Going with the flow
After an interim tinkering a couple of years ago, mainly through the introduction of an alternative "cursive" strand for key stage 1, the publishers of the veteran Nelson Handwriting have finally come up with a genuine new edition that addresses demands for an earlier introduction of handwriting skills to children.
A welcome change is the shift in emphasis away from copy-from workbooks in the early stages to the more infant-friendly copy-in workbooks. The three monochrome workbooks for each of Years 1 and 2 follow the usual progression from exercises in directional flow and pattern formation to actual letter formation. The latter - complete from the word go with a full set of guidelines - is introduced early in the scheme, at the start of Workbook 2. Exit flicks from letters are used right from the start anticipating a smooth transition to joined script at Year 3.
The first write-from book, Pupil Book A - new to this edition - has been slotted in at the top of key stage 1 and introduces the main types of letter join. It is followed at key stage 2 with Pupil Books 1 to 4. All these are uncluttered, bright, with lots of white space and colourful illustrations. Each is divided into units focusing on a learning objective such as "the second join - practice with ch and sh" or "drafting and editing". Publishers are often hooked on regularity and symmetry - often at the expense of sound pedagogy - so it's refreshing to note that Nelson has varied the length of each unit (from two to eight pages) depending on the complexity of the skill being dealt with.
From book 1 onwards, Nelson Handwriting follows the convention of combining practice with other aspects of written English, such as punctuation or parts of speech. And throughout there are units to broaden children's perceptions of handwriting and their handwriting skills: writing for different purposes; speedwriting; drafting and editing; writing with ink; developing an individual style. All units are generously supported and extended with photocopiable worksheets.
An accessible, well organised teacher's book provides advice about various aspects of teaching and assessment of handwriting, followed by step-by-step help and advice on each of the components of the scheme. This is disappointingly scant for the workbooks - some general advice followed by mere descriptions of each page. Each unit of the pupil books, on the other hand, gets a list of teaching points and at least one suggestion for a follow-up activity.
Overall, a comprehensive scheme well worth considering, with heaps of material particularly for eight-year-olds and above.