1: Writing and Handwriting

Writing and handwriting are big things I want to work on, penmanship. When and how do we incorporate this into our main lessons?

There are two questions here: When to work on writing (composition) and when to work on handwriting (penmanship). Let’s address them one at a time. However, first, we need to establish some background information.

Background Information

Main lesson is only part of the Waldorf school day. After main lesson should come multiple practice classes. In grades 1–3, main lesson blocks rotate between math and language arts skills. During a math block, students study math skills during main lesson (2 hours/day) and language arts skills during a language arts practice class (45-50 minutes per day). Unlike subjects such as history or geography, skills like math and language arts are never put to sleep. Students continue to study these skills and refine them during the off blocks.

Language arts main lessons can be divided into smaller segments using the following flexible archetype:

Main Lesson Archetype from The Roadmap to Literacy by Langley and Militzer-Kopperl (page 56)

Main Lesson Archetype for a two-hour main lesson class

·        Opening: 12-15 minutes

·        Skills Practice: 20–40 minutes*

·        Introduction and/or Review: 10–25 minutes

·        Bookwork: 15–35 minutes*

·        Story: 15–20 minutes

*Transition activities between segments: 3–5 minutes

Similarly, practice class can be divided into smaller segments using the following flexible archetype:

Practice Class Archetype from The Roadmap to Literacy by Langley and Militzer-Kopperl (page 62)

Practice Class Archetype for a 45–50 minute daily practice class

·        Skills Practice: 15–20 minutes

·        Introduction and/or Review: 10–15 minutes

·        Bookwork: 15 minutes

Now that the background information is laid out, let’s consider the questions.

When to Work on Writing (Composition)

Writing (composition) should be a major component in both main lesson classes and practice classes. Students in first and second grade should do Kid Writing (see Chapter 3.13 Kid Writing: The Key to Early Literacy pp. 298–314) while students in second and third grade can begin Composition, provided they are far enough along in developing literacy skills (see Chapter 3.14 Composition pp. 315-334). Kid Writing allows beginning students to experiment with spelling and using the sight words and reading skills they have been learning. Composition allows students to begin to write more formally and to begin to compose their own entries to main lesson books.  Both types of writing would typically be done in the Bookwork segment of the class, after you have reviewed the topic you will ask the student to write about.

When to Work on Penmanship

Penmanship should be a major component in both main lesson classes and practice classes. It can be taught in either the Skills Practice segment or the Bookwork segment.

There are several times when penmanship occurs in the Bookwork segment. When you are introducing the letters (print or cursive), penmanship is taught in the Bookwork segment. It is also taught in the Bookwork segment when students are copying their compositions into their main lesson books. However, if you are asking students to do a page of printing or handwriting for practice, it should be done in the Skills Practice segment. These pages can be part of a handwriting workbook or a practice assignment done on lined paper (e.g., write the names of all the members of your family).

Main lesson book writing should be the icing on the cake. It should be the smallest amount of time spent on handwriting practice. Most handwriting practice is just that—practice sheets that help students learn to form their letters correctly. Students should recopy some (but not all) of their written compositions into their main lesson books. These assignments then double as handwriting practice since anything written in the main lesson book should be in the students’ best handwriting.

Students in grades 1–3 should do some form of handwriting daily. A good rule of thumb is as follows: If students are not composing something or doing Kid Writing, they should have handwriting practice.

For more information about either handwriting, composition, or Kid Writing, consult The Roadmap to Literacy.

About the Author Jennifer Militzer-Kopperl