Handwriting and Letter Formation

The Happy Handwriter’s letter formation resources start at the very beginning with the development of the basic lines and strokes for handwriting.  The development of lines and strokes lays the foundation to progress to shape formation and finally moves through to specific handwriting and letter formation.

Letters are based on Lines and Strokes and these are developed through first building, and then drawing, until they are well established and mastered.

Once Lines and Strokes have been mastered they may be put together to form shapes which are pre-cursors to letter formation.  The Happy Handwriter’s Shape Builder is a multi-sensory approach to shape formation starting with building, tracing and finally drawing of forms.

The Build-a-Letter and Number cards are companions to The Happy Handwriter’s series.  Research has shown that the process of building the letter significantly aids and assists with the foundational processes required for letter and number formation. This is applicable at the pre-primary level, right through to the Grade 3 level with the acquisition of cursive handwriting.


The starting point of the letters is clearly indicated by The Doughnut™ (the open circle) and the letters are divided into red, blue and middle starters, using the sides of the boundary box as points of reference. The children roll out a sausage of play dough and, starting on The Doughnut, follow the sequence of the formation of the letter, building their letter on top of the sample. In addition, the cards come with a Texture Overlay Board which, when placed over the letter card, provides the opportunity to trace over the letter providing the children with a tactile experience of the formation pattern of the letter.

The Happy Handwriter letter books focus on establishing motor maps for handwriting. A motor map is a set of instructions stored in the brain that travels along a neural pathway to tell a group of muscles how to perform a motor action, such as forming a letter.  The motor map is then established through constant repetition.  The Happy Handwriter’s series is unique in that it ensures that the correct pathways are established before the child forms their letters independently, so they learn correctly the first time. The provision of multiple opportunities for practise in the correct pattern is offered in two ways.  The correct pattern is provided by the dotted and grayed letters, and repetition is offered through the creation of rainbow-letters®. To make rainbow-letters, the child traces over all the letters on the page in one colour, then uses the next colour to trace over the same letters.

The Grade 0 Letter Book focuses on building and basic letter formation, while that for Grade 1 goes onto consolidating letter formation along with spatial placement of letters on lines.  The Grade 2 Book which is yet to come, consolidates letter placement along with upper case letter formation.  The numbers follow the same principles for establishment of formation as the letters.  The Cursive Handwriting Books may be introduced later in Grade 2 or in Grade 3.

I am an occupational therapist working in a school for learners with specific learning disabilities. I wish more parents and teachers understood how important “The right way the first time!” is. There is limited time to teach handwriting at school from Grade 1.

Shirley Armitage, Occupational Therapist, Cape Town.