What do David Bowie, Oprah, Barack Obama, and Jim Henson (and Kermit!) all have in common? Aside from being the ultimate dream dinner party—they are famous lefties!
According to the BBC, ten percent of the population is left-handed, which means you are sure to have some lefties in your classroom. They may struggle in this mostly right-handed world—so here are some tips to make their writing experience comfortable and successful.
The Difficulty of Being Left Handed
Being a left-handed child in a right-handed world can make many daily tasks more challenging. There are many aspects to handwriting that can be complicated by having a child who is left-handed. Often, the hand smears the ink or pencil as the child writes across the page. The hand also gets in the way of reading directions and examples in the left-handed margin.
Because of these challenges, we often see children who will “hook” their left wrist to get their hand and wrist out of the way. This can be very uncomfortable for writing. Children who use this posture may demonstrate fatigue quickly, decreased endurance, poor legibility, and pain with writing.
They may also have decreased motivation to write and may write only a few words to satisfy a prompt instead of full sentences. We want children to be successful with their writing, no matter their hand dominance.
Left Handed Writing Teaching Tips
1. Left Handed Paper Placement
Children who can print sentences across the page are ready to tilt their paper at a slight angle (30-35 degrees) to follow the natural arc of the writing hand. For left-handed children, put the left corner of the page higher, so the writing hand is below the line of writing. This practice encourages a correct, neutral wrist position.
You may observe some left-handed children slanting their papers too much. They do this to prevent their wrists from hooking. Allow them to exaggerate the slant on their papers if it doesn’t cause speed or neatness trouble.
Make free left-friendly worksheets with the A+ Worksheet Maker Lite.
2. Cross Strokes
When writing, we typically travel from top to bottom and left to right. At times, left-handed children may choose to cross letters by pulling their writing hand from right to left. This is natural. Model the cross stroke for them in their student editions. Letters with cross strokes are A, E, F, G, H, I, J, T and lowercase f and t.
3. Lefty-Friendly Student Editions
Make sure the student editions you use in your classroom are lefty-friendly—especially when it comes to early writing skills like handwriting. Pages should provide letter models on the left and right, so left-handed children can always see the model they are copying. That way they never have to lift their hand or place it in an awkward position to see a model.
If using a worksheet, give the student another copy of the worksheet to place on their right side if they have directions or words to copy in the left margin. This will give them a way to see those directions or words without having to “hook” their wrist.
4. Left-Handed Pencil Grip
Left handed grip looks different from right handed grip. Since many left-handed students will hook their wrists to accommodate for having to copy material on the left, which their hand would cover. Check out our previously published blog post on how to properly hold a pencil or pen for more information.
5. Play with Writing Position
Tape a worksheet or coloring page on the wall. Having a child write or color on a vertical surface encourages them to bend the wrist back while writing instead of hooking it forward. Better yet, do not tape the paper on the wall but have them use their right hand to stabilize it. This will help coordinate the two hands together for writing.
If you have an art easel, this is a great option as well. Having them write, color, and draw on the art easel will also encourage children to use those muscles in a more typical pattern and over time will improve muscle memory of this position.
Have the child lay on the floor on his or her stomach and prop up on the forearms/elbows while coloring and drawing. This allows them to put weight through the forearms and helps stabilize them while coloring. With this posture, they are less likely to make a “hook” wrist.
If you have a small coffee table, piano bench, or other small table that the child can easily lay under, tape a coloring or drawing page on the underneath side of the table. This position allows gravity to assist with the proper wrist position. They may only do this activity in small time bursts due to fatigue of holding their arms in the air, but it can be very helpful. Plus, this idea is unusual, and they may really like it!
These are many ideas that you can try at home while working with your child during the stay at home orders, but they are great to continue in the future as well to help promote proper wrist placement and life-long writing skills!
We Know Left-Handed Writing!
Handwriting Without Tears looks out for lefties! That’s why all our student editions are left-friendly and help all children succeed in the classroom. Download a sample student edition page to see the difference.