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Why Learning Without Tears Works

Students using Handwriting Without Tears have high end-of-year scores on foundation printing and cursive skills, making them well prepared for the demands to produce written work in today’s classrooms.

The Handwriting Without Tears® curriculum draws from years of research to provide developmentally appropriate, multisensory tools and strategies for your classroom. See why it works:



Backed by Research:


It's a fact:

  • Today’s elementary classroom has students producing more written work than ever before. To succeed with all of their written assignments, students need to master all the foundational skills of written production.

  • A survey of K–5 teachers found that elementary students spend up to 58 percent of their classroom instruction time writing on paper. Handwriting plays a significant role in students’ work, including journal work, note-taking, math worksheets, science labs, and spelling tests. Students spend up to 20 percent of the instruction day using technology, including computers, interactive whiteboards, and tablets.

  • Students who took notes by hand versus on a computer were shown to have better comprehension of what was being said and had more sustained attention during discussion of text and concepts (Mueller 2014, Peverly 2012).

  • Teaching handwriting has also been shown to have significant impact in the areas of the brain related to literacy development (Berninger 2012; James 2012).


Download the original research in PDF format supporting the Learning Without Tears method.

The Success of Our Curriculum

Handwriting Without Tears is a proven success in preparing children for the demands of school. We analyzed test scores from the Screener of Handwriting Proficiency for more than 14,000 students using Handwriting Without Tears over three years. Results demonstrate the success of the curriculum.

Learning Without Tears results



Students who used Handwriting Without Tears made significant improvement in test scores across all skills measured by the Screener.

  • In kindergarten, students learn to print letters and build good habits. Students in kindergarten saw 27% improvement from the beginning to the end of the year.

  • First grade is the year to review and refine printing skills. Students in first grade saw 20% improvement from the beginning to the end of the year.

  • In second grade, students master printing. Students in second grade saw 9% improvement from the beginning to the end of the year.

  • Third grade is the year most students learn cursive and build good habits. Students in third grade saw 25% improvement from the middle to the end of the year.

  • In fourth grade, students develop cursive skills. Students in fourth grade saw 38% improvement from the beginning to the end of the year.


For more information, download the full results of the Screener of Handwriting in PDF format!


How It Works

The Learning Without Tears® curriculum draws from years of research to provide developmentally appropriate, multisensory tools and strategies for your classroom.

  • Our teaching orders move from writing readiness in Pre-K, to printing and cursive. The scope and sequence of lessons is based on research about how children learn best.

  • Our program follows research that states children learn more effectively by actively doing, and by using the different senses.

  • Our unique physical approach addresses posture, grip, and paper positioning.

Developmentally Based

Each stage of instruction promotes success at the next level. Using readiness activities in Pre-K and kindergarten, children learn to build capital letters and numbers correctly (correct sequence and orientation) with Capital Letter Wood Pieces, Roll-A-Dough Letters, the Stamp and See Screen, and the Mat and the Slate. Once they have developed the necessary fine motor, letter recognition, and stroke sequencing skills, children are ready to write capitals and numbers in their worksheets.

The transition to lowercase letters in kindergarten is easy. These lessons begin with the letters that are the same as their capital partners: c o s v w. Dividing printing into two distinct groups (capitals and lowercase) enables rapid progress and avoids the typical confusion between capital and lowercase letters. Later, the transition to cursive is comfortable because lessons begin with letters that are familiar from printing: c a d g h t p. Finally, cursive capitals are taught last starting with letters that are the same as lowercase cursive letters, just taller!

Step-by-step Illustrations

To understand correct letter formation, children need to see each step in sequence. The LWT worksheets contain large, step-by-step images that can be finger traced to show exactly how to make each part of the letter. Finger tracing helps children learn through their tactile (touch) and kinesthetic (movement) senses. Short, simple words describe each step.

step-by-step letter illustrations


Consistent, Child-Friendly Language

We don’t use jargon. Children relate to our instructions because we use words and concepts they understand.


Learning Without Tears worksheets and workbooks use child-friendly words to describe each step for making letters. Young children will know what you mean when you say “Magic c, up like a helicopter, up, slide down, bump.” The books use language and symbols that are familiar to children. The directions are intended to be read out loud to students, so that auditory (hearing) learners remember how to form

letters correctly.

Take a look at what other programs say to form the letter "d"

HWT is simple for children to comprehend

HWT language:

Magic c

up like a helicopter

up higher
back down


Example 1:

Middle start, around down,

touch, up high, down, and a 

monkey tail.

Example 2: 

Touch below the midline;

circle back (left all the way

around). Push up straight 

to the headline. Pull down 

straight to the baseline.


Multisensory Teaching Strategies

Writing instruction does not begin with seat work! It begins with multisensory play. Little children learn with all their senses. They are eager, curious, and physically active, needing to touch, feel, and manipulate real objects. LWT activities have children polishing, stacking, sorting, trading, feeling, squeezing, moving, placing, standing, sitting, and shaking hands. Children use the hands-on LWT materials for overall readiness and direct preparation for printing capital letters and numbers.


Left-Hand Friendly worksheets

All LWT worksheets are left-hand friendly. Each letter page is designed so right- and left-handed children have a model when they copy letters and words. The left-handed child is shown how to copy from the model on the right. It’s an easy trick that is unique to LWT.

Left-hand friendly worksheets and workbooks


Clean, Clear Worksheets


All LWT worksheets have simple black-and-white pages that are clean and clear. We deliberately avoid the visual confusion of distracting background images, overdone colored graphics, multicolored lines, and crowded pages. These stylized effects may be appealing, but they distract children and create visual perceptual difficulties.


Children who finish their lessons before others can color the pictures or add drawings to the pages. This gives children more confidence, while keeping faster learners busy and engaged.


Worksheet illustrations promote left-to-right directionality and visual tracking. The pictures that face sideways always face to the right.

clean worksheet pages


Simple, Vertical Style

The LWT printing and cursive styles are vertical, so it’s easier for children to identify, recognize, and write letters, and read words and sentences. Because the diagonal stroke is the most difficult to form developmentally, we teach a vertical style that fosters greater success in teaching print and cursive.


Internally link to new cursive page from this section*

Simple, Fast, and Consistent

At Learning Without Tears, our goal is for students to write legibly with speed and consistency. The curriculum aims to make legible and fluent handwriting an easy and automatic skill for all students. By having educators use easy-to-use materials, students can achieve both.


Students need consistent handwriting instruction to develop fluent handwriting skills. This includes both review and mastery of letter formation and writing practice. A consistent handwriting curriculum, beginning in kindergarten, reinforces instruction, letter formation, etc.


Handwriting instruction should be part of the regular instructional day. Short and effective, around 10–15 minutes per day, handwriting practice will lead to handwriting mastery and writing fluency. As stated by Louise Spear-Swerling in 2013, relatively modest investments of instructional time devoted to handwriting— perhaps the equivalent of 10 or 15 minutes daily—may pay off in preventing later writing problems, including difficulties with higher level composition skills


Please take a look at our additional resources including our latest webinar: Handwriting & Technology: Teaching Handwriting in the Digital Age to learn more.