Handwriting Without Tears® Curriculum Analysis—2005

Handwriting Principles Readiness
Several. Capital letter wood pieces, wood piece cards, mats for wood pieces, Roll-A-Dough Letters™, Stamp and See Screen™, Slate Chalkboard. Smiley face icon in the upper left corner of all manipulatives/products is consistent throughout the program and encourages the left to right, top to bottom habit. Children are taught proper grip at an early age using physical demonstration and music. Teachers and parents are educated regarding proper grip. Crayon grip taught to four year olds. Small golf pencils are encouraged in K/1. Children taught positional concepts, body awareness, size, position and shape of strokes by using manipulatives. The terms big line, little line, big curve, little curve are taught at an early age. Activities for teaching sitting posture (Stomping Game, Stack Your Blocks). Manipulatives are engaging and playful. They also make for more active learning. The manipulatives used lead to more successful experiences. Children with unequal abilities can make equally good looking letters. Uses more sensory modalities for different types of learners. Handwriting is unique to cultures. In English children read and write from the top to bottom, left to right. This has to be taught. Awkward grips happen, proper grips are taught. Training primary teachers to teach pencil grip will decrease problems with grip in older grades. Child friendly words that have meaning. Children learn through standard, consistent terms that are used throughout the curriculum. Children learn through movement activities. Children become ready to learn and will sit the correct way.


Publisher’s Perspective

Teaches Left/Right Progression

Teaches Proper Grip

Language Component

Teaches Sitting Position

c o sD vP w R N M F E B tH K L a d gW X Y Z U V uC i O Q kGy j e l p rAn I m T hJ b S f q x z F E D cP o sR vNw M B H K Lt a d g U V W X Y Z i C O Qu G e l k y j S A I p T r Jn m h b f q x z

Teaching Order

Developmental teaching order based on task analysis.

Letter Style** Letter Formation** Verbal Directions*

Manuscript. Vertical Style. Top to bottom, left to right orientation. Example for letter ‘a’: Magic C, up like a helicopter, bump, slide down, bump.

Easier to write and more compatible with what they read in their books. Letter formation patterns are uniform and easy to learn. Child friendly language. Familiar words are utilized that don't presume the child is completely oriented (no right/left orientations used in verbal directions). Directions are at the child’s reading level rather than at a higher reading level.

Preventing/Correcting Problems
Reversals Size
Extensive multisensory strategies to prevent/correct reversals are discussed throughout teacher’s guide for numbers and letters. Unique gray block paper prevents/corrects size issues beginning in Kindergarten. Special double line paper assist children with motor control and skills to guide size. Belief that the HWT curriculum uses a mistake proof method for preventing reversals from the earliest experiences with manipulatives. The size has been designed so that the child is able to do the work without having to lift the hand.

Teaching Method
Fun stories are used for verbal directions to assist children in number formation. Gray block paper and slate boards are used to emphasize correct directionality. Unique ways to prevent/correct reversals in the classroom. Children are motivated to repeat stories they can relate to.

Slanted or Vertical Style
Vertical Cursive writing has had a long history of problems with legibility. Belief that the slant causes legibility problems. Writing done without a slant appears easier to read. Non-slanted cursive retains legibility. Easier for children with special needs and left-handed. Motions on loops takes child away from the motion required to complete the letter for h + k. Easy connections (baseline connections) are taught before tricky connections (top line connections). Eye-hand coordination is developed by third grade.

Loops or No Loops Connections Age Introduced
© 2005 E. Knapton

Limited loops. 9 lowercase letters with loops – b, e, f, g, j, l, q, y, and z Four connections taught. Connections overemphasized. 3rd Grade. May introduce at the end of second but not overly encouraged.

Letter Order

c a d g e l f k r s m n Minimal

h t p i j u y o w b v q x z



An easy introduction. Starts with 7 letters that are easy to recognize from print. The focus of the first lessons is connections. After these are mastered, high frequency e, l, and f along with vowels are taught. No leads-ins used for c based letters a d g o q or u v w x y and z. Lead-ins aren’t part of the letter they are part of the connection. The fewer things a child has to do the less chance of error.

Teaches Letters with Lead-ins

Teacher Support
In-service Training Website Support Parent Support
130 national level workshops sponsored by the company for the public. School district in-service training available. Yes. www.hwtears.com Online parent support. Staff to answer questions of parents directly. Anyone interested in teaching children good handwriting habits is encouraged to attend. Interactive website assist educators with questions Children’s handwriting success is the company’s number one goal.

Workbook Design
Organization of Pages* Page Incorporates Other Activities* Use of Capitals/lowercase Letter Models* Left Handed Friendly Spacing* Type of Paper Used*
Clean, clear, B/W graphics Yes Capitals taught before lowercase in print. Lowercase taught before capitals in cursive. Large models. Yes Overemphasized on practice pages. Double-line Organized pages are easier for children visually. Page design is planned for flexible teaching strategies. Coloring and discussion of illustrations is encouraged. Capitals are taught first because they are developmentally easier for children just starting to write. In cursive, printed capitals can be used until capital cursive letters are taught. Large models are big enough to finger trace or take step-by-step. The words that go with each step are directly underneath the model. Two columns are used for word practice. Left-handed children are encouraged to look at the models on the right side of the page. Belief that children need generous spacing to model in workbooks. Double-line paper is easier for children visually.

Placement Type (drawn/computer generated) Color/Black and White
Left to right orientation Hand drawn by the author Black and White Encourages left to right writing and visual tracking. Child friendly illustrations that children can relate to. Nondistracting, easy to color. Coloring encouraged.

Individual Teacher’s Guide Group Teacher’s Guide Discount Individual Workbooks Group Workbook Discount Parent Cost
$ 5.95 Qty. Discount when ordering 30+ : $4.60 $ 5.95 Qty. Discount when ordering 30+: $4.60 Same as above Per website. Per website. Per website. Per website. Books are very affordable for parents to purchase.

Problems Observed in the Market Place
Capitals are taught in print before lowercase Double line paper Vertical cursive style

Publisher’s Perspective
Developmentally capitals are easier to learn and write. Capitals build a foundation for writing lowercase letters with ease. Limited confusion. Simple double lines are easy visually for children. Simple terms “bump the lines” are child friendly and help children learn motor control. Vertical cursive is widely used in other parts of the world without question.

* See student letter page. ** See letter chart (All answers were obtained by reviewing websites and teacher’s guides to the best of the reviewer’s knowledge)

© 2005 E. Knapton

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