself. I know my problem has to do with the writing utensil I use, the angle I have my paper that I am writing on , and of course the time I take to write it. When I jot down notes in class etc. I have trouble reading my own writing, too.



answers from Knoxville on

My stepson, who is 10, has terrible penmanship because his fine motor skills are not developed past those of a 4 year old. He has to have occupational therapy to strengthen and train his hands. I had a lot of grief from the school over his penmanship until I convinced them to test him for a learning disability and do the OT screening. (This request must be submitted in writing, and the school has a defined amount of time to respond.) As it turns out, he did indeed have a mild disability (two years in special ed fixed it, pretty much), and has some serious problems with his fine motor skills and information processing. A year in OT has really helped a lot. Ask the school if they are willing to screen him for that developmental problem. Or, pay someone to do it, if you can. Try speaking to his pediatrician. If you can talk him into it (10yo boys are resistant to this), do some activities to help his fine motor skills, like stringing beads (they hate that one), or cutting out small patterns with small scissors. Model building (cars or airplanes) can help, since they've got really small pieces. Good luck!



answers from Atlanta on

Hi. I have a BA and a MA in education with 11 years teaching experience. I'm not an expert but I have dealt with this type of situation before. Here is my advice to you:

1) Keep in mind that there may be some underlining problem such as a learning disability or disgraphia.

2) While you are working on his penmanship you may want to also help him learn some coping mechanism. See if the teacher will let him do assignments on the computer. If it is a worksheet he could simply type his answers and staple it to the orginal. Also I would see if he could have a writing buddy at school especially for important assignments like test and such. He could simply dictate to another student. These are just a couple of ideas I have used in my classroom. You and his teacher could probably come up with many more. If the teacher is not amenable to this I would talk to the principal.

3) I think going back to the basics as you said with beginning writing books is a great idea. To add to this I would strongly suggest that you let someone other than a family oversee this. You could even use a highschooler in your neighborhood. This type of situation can really put a strain on relationships.

4) Keep in mind that while penmanship is important, it is not as much as it was when we were in school. Most middle and highschools expect assignments to be typed. He will most likely have a computer available to him for the rest of his life. And finally, how many of your doctors' handwriting could you read?

I hope this helps. Good luck.



answers from Tuscaloosa on

Hi M.,
Abeka makes a book that takes them from Manuscript to cursive. It is wonderful. I used it for 2 years with my daughter who is 9. Good luck hand writting is hard.
Hope this helps

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