Interesting post about spelling and handwriting by J. Richard Gentry:
5 reasons to teach spelling, handwriting in the new year
It pairs nicely with this article by Steve Graham, published in 2010:
Want to Improve Children's Writing? Don't Neglect Their Handwriting
Now...some back story on handwriting so that everyone remembers the way things used to be in the 1980s and early 1990s. We spent 20 minutes every day on handwriting when I was in elementary school. This handwriting instruction was focused entirely on single letters. I remember vividly learning each cursive letter in second grade, and hoping to be the one chosen to write a letter on the chalkboard. In third grade we had more of the same for handwriting, but only one real writing composition activity in the entire year (a report about a robot...)
Clearly we don't want to go back to this kind of handwriting instruction. But I think we can merge handwriting with sentence composition. Here is one of the daily sentence lessons that I've made for this year. You can see it has lots going on--students are unscrambling the sentences and recopying them with correct punctuation. The sentences are all focused on a theme for the week (anemones!) which was augmented with video clips that we watched at arrival and dismissal.
The sentence writing area has a dashed midline, which really helps fourth grade writers to make the transition to smaller writing lines. Even at this point in the year I am still talking with students about the relative spacing of their "g"s and lower case "y"s. (Just this week a student said to me, "Hey Mrs. Kissner, look at my g's. Aren't they better?") No one is going to the board to write letters, of course--these conversations happen within the context of the sentence tasks. Each week's practice lessons end with a paragraph writing task with the same dashed lines.
Trying to manage everything that we need to teach is really, really hard. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something! But combining sentence composition activities with handwriting practice is an efficient way to help students grow as writers.
Interested in trying it? The daily sentence activities are in a folder over on Google Drive. Email me with your Gmail account and I will add you to the permissions: firstname.lastname@example.org.