Most Frequently Asked Questions
Q. How is SmithHand different from other handwriting
A. SmithHand works. The handwriting methods used in the
United States for the past 90 or so years have resulted in a general decline of
handwriting quality. SmithHand has produced good results with students of many
different ages. SmithHand is skill based, so it is taught only once, then
reinforced. SmithHand is written comfortably, allowing the writer to use the
fine motor skills he/she possesses. There is no need to reinvent a workable
alphabet with SmithHand. SmithHand can be written the way it is taught.
Q. What age/grade should students begin?
A. Consider skill, not age
or grade, in deciding when to begin handwriting.
Students are ready to begin printing (manuscript) when they can color well. When
they print with facility and some speed, they are ready to begin cursive
writing, whatever the age. Handwriting is a skill. We think of it as training,
not education. Because fine motor skills are a prerequisite, children should not
be expected to print or write before they acquire these skills. Copying letters
like pictures is not writing. Many people start children too early, long before
they have the needed basic skills to actually write (not copy) letters. If a
child cannot write small, he/she is probably not ready. Boys are generally ready
later than girls, often by two years or more. Students will generally read
before they write. Starting after the needed skills are present is not a
problem, but starting before they are present makes for unnecessary frustration
and contempt for handwriting. We believe it is not a
good idea to begin cursive writing before the third grade for girls. Boys are
usually ready in the fifth grade or a little later. Evaluate skill, not age or
grade, in deciding when to begin handwriting.
Q. How many books are there?
A. There is one workbook for SmithHand manuscript
(printing) and one workbook for SmithHand cursive. That's all. SmithHand teaches
only handwriting. When children have the necessary fine motor skills to color
well, they use the manuscript method book and practice pads to learn to print
and reinforce their skills. When they print well (with facility and some speed)
they use the cursive book and practice pads to learn cursive writing and
reinforce those skills.
Q. My son/daughter has already started cursive with
another curriculum. Will this cause confusion?
A. No. SmithHand begins with the simplest stroke and
progresses to gradually more difficult levels. So long as the student has the
needed fine motor skills, other writing habits will be supplanted as he/she
works through the exercises.
Q. The materials we have been using have a different
kind of printing. Is this a problem?
A. Children need to learn to distinguish between
different type faces and fonts, and most do this as they learn to recognize
letters and then read. Once they know that different versions of a letter are
still that letter, then they are not confused by any legible alphabet. This
abstract reasoning skill generally develops with time and practice.
Q. How long does it take to learn SmithHand?
A. Once the student has the needed skills to begin
printing, he/she should begin the manuscript method slowly, working a little
every other day to train the muscles in the hand and develop hand eye
coordination. Stop before becoming tired or bored, even if this makes for a
short session. Allow the student to proceed at his/her own pace, working
regularly, but not for long periods of time. As skills grow, so will speed. A
semester is usually enough time to learn each method,
provided the needed fine motor skill level has been
attained before starting. Sometimes more time is
needed, and taking more time is not a problem. A student with minimal skills
will take more time and practice paper. Older students and adults with fully
developed fine motor skills will not take so long.
Q. My daughter/son is 14. Does she/he have to start all
over with printing again?
A. No. SmithHand cursive teaches students to write slim,
angled letters comfortably. Learning SmithHand cursive should influence the way
a student prints, but this should be intentionally encouraged by reinforcement
with grading. After a student has learned SmithHand cursive, any printing should
be slim and angled like the cursive letters. The manuscript capitals are
included in the cursive workbook.
Q. Why does my son/daughter write clearly when he/she
works very slowly with other methods, but gets sloppy when trying to write
A. Most alphabets can only be written slowly and
awkwardly because they actually teach a copy hand, not true cursive writing.
This means the letters can be copied slowly, but not written at speed. When
students work slowly on these other writing methods, they can copy the letters
accurately, but because they are copy hands, they cannot be written rapidly.
Q. How is this different from italic?
A. SmithHand has little in common with italic writing
other than its slant and beauty. Italic handwriting gained popularity as an
alternative to the ugly letters most other handwriting methods have used for
many years. Although beautiful, italic writing is slow and laborious for most
people. We consider it a copy hand.
Q. How are the pads used?
A. Use as much of the lined practice pad paper as needed
to learn either the manuscript or cursive methods. There should be a full pad or
so left over once the workbook has been completed. The remaining paper should be
used to write all assignments from other subjects to reinforce good handwriting
practice. We cannot know what vocabulary words you will need when you teach
SmithHand writing, so we do not include any more than are necessary to learn to
write the letters and letter combinations. The words you will need to practice
come from the spelling, history, and other assignments your student will be
covering at the time. Use all the practice paper to reinforce good handwriting,
then use regular lined paper. Continue to grade for handwriting quality on all
Q. The lines on the SmithHand practice paper are
narrower than the paper we have been using. Why?
A. Small children have small hands and less developed
fine motor skills than older students and adults. The length of the stroke they
can make with skill is necessarily smaller. Consequently, the size of a letter
must be small if we expect them to write with skill. We do not like and do not
use big pencils, paper with big lines, or big, rounded letters. Our practice
paper lines are based on the length of the stroke a typical child can be
expected to manage.
Q. I have been writing in a way that no one can read
ever since I finished grade school. Is there any hope for me?
A. SmithHand has improved handwriting for many adults
and older students. Because it is based on fine motor skills, anyone with these
skills can be expected to learn the method.
Q. Should we use a pencil or a pen?
A. We recommend using a mechanical pencil with a soft
lead such as HB to learn and write SmithHand manuscript. We like the Pentel
Sharplet 0.9mm, but it should have a soft lead. For cursive writing, we
recommend and supply a Sanford Expresso extra fine pen with our cursive kits.
This pen makes a slim line which will not widen, dries instantly, and has a
little drag on the paper to help the writer maintain control.
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SmithHand Writing Methods
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