5 Tips for Students with Poor Handwriting

Every year I have at least 1 or 2 students with really poor handwriting.  You know, the students that like to write  ONEREALLYLONGWORDWITHOUTANYSPACESINBETWEENANDINALLCAPS!


How about the students whose letters always seem to float off the paper like balloons? Or those that can’t even read their own writing, but expect YOU to understand it! 


Well after years of struggling to read some of my students’ writing, I’ve come up with a few tips and strategies that have been pretty helpful. I’m sharing today in the hopes that they might help you as well!


Let me begin by saying that I understand that we live in a digital world where most of what we write takes place on some form of a digital device…  However, I also believe that it’s important for every child to be able to communicate effectively the old fashioned way… with a pen or pencil. So here’s how to help those poor babies whose writing might look somewhat like this…




Use Graph Paper:

I like to use graph paper or grid paper those kiddos that have difficulty with letter sizing. Print out a few copies of this 1 cm graph paper to have handy whenever needed. Then have the child practice copying the sentence “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” (This sentence uses all of the letters of the alphabet.) Only one letter can go inside each box and the letters must also stay inside of each box. This activity helps work on keeping letters uniform or the same size.


Use Small Stickers or Stamps:

Use small stickers or stamps for students that like to squish their words together. To help them remember to leave space between words, ask them to place a sticker or stamp between every word.

Students love using stickers and stamps so this trick helps them remember to space correctly! As long as you don’t mind a few stickers on your kid’s work you should be fine. This trick has been a real winner with my kiddos! They love using stickers so much, that they WANT to space their words so that they can use them.



Use Shaded Paper:

Shaded Paper, as I like to call it, (otherwise known as highlighted paper) is great to use for students that have difficulty with letter formation and don’t quite understand that some letters hang below the line and others go to the top of the line.

My favorite shaded paper can be downloaded for free here. In this picture, you can see how the first time my student copies the sentence his letters are too big, however, he does MUCH better on his second attempt. Also, notice how he’s using the stamp to space out his words.

Try Different Pencils:

Many times students with poor handwriting write so hard that their pencils have absolutely NO POINT on them. The flat point not only makes their writing messy, but is part of the reason their letters are illegible. That’s why I like to give them mechanical pencils with different sized lead to try out. This helps make sure that they are writing with a “sharp” point at all times.

At first, your student will tend to gravitate back to their #2 pencil, since that’s what they’ve been used to writing with, a flat tipped pencil. But encourage them to keep using the mechanical pencil. At least until you start to see some improvement in their handwriting.


Use a Pencil Grip:

With some students, part of the problem lies with the way they like to hold their pencil. Some of them don’t like the feel of the gritty pencil tip against their skin so they hold their pencil in all sorts of weird and uncomfortable looking ways.


With these students,  pencil grips might just be the solution. Again, there are a few different varieties out on the market so test some and see which one your student feels most comfortable with.


Do you have any tricks of your own for helping students that struggle with messy handwriting?

If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below…



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  • Reply
    Teach at the Beach
    October 18, 2015 at 4:05 pm

    First of all, I LOVE your blog design! So colorful and cute!
    And, I like the idea of using a mini stamp between the words. Brilliant. I already use the highlighted paper for some of my second graders, but using a stamp in between words is a great addition!

    I already have stamps that are pre-inked, so no ink pad is needed…way less messier. Actually, they're 'shape' markers from Lakeshore, not stamps, but they work as PERFECT self-inking stamps! 🙂

  • Reply
    Kylee Yates
    February 5, 2022 at 7:37 am

    Where can I find the shaded or highlighted paper? The link did not work for me. Thanks

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