From the Forums: Penmanship and Perfectionism

May 15, 2017 | Posted by the IEW Blog Team


Our forums are a wonderful community space where members gather to ask questions, encourage each other, and share successes. Jill Pike, Accomplished IEW Instructor and author, pops in from time to time, offering words of wisdom and encouragement. Following are some suggestions and encouragement she shared on the topics of beginning penmanship and the problem of perfectionism.

My daughter is still not quite ready for the full writing program. In the meantime, what things can I be doing to help my child get ready to write her letters?

First, use Printing with Letter Stories to introduce your child to each of the letters. The program uses stories to teach both the sound of each of the letters along with how to form them. The course includes pictures that your student can color.

Young children can practice their letters in a variety of ways. They can start by tracing a letter on the letter story cards with their finger. They can practice forming letters in the air using their entire arm. Later, they can practice with their finger in a tray of rice or sand or on fuzzy fabric. Fat markers on a white board are great for beginning writers because they are easy for children to hold in their developing fingers.

My child gets so frustrated when he doesn’t write as nicely as he thinks he ought to. I think he’s doing great! How can I help him with his perfectionism?

Remind your student that “a mistake is an opportunity to learn.” Handwriting is a lot like art. It takes tons of practice to succeed. Imperfect attempts will lead up to better and better work.

My daugher was an art major in college. When her brother watched her effortlessly draw a bear at my request, he asked her how she could do that. She responded, “Hey, you sit in a field drawing a tree for two hours straight, and do that over and over again with all sorts of objects, and you’d be able to draw well, too!” After about a thousand tries, skill begins.

Some students struggle with accepting help to improve their work. Helping them see that famous authors and writers require help to make their work shine may help your child to accept the help needed to develop their skill. Here are some examples that you can show them:

  • Examine how artists prepare for their craft. For example, artists create multiple sketches and study anatomy before they ever tackle a finished portrait.

  • Novelists write multiple drafts and work with an editor to make their work great. The School Story by Andrew Clements is a delightful story about how a girl got her book published.

If your student struggles to accept helpful criticism, show him a master class. Even accomplished musicians need help to make their work better. You can see one presented by Daniel Barenboim, a renowned conductor and pianist, here:

Penmanship takes repeated practice and persistence. It also requires patience. While there is no single way to prepare a student to write well, modeling should be a huge part of it. Modeling and encouragement make a difference. As Andrew Pudewa says, you cannot help your students too much. Be patient, smile often, and keep lessons short. It will all come in time.

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