Guidance for teachers

26th January 2001 at 00:00
Common problems for left-handed children learning to write are:

* "hook" handwriting, where the hand is hooked around the pen and held above the writing line in an attempt to angle the pen as a right-hander would;

* smudging, caused by the hand pushing the pen across the page and following the line of writing;

* mirror writing, natural for left-handers until they are corrected;

* over-tight grip, which not only leads to cramped, badly formed letters, but is also tiring. This can be due to poor desk position (sitting a left-hander next to a right-hander may lead to elbow collisions), anxiety about handwriting and using a shiny pen that is difficult to grip.

The Left-Handers Club offers the following advice to teachers:

* the pencil should be held at least 2cm away from the tip so the child's writing is not obscured;

* younger children should use a sot pencil, which will not tear the paper, and older children should experiment with different writing equipment, such as left-handed fountain pens, rubber pen and pencil grips and rulers scaled from right to left;

* the paper should be placed to the left of the child's body midline and the top tilted clockwise by 30 degrees; this automatically brings the hand into the correct writing position, beneath the writing line. The paper should be supported by the right hand, which must be placed in the middle or on the right edge of the paper, not directly below the writing line;

* a coloured star in the left margin will remind potential mirror-writers where to start;

* make allowances for clumsiness, smudging and untidiness, and offer encouragement and praise;

* left-handed children use scissors in a clockwise direction whereas right-handers go anti-clockwise.

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