Author: Jane Taylor, Handwriting Consultant
A cursive script is a script in which all the letters in a word are joined. Current practice in most schools in to teach a script where letters which end on the base line have an exit stroke. This enables a child to progress naturally and quickly from learning to form a single letter correctly to using the mastered letters in a joined script. To join a letter after forming one letter correctly, the pencil is kept on the paper and a trace is made to where the next letter starts. The joining stroke should be a light movement and the trace should be at approximately 45 degrees.
Recent experience of teaching handwriting to rising 5s and 6 year olds has shown that many of them find the letter e difficult to form correctly. The difficulty is compounded if the child is using single or non lined paper. The problem is knowing where to start the e and then how to form it correctly. I have found that it is easier for most children to learn that the letter e starts from the base line with a diagonal line which is drawn to nearly the x height line and then taken over the top in an anticlockwise direction and is continued like the letter c. This makes the join from letters a c d e h i k l m n t u, which all end on the base line, very easy. This simplifies the join to e in six of the twenty five frequently used words: he, the, they, then, she, when (Reid, 1989).
The first letters a child should learn to join are those in his or her name. So if the ‘diagonal e’ has been learnt as described then Matthew, Sophie, Luke and Katherine should have no difficulties. However words like we, were, there are also among the first twenty five words which children use in their writing so it is necessary to teach an alternative form of e in order that the letter o v w, which end at the x height, will join easily to e. The beginning trace needs to start near the x height line and curls upwards in an anticlockwise direction to the x height line and then is continued like the letter c (see diagram). This allows the exit stroke from the letter o v w to connect to the entry point of e with ease.
If the children have names like Oliver or Brenda then they should learn the ‘curly e‘ from the beginning and the ‘diagonal e‘ a little later on.
Many writing schemes do not address learning to write the letter e in this much detail. In a number of schemes the letter e is introduced one way and then there is a subtle change in the way the child is expected to write the letter without apparently any teaching point being made.
In A Hand for Spelling (Cripps 1995) the child practises the ‘curly e‘ but the e is only found in one of the following five words i.e we, the other four words me, be, he and she require the ‘diagonal e‘ (see diagram below).
In Phonic Workbook 4 (Jolly Learning Ltd 1995) the join in the model ee does not flow smoothly (see diagram below). The double e which the child traces is different from the model and the child is expected to write both the ‘curly e‘ and the ‘diagonal e‘.
With these examples in mind it is important:
- To notice the type of e used in the handwriting programme used in the school.
- To consider whether the child is expected to copy the model or to produce a variation without any positive teaching.
- To make it easier for the beginner writer it is necessary to teach two forms of e so that the child can progress smoothly and speedily from writing single letters to joining either a letter which ends on the base line or a letter which ends on the x height line to form an e. This means that a child needs to master 27 instead of 26 small letter forms.
- Cripps, C. (1995). A Hand for Spelling 2a. Wisbech: LDA
- Lloyd, S., Wernham, S., Jolly, C. (1995). Phonic Workbook 4. Chigwell, Essex: Jolly Learning
- Reid, D. (1998). Word for Word. Wisbech: LDA