South Orangetown Central School District

All second- and third-grade classes, along with four kindergarten and three first-grade classes, have transitioned this year to Handwriting Without Tears (HWT), an award-winning, multi-sensory curriculum for print and cursive letter writing. The shift resulted from teacher feedback that students were having difficulty reading and writing in cursive and accessing primary sources, such as historical letters and documents, for research.

“Our occupational therapists have used HWT for years because they have found it to be developmentally appropriate and able to meet students’ needs at different levels,” explained Instructional Literacy Coach Kristy Nadler. “We’re seeing tremendous growth among students overall and our OTs are reporting better performance among students they see now that HWT is being used for both pullouts and class instruction. We are also able to measure results with data to evaluate student progress throughout the year.”

So what does HWT look like? Lessons are brief–just 15 minutes–two to three times per week, but they are a highlight of the school day for students. Instructional materials include songs, short video tutorials, iPad applications, workbooks and print visuals and keep students interested and engaged as they build their skills.

A recent kindergarten lesson on the letter “Z” in Amy Sheehy’s class included a song with choreographed “skywriting” to practice letter formation, a brief video with memorable writing tips and hands-on practice with printing the letter in short words and sentences.

Occupational Therapist Monica Diaz had third-graders in Kathleen Allen and Irene Alvarado’s class on their feet for skywriting the cursive, lower-case “k,” followed by hands-on practice with whiteboards, fun formation tips and then writing with eyes-closed to reinforce muscle memory. Down the hall, Sunita Hill offered personal feedback as her students refined their cursive writing skills.

HWT will be rolled out for district-wide kindergarten through Grade 3 implementation in 2020-21 and is part of a larger redesign of the elementary English Language Arts curriculum, which has included adoption of the The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project and Phonics curriculum. View our TCRWP video here.

Teacher showing children the letter W.