Monday, September 19, 2011

Handwriting Without Tears Clarification

In this post I mentioned that we are incorporating Handwriting without Tears into our Montessori work. One online friend asked if this was compatible with Montessori due to the fact that HWT begins with uppercase rather than lowercase.

Most of you already are aware of this, but for those who are not I want to just quickly say that Montessori begins for primarily reading purposes. Open any book and you will see that there are a lot more lowercase letters than uppercase letters.

Yes, HWT starts with capitals and that is a problem if you are using it parallel to the Montessori curriculum. We are not using it parallel however. Kal-El is two years past the introduction of sandpaper letters, has been reading for a year-and-a-half, and has been at the pencil to paper stage for a year. I added this to our work because it was clear to me that the Montessori-way didn't work for us here. There is a disconnect between his practice with the Montessori materials and when he puts the pencil to paper.

We started with sandpaper letters and later added the sand tray. He learned lowercase first in the traditional way and learned uppercase later. He mastered the sandpaper capitals when he was four. We moved on to chalkboard work and squared paper. I gave the letter families presentations from the Gettman. Now he's five-and-a-half and he can demonstrate a perfect sandpaper letter, writes it perfectly in the sand tray, and then picks up a pencil or chalk and writes it completely differently on the paper or chalkboard.

He now writes all the letters we've covered so far with HWT correctly. It is very easy to use the HWT materials in a Montessori way. All of their tactile activities and materials are very easy to add to the shelves in your handwriting area. You can avoid using the workbook altogether if you wish and just work on their version of squared papers. It isn't any different when I say "Kal-El, I would like to show you how to make an uppercase B today" than it is when I say "Kal-El, I would like to show you how to build the binomial cube today." He sometimes refuses a presentation, just like any other day but we know how to roll with that around here.

If you wanted to use HWT and start with lowercase the teacher's manual says to just skip to that section and do it first, then come back for the capitals. The capitals are so easy to write (which is why they start with them) that we'll be on to the lowercase in two weeks depending on how often we do the work. For those reasons I decided to just go in order. We've been doing two-three capitals a day because they are so similar (F and E together for example; P,B, and R together...). We can go that fast because he already "knows them" we are just training (retraining?) the writing strokes.

I don't know why the Montessori-way didn't work for us here. I do put the responsibility on myself and wouldn't claim that this is a "flaw" in the Montessori method. I wonder if there isn't something that isn't in the manuals that an experienced Montessori teacher would do to transfer the tactile skills to paper? If there is, I don't know what it is so we are solving the problem this way.

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  1. An excelent post! I think that as Bunny (also 5 and half) starts to read, I will be introducing something much like this to her. She has a hard time writing the lower case letters. She often mixes the upper and lower case in a work! Even if she is copying it from a paper! So if she is seeing "map" she write "mAp" or "cat" is "CAt" I'm think its beacuse I started her in Montessori later then average (she was 4 and half) and missed that sensitive period! Oh well! It will work out! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Stephanie,

    Kal-El mixes his as well. There is probably an argument to be made somewhere for timing the writing sequence just right so that they are writing lowercase for some time before introducing uppercase. All I know is that we are all following our children the best we can and this is how the sequence is playing out for some of us. It will certainly work out. I'm sure they won't be 30 and still writing cAt. All we can do is our best and try to erect is few obstacles in their learning as possible.

  3. We had a bit of an added obstacle here, my girls learned cursive lower case first. So their writing was an eclectic blend of upper, lower and cursive!
    I chose to teach my younger daughter who hasn't attended Montessori school only lower case print. Unfortunately most of our at home materials-such as moveable alphabet, are cursive.
    I think in Montessori the children are not corrected in spelling or handwriting until elementary. ? I am a little too lax and my husband believes they need to learn "correctly" from the beginning. So hopefully it all balances out!

  4. I don't think it is the method I think it is the boys. I think they spontaneously do all this clearly later than we are led to believe. Not that they can't/won't do it earlier, we just might not be quite patient enough for it :) DH supports my theory so I go with it :) One of our 3-6 trained friends used to always remind us with Aidan that using the moveable alphabet correctly is writing and they can compose to their hearts content with that without picking up a pencil or paper at all for the whole of Children's House.

    FWIW we do HWOT too as a supplement.

  5. Thanks Heidi! As always, your comments are super helpful!