As a school-based occupational therapist I have spent much of my career helping children develop perceptual, visual motor, and fine motor skills needed for writing by hand. Most every OT that I have ever met loves the Handwriting Without Tears© [HWT] program to teach handwriting. But not every OT, and many teachers and school districts do not use this program. Why not? I would like to discuss what I have observed about advantages and disadvantages of using HWT.
PROs: HWT was developed by Jan Olsen a gifted occupational therapist. It is an elegant developmental, multi sensory program. It adheres to the principles of motor learning, student engagement, developmental theory, and uses best teaching practices. The preschool handwriting curriculum is brilliant in the incorporation of wooden pieces – lines and curves – to teach beginning perceptual skills, drawing skills, and uppercase letter formations. Lowercase letter formations use single strokes, and thus encourages efficient legible handwriting needed to build automaticity skills. Single-stroke letter formations are supported by a letter font that in my experience, is hugely more effective then providing students with ball and stick letter models. If Handwriting Without Tears is so great, what could possibly be a disadvantage?
CONs: Expense. Ordering just workbooks alone, at $9.50 a piece plus shipping, and then adding in all the other elements such as teacher’s manual, wall cards, name plates, and multisensory materials, is an expense that many teachers, school districts, autism programs, and homeschool parents cannot afford.
Secondly, it is very hard-to-find materials that supplement or correspond with HWT. If your School District uses Zainer-Blozer©, [ball and stick appearing letters] as their official curriculum, then teachers and districts have many inexpensive options for teaching materials that match the ball and stick appearance, including many that are available on Teachers Pay Teachers.
In addition to cost and availability, I’ve talked to many teachers who do not like HWT because they do not like the two-lined paper that it uses. They find it more difficult to teach letters of different sizes using the HWT two-lined paper. Because most all other early elementary teaching materials are based on three-lined primary paper, they find that they have to re-teach every letter.
What are your thoughts and experiences with using Handwriting Without Tears? Next week I will blog about using PrintPath as an alternative to Handwriting Without Tears.