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Choosing a Handwriting System
Each individual Montessori school determines which handwriting system will be implemented in its classrooms. Sometimes it can depend on state requirements, district requirements, the wishes of the parent board, or another reason.
Ideally, preschool children are taught cursive, as it is simpler and flows more naturally. Some have said that because cursive writing is all connected, it potentially helps the child blend phonetic sounds together better in reading as well.
Other schools prefer to use the Zaner-Bloser manuscript, or "ball and stick" writing. Many have adopted the Handwriting Without Tears method. Still others compromise on the two and teach D'nealian or modern manuscript.
Whichever method is chosen, it is imperative that the sandpaper letters and all materials used in the Montessori curriculum reflect the choice, to maintain consistency.
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Large Motor Writing
Now that the child is ready to receive formal handwriting lessons, it is time to start applying the skills learned in all of the prewriting activities. Perhaps she has been enjoying drawing on the large chalkboard, making large circles and lines. Now she can start using that chalkboard to practice putting those lines and circles into the letter formations she has practiced when tracing sandpaper letters.
Sometimes prior to writing the letters on the chalkboard, the directress will have the child practice writing the letter in the air. This reinforces the stereognostic sensory activities she has performed up to this point.
Large motor writing can also occur at an easel, either painting the letters, or drawing them with a marker.
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When the child is ready to start putting pencil to paper, Montessori preschool handwriting lessons begin on unlined paper. The focus is on the process of making the letter, instead of the final product. He may practice making them large or small, depending on his comfort level. He just needs to practice the formation.
Eventually, boxes may be printed on the paper within which he needs to keep his letters.
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When the child becomes comfortable creating the letters on unlined paper, she then can start looking at the final product and keeping the letters straight. She may start practicing writing on a single line. Montessori handwriting lessons will eventually begin using handwriting paper that is appropriate for the child's developmental level and handwriting ability. Focus is placed on proper letter formation using the three lines. Spaces between lines start large, then become increasingly smaller as the child's fine motor control matures.
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When practicing handwriting on both the lined and unlined paper, sometimes the child may practice by tracing letters. Many available materials, both in stores and online, have the letters preprinted as a series of dashes or dots. In Montessori handwriting practice, it is preferable to use a solid line, such as highlighted neon orange or yellow, to provide a solid path along which the child can trace. If the child is not yet familiar with the letter's visual formation, he may have more difficulty trying to connect the dots.
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Montessori Handwriting Lessons
Within the Montessori curriculum, preschool handwriting lessons progress from large motor to fine motor. The child also moves from unlined paper to lined paper. She can then transfer these writing skills to her writing experiences throughout the classroom.
The Montessori Curriculum: Preschool Handwriting Activities
Within the Montessori classroom, there are numerous activities that prepare the child's hand for writing. Initial activities are found in the Practical Life area. More can be found in the art area. Finally, Maria developed a few manipulative activities also used to prepare the hand for writing.