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February 14, 2022

What is Handwriting Without Tears?

Young child laying on stomach playing with toys

What is Handwriting Without Tears?

Handwriting Without Tears (HWT) is a multi-sensory approach to teach K-5 writing. There is also a Pre-K portion of the program that focuses on prewriting skills required for Kindergarten readiness. HWT targets to incorporate fun, engaging and developmentally appropriate techniques into practice. It incorporates music, movement, letter play, wooden pieces, and Playdoh/putty to develop gross motor and fine motor skills along with providing a sensory enriching experience. HWT utilizes specific and unique letter formation and style to allow for better obtainment of writing skills. The program uses a vertical print style as is easiest for the child to write and what they are most familiar within their environments. The program begins with uppercase letter formation and then once mastered, progresses to lowercase letter formation and if applicable, cursive writing.

To learn more, please visit:


Why Learning Without Tears?

  1. Multi-sensory approach (putty, Wet-Dry-Try, Mat Man, wood pieces, Stop and See Screen, chalkboard)
  2. Simple language (big line, little line, big curve, little curve)
  3. Unique letter order and style for teaching
  4. Double lines to assist with placement and legibility

Handwriting Without Tears' curriculum uses simple black and white coloring on the pages to allow the child to practice coloring and fine motor skills. A large model is used to allow for finger tracing and HWT uses a grayed box (initially) for letter placement, sizing, and orientation. HWT also uses a simple dot for a visual to assist with letter starting point which helps eliminate potential for reversals.


Handwriting Components

The Print Tool assess handwriting components for capital letters, lowercase letters, and numbers.

  1. Memory: remembering and writing dictated letters/numbers
    - Follow directions, "Write capital A," then child writes "A."
  2. Orientation: letters/numbers in correct direction
    - Reversals (letters facing incorrect direction)
  3. Placementplacing letters/numbers on the baseline
    - Placement on the line
    - Floating/sinking letters
  4. Size: age-appropriate letter/number size
    - Too big or too small
  5. Start: beginning each letter/number correctly
    - Where pencil hits the paper first
  6. Sequence: makes letter/number strokes in correct order
    - If starting point is incorrect then it automatically is a sequencing error too
  7. Spacing: spacing between words
    - Amount of space between words in a sentencce
    - Squished words or words too far apart (I love dogs vs. Ilovedogs)


How to know if your child has difficulties with handwriting:

  • Complains of fatigue with writing tasks
  • Teacher reports concerns with legibility and letter formation
  • Sloppiness
  • Inconsistencies with sizing and letter formation
  • Difficulties copying written work
  • Reversals

How Occupational Therapy can help:

  • Assess grasping patterns and recommended pencil grips, if appropriate
  • Assess the child's posture and positioning to maximize participation with handwriting tasks
  • Provide fine motor and strengthening activities to assist with handwriting tasks
  • Provide suggestions for breaking down letter formation
  • Utilize a multi-sensory approach to handwriting
  • Incorporate a developmental teaching order for teaching letters

Emily, MS, OTR/L

Emily is an OT at Curative New Berlin Therapies and is Level 1 Certified through Handwriting Without Tears.

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