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We offer a unique strategy, a developmental curriculum, and simple materials for teaching fluent handwriting. This page provides a bit of history and explains why Peterson Directed Handwriting is different from other programs. We thank you for your interest and urge you contact us when questions arise.
What’s In A Name?
Peterson Directed Handwriting was founded in 1908 by Dr. P. O. Peterson. While training in Spencerian and Palmer methods, Dr. Peterson recognized a connection between rhythm and ﬂuency. He developed a unique curriculum for teaching The American Standard Alphabet which included learning how to move with smooth rhythm. He changed the way letters were taught to enhance rhythmicity. Initially, he operated a school training adults for the business workplace. The success of his methods soon led school directors to hire Peterson to train teachers in his methods. The Peterson curriculum has been in continuous use in schools and homes ever since.
As the company name implies, the Peterson strategy for movement-based training is called a “directed” lesson. The teacher “directs” the writing movements using a grammar of action during lessons. Three alternatives for directing movement are provided in our material: Action Words, Color Rhythm and Count. Students chant the words aloud with the teacher and move the pencil with the voice. The voices create a beat when chanted. As a result, the pupil is challenged to move with smooth rhythm by moving with the sound of the voice. There are other programs that have a grammar of action, but that grammar is designed to describe the movement path. The strategy behind the instruction is totally different. The others use a strategy called "Trace & Copy." Trace and copy activity does not include smooth, rhythmic movement as a goal in the learning activities.
During the first ten decades, literally millions of student handwriting samples provided evidence of successful learning. Peterson specialists reviewed samples submitted by all participating teachers at the end of each unit of instruction. Early on, this action research guided development of the curriculum and lesson plans that worked for the teachers in our classrooms and more importantly for the students.
Thanks to modern motor science we now know the reason for the success of the directed lesson strategy. Beginning in 1991, nearly 600,000 digital handwriting samples were collected from people ranging in age from 4 to 84. The automatic ease demonstrated by good writers was measured digitally revealing very consistent rhythmic pulses as letters were written in various words. The unique letter building process we help you teach, includes fluent movement from the beginning to specifically target the motor system and develop processing abilities needed for automatic handwriting.
In 2003 motor science demonstrated that the smooth movement used by good writers was goal-oriented and guided almost entirely by the motor system with minimal visual feedback. Good writers can literally do it with their eyes closed. Our strategy, curriculum and teaching materials make it easy for you to challenge students to move the pen with the voice. That learning enhances internalization of the movements to improve control by that system. We call it the muscle memory.
Peterson color rhythm models exaggerate the goals for movements within letters and in words. The color/rhythm presentation process was introduced in 1972. Color separations make it much easier for a child to learn how to use goal-oriented movement and learn to control those movements for handwriting that is easy to write and easy to read. We provide a specific plan that makes it easy to teach a movement process for writing that leads to automaticity. The goal is fluency, and we show you how easy it is to measure as an indicator of progress. You will be hard pressed to find any mention of tracking fluency in any other program.
Please download The Muscle Memory Story. It is written as it would be told in a grade four classroom. The story is designed to help students understand the reasons for handwriting practice and the outcomes we hope to gain from the practice sessions. We also want you to know how to measure and track fluency. This link will bring you a simple guide to the procedure.
Free Training On Line
Peterson has been committed to the internet for many years. We recognize that there is a need for information about numerous things that impact your teaching effort. We provide links to numerous presentations offering background in instructional methods and specific techniques for teaching. You will find no other single source offering more information without a fee. We also want to provide live support for your efforts and maintain a web meeting room that supports live collaboration. Based upon long experience, we believe strongly that the support we provide is one of the best reasons to select the Peterson method and materials.
Sharon Goldstein, Retired in 2007 after more than 30 years in elementary classrooms...
The Peterson Directed Handwriting Program is wonderful! I have been using the program for 50 years! It is the program that I was taught when I started school, and continued through my educational years. Then I started to teach, and my school district used the program. Times changed, but my handwriting program did not. My students have enjoyed their handwriting lessons because they can see their progress. Because of the left-to-right progression and movement that is stressed in the program, a carry-over into other subjects is evident as well. Now I have retired from the public school system, but I will continue to teach Peterson Handwriting as an independent learning specialist. Peterson Handwriting is definitely the program of choice!
Dave Thompson, President of Educational Fontware
I have personally made handwriting fonts for all the handwriting programs in the US. In the process of doing so, I examined workbooks and instruction manuals for them all. I found the materials, techniques, and methods from Peterson Directed Handwriting to be the best. When my customers ask for a recommendation, I always send them to PDH.
Debora A. Dawson,
Former Teacher and Special Education Supervisor, MIU 4; Principal, His Kids Christian School
When I think of formal handwriting instruction, I naturally think of Peterson. As a former special educator and reading specialist, I have always recognized the link between reading and writing fluency. Even very successful readers often have difficulty expressing their thoughts in writing. Following systematic handwriting instruction, students become much more proficient in putting their thoughts on paper.
The Peterson Directed Handwriting system gives students the skills and confidence to move forward in a way that is developmentally appropriate for a given age. The progression from manuscript to slant print to cursive allows students to be able to use their new skills right away. Students look forward to applying what they have practiced in handwriting class to their daily work. They are taught to self-evaluate their work by comparing what they have produced to correct models.
As a principal, I have heard the feedback from teachers who have never learned or taught any kind of formal handwriting until being exposed to the Peterson methods. The Teachers' Materials provide the structure and support to help educators understand the mechanics of handwriting and letter formation. They are amazed at the rapid progress that students make because of the systematic structure of how new skills are taught and intertwined with practice opportunities. Teachers and students share the motivation and pride of mastering good handwriting through the Peterson Directed Handwriting method. Parents, too, often comment on how much their children have gained from their improved handwriting skills.
I just can't imagine a school without Peterson!