Letterforms is a structured programme intended to support the initial learning of handwriting and aims to meet the requirements of the five to 14 guidelines of the national curriculum. The programme has been developed from trials in more than 2,000 schools by the Scottish education department. Bill and Maureen Michael are on the credits. Some may recall Bill from his work in art and literature.
The complete programme is available on CD-Rom. The kit is easy to follow and goes into the details of learning to write thoroughly, and includes letter guides to help children understand the geography of letters: where to start, where to go and where to stop.
Although Letterforms is similar to many other schemes being used in schools, its CD format is an advantage. This makes managing the programme simple, with each section available at a mouse click. It gives teachers the opportunity to print what they want, when they want; print-outs can be shared with other teachers in the school, saving on paper, time and effort.
A link between drawing and beginning to write is also clearly made and there are examples of children's drawings at different stages of their development. These indicate the point when children are ready to make the transition from drawing to forming letters and would be useful to share with those parents who want to start their children writing too soon.
Letterforms may also be useful when planning for individual children at different stages of learning to write as it allows them to work independently and develop at their own pace. Games are suggested to support this, encouraging them to write at a reasonable speed and to assess their own work.
The CD allows individual letters to be printed out to make letter cards. There is a choice of large and small letters in lower case and capital letters as well as numerals. Lower-case word cards are included for children to practise with; copies can be made for use at home.
There is advice on identifying and remedying errors, and a template record sheet, albeit basic. Clear information is included about the best posture to adopt for writing (which is illustrated) and the importance of sitting comfortably. This seems obvious, but sometimes we need reminding.
Children need to gain the basic skills in developing letters fluently before they can begin to create ideas and express them in a written form for others to follow. If you are considering a new programme, or are newly qualified, then Letterforms would fit the bill.
Lorraine Frankish is early years tutor for the lifelong learning service at Rutland county council