Teaching handwriting - more than writing the alphabet

Rita Robinson
12 December 2008


Robinson, R. (2008). Teaching handwriting - more than writing the alphabet (A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the degree Masters of Occupational Therapy at Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin, Aotearoa/New Zealand) [PDF 1.060MB]


Handwriting is one of the main reasons for referral to school based occupational therapists, therefore it is important for occupational therapists to understand how teachers teach handwriting. This is especially relevant in the culture of Aotearoa / New Zealand where providing ecological based services is expected and valued.

Method: Using a qualitative case study research methodology, an understanding of how Aotearoa / New Zealand teachers teach handwriting was obtained by interviewing six new entrant teachers.

Results: The core findings from this research demonstrate that these new entrant teachers had distinct expectations and activities included within their handwriting programs. The outcome of these expectations are refined into a three stage handwriting process; handwriting as an occupation, handwriting as a cyclic process and handwriting as a tool. These three stages offering a developmental perspective of handwriting which can be observed during the interaction between the teachers orchestration of the task of handwriting and the child’s participation. Shared values and ways of doing between teachers and therapists were also found.

Implications: The core implications from this research include suggestions which have the potential to enhance ecologically based service delivery by connecting into the shared values, practices and expectations of teachers. This research demonstrates how connecting Aotearoa / New Zealand teachers’ voices to international handwriting research can assist occupational therapists to inform their practice in an evidence based manner, specifically in the areas of pencil grasp, air time (processing time) and letter formation. The findings related to these three areas of the task of handwriting (pencil grasp, air time and letter formation) assist in explaining a developmental view of handwriting which can be observed in the classroom during any written task.

Further research directions highlight the promising use of literacy screening systems already set in place within Aotearoa / New Zealand school system, the realisation of this suggestion being the earlier identification of children with handwriting difficulties. 


This thesis is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International