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Handwriting Without Tears (HWT) teaches handwriting for children in kindergarten through fourth grade. Some distinctives of this program are:
- uppercase letters are taught before lowercase
- groups of letters that have similar strokes or the same starting points are taught together
- letters are not slanted for either printing or cursive
- multi-sensory learning methods are used for instruction
HWT’s style is simpler than traditional cursive, but it differs from most of the other “simplified cursive” forms in that there is no slant and some of the letters such as “e”, “f”, and “k” change form from printing to cursive. This style of handwriting might be more successful with left-handed writers than others.
I mentioned multi-sensory learning methods in the list of distinctive features. Kindergartners can use the 4” x 6” slate chalkboard to write individual letters. They might also use the 10” x 17” blackboard with double lines as they learn to write words. Auditory learners can listen to the Rock, Rap, Tap & Learn CD.
There are a teacher's guide and student workbook for each level.
Letters and Numbers for Me teaches kindergartners both capital and lowercase letters and numbers. It also covers beginning handwriting instruction in such skills as paper placement. My Printing Book for first grade introduces the correct use of either lowercase or uppercase letters in sentences along with punctuation as students continue to practice letter and word formation.
Up through first grade, students learn to print on double-line pages. This approach differs from the traditional triple-line format normally used. It eliminates the top line but leaves more space between lines. Children then focus more on formation within the double lines with extensions going above and below. In second grade, students begin to write on single lines.
The second grade book, Printing Power, reviews basic formation of letters and continues with word and sentence writing. Second graders ready to transition to cursive might use the Printing Power Plus set which includes both Printing Power and Kick Start Cursive, a small book that introduces some cursive forms.
Cursive Handwriting, the third grade workbook, teaches cursive writing. Like Printing Power Plus, it begins with the letters requiring the simplest joins to make the transition easy. Cursive Success provides fourth graders plenty of practice to develop fluency in cursive.
All of the student workbooks for kindergarten through fourth grade are also available in Spanish and French.
HWT offers a number of other items as supplements or resources for older students. Can-Do Print and Can-Do Cursive are books that might be used by students fifth grade or above who still need additional work in either area. There are no teacher's guides for either of these books. Students originally taught another handwriting system but who need remediation might need to start in one of the lower level books.
Additional items you might want are wall cards, desk strips, HWT double line paper (in wide, regular, and narrow line widths), and "Big Sheet Draw and Write Paper" (large 11” x 17” pages with lines on the bottom half). Parents of struggling printers might find the packet of "Gray Block Paper" useful. The packet includes 26 pages each of four different styles of blocks that help children form letters and numbers correctly.
Lessons are designed to be presented by the parent or teacher although most work can be done independently once children have learned the basic forms.
HWT is a great choice for homeschoolers since the instruction is very child-friendly. There’s a reasonable amount of practice, but not so much that children feel overwhelmed. Also, the cost of the books is very low. The other items provide more multi-sensory learning but are not essential for every child.
HWT includes some broader language arts skills within its handwriting lessons, but other language arts coverage is very limited in scope. However, they have also introduced an additional resource for kindergarten called Sentence School, which is to be used alongside HWT. Sentence School is a 248-page, spiral-bound teacher's guide that comes with a set of 215 laminated word cards. It teaches spelling, grammar, composition, vocabulary, and reading comprehension (at levels appropriate for kindergartners) through brief, multi-sensory lessons.