Teaching Left-Handed Writers

Valorie Delp
Proper positioning is important for good handwriting.

Teaching left handed writers at first can be a little daunting. While it might seem to make sense to assume that left handed writers learn to write like right handed writers learn to write, there are special considerations to think about when teaching a left handed writer.

Teaching Left Handed Writers to Write

Believe it or not, teaching left handed writers is not as simple as just giving your lefty a piece of paper and a pencil. Some children actually struggle with self-esteem trying to learn how to write in a right handed world. Consequently, it's important that you give specific instruction to your lefty on how to hold his pencil, how to angle the paper and how to avoid common problems that left handed children have. Because left handed kids tend to have more trouble learning how to write, you may want to start teaching your child about proper positioning early to help develop good habits.

Paper Angle

Many left handed writers tend to 'hook' their arm and wrist around to write. This allows them to see what's being written and keeps what's just been written from smudging. However, it is not a good position for the wrist, arm or shoulder.

To correct the problem, you need to help your left handed student angle his paper so that the arm remains at a 90 degree angle to the body and the wrist is relatively straight and not 'hooked'. The paper is about 45 degrees to the right of the student's body. This alone, can be a tremendous improvement for a left handed writer.

Pencil Grip

Also, left handed writers need to hold their pencils higher from the point than do right handed writers. Many will do it naturally if you insist on your student turning his paper in lieu of his arm; however, if your child will not, then you can encourage proper hand placement by marking his pencil or even putting a rubber band above where his fingers are supposed to go. If your child doesn't grip his pencil properly, he will not be able to see what he is writing.

Tips to Help Your Child

One trick to get your child to write the way he should is to start your child writing on a vertical surface like a chalkboard. This helps your child learn proper arm placement and gets him in the habit of not turning his arm and write into a 'hook' around the top of what he's writing.

Another trick is to begin teaching to write using fat crayons or other larger-than-pencil-sized implements. Doing this helps encourage your child to grip the writing utensil higher up from the point.

Mirror Writing

While this is not necessarily a common problem in left handed students, it does happen sometimes. Mirror writing is when the student essentially writes backwards-starting on the right side of the paper and forming mirror images of the letters. If your left handed writer has a tendency to write like this, you can fix it easily by marking the top left side of his paper with a sticker telling him to "start underneath the sticker." Starting on the correct side of the page, generally causes the student to reverse the letters back so that it reads correctly.

Resources for Lefties

Undoubtedly, it is a right handed world. However, there are a few places where you can get things that can help you teach your left handed student.

  • Left Handed Children.org is an organization dedicated entirely to helping parents of left handed children. They provide a variety of resources, including a store and a set of instructions on helping left handed children with letter formation.
  • The Left Hand is a store full of products designed to help the lefty. They carry left handed scissors as well as left handed notebooks. The notebooks are well worth the purchase if you have a child who is really struggling with learning how to write.
Teaching Left-Handed Writers