Peterson Handwriting  
Peterson Tagline



Online Store


Training Tools: Left Handed



Coaching Ergonomics - The Position Skills

As explained in the early childhood document, the innate movement tendencies of a beginner do not fit the reading pattern of our language. This basic "directionality" concept is more difficult for a lefty because there are two basic tendencies to overcome. This presentation will help you to understand the movement objectives and make coaching much easier.

Right Handed ChildThe right handed child needs to learn to start print strokes from the top, but left-to right movement is quite natural once he or she learns how to hold the paper in writing position.

Left Handed ChildAs illustrated at the right, the lefty's early tendency is to move right-to-left, opposite our reading direction. Learning to start away and move from left-to-right is a little more daunting objective if the child does not receive instruction.

The left-handers difficulty is heightened by a child's perceptual tendency to orient paper in reading position, square in front of the body at the body midpoint. This sets up ergonomic conditions that lead to inversion of movement right from the start as a left-handed child begins to learn to use crayons and pencils.


Reading PositionReading Position
Note that both arms are at the side of the image area.

Fluent writing; in print, italic or cursive style, requires lateral movement from left to right across the page. To help you to understand the difference between left and right handed movement you will use an animation three different ways by positioning your chair in three different places in front of your monitor.

Let's start with right-handed movement. Move your chair to the illustrated position and use your right hand to write in the air with the slide-right illustration.

Right Handed Movement

Right Handed Movement

Notice that stroke production demands a push movement.

Now move your chair over to the right side and try left-handed movement for the same left-to-right stroke. You will at once see that the start point has changed. In right-handed position the stroke started at body midpoint and you had to push away from your body to write it. In left-handed position, the stroke starts away from the body - far out to the left. The stroke is produced by pulling toward the midpoint.

Pull Movement

Notice that stroke production now demands a pull movement.

Use this seating technique with the Animated Letter Cards to allow your lefty to "feel" the left-handed movements with his/her left hand. Also use the right hand and both elbows as well. Pretend you are writing with your chin. This airwriting is a gross motor activity. Gross patterns are not muscle group specific. Our experience shows that the use of different muscle groups is advantageous. It improves integration of the pattern information.

In both activities above, shifting your chair position allowed your writing arm to stay under the image area to make the lateral movement easier to accomplish. Now let's take a look at the problem that causes inversion to happen. Move your chair to put the animation at body midpoint. Use both hands to airwrite with the animation. Use one, then the other and finally, both at the same time.


At midpoint the paper is in reading position.

You will notice that the left hand does not pull to create the stroke when the image area is at body midpoint. The movement is still a push for the right hand but this body position "inverts" the movement for a lefty. It has now become a push. The child is using the left hand to make a right-handed movement. It is almost as if the child were using both hands at the same time.

Coaching Objectives

step 1

Step One
Table height will control the position of the elbows when the child is seated for coloring and writing. This in turn controls the amount of paper rotation needed to put the image into good position for the left hand. The amount of rotation needed increases as table height forces elbows away from the body. Adjust table surface height or select chairs to put the writing surface near the level of the bottom rib when the child is seated. This will allow elbows to be close to the body and make left-handed movements easier to learn.


Step Two
The usual school desk is 18 inches deep and 24 inches wide. Label the top, left and right sides of the work area. I like to use pictures of hands for left and right. Trace your hands, and then reduce the images on a copier. Cut them out and tape them in position on the work space. I open my thumb for the left hand to make an L.


Step Three
Teach the child how to hold the paper with the right hand and move it to different positions on the table top. Place the page on the table. Hold it with the paper-holding hand along the top edge of the page. Move it to the left side of your work space. Move it to the right side of your work space. Move it to the top of your work space.

Teach the difference between reading position and coloring/writing position. We created the self-adhesive position guide to help with this learning. It gives a clear "target" for paper position. Move your paper to the position guide at the top of your work space. Turn the paper so that the top of the paper follows the paper guide. This will make it easier to hold your paper along the top so that your paper-holding hand does not get in the way as you color and write.


Step Four
Once the child has learned how to hold the paper in writing position, practice touching the crayon or pencil to different places on the paper. Touch the left side. Touch the right side. Touch the top and the bottom. When the paper is rotated for writing these "places" on the paper are in new positions. I like to use a piece of paper that has been marked like the work area, hand pictures at left and right along with the words top and bottom in appropriate places.



Step Five
Teach the child to touch the crayon at the left and to make the slide-right stroke with a pull movement - toward the body. Note the arm position. It is critical that the child keep the arm at the bottom of the page. Most children will try to place the arm high on the desk at the side of the paper as they did when the page was in reading position. Many also want to "hook" the wrist.

Notice the straight wrist in the illustrations above and below. Arm position can be defeated when the wrist is rolled outward and often hooked as the child trys to accomplish stroke movements inside of the hand rather than above it. Keep early practice attempts large to demand arm movement.

Rotation of the paper puts the "top" close to midpoint and the "bottom" over to the left, away from midpoint. The objective is to position the paper to allow efficient left-handed arm, wrist and hand movements.


Paper rotation allows a "downstroke movement" to be much closer to the left-handed child's early tendency illustrated above. A downstroke will actually move sideways toward the left side of the work area - thus the name "sidestroke." When the paper is in reading position use of this movement is blocked. If the writing arm is at the side of the paper this movement is blocked. A hooked wrist puts the hand in a position that blocks the movement.

You will also notice that slanted downstrokes are produced by this natural push movement. Creation of a vertical downstroke by pushing in the direction illustrated above, would require additional rotation of the paper.

Use coloring activities to practice and apply paper holding skills and left-handed movements. This will not be easy. Our experience shows that virtually all children in kindergarten and primary grades are already showing embedded habits for the orientation of images in reading position. The "Form Constant Rule" should be helpful for this learning but by the time we see them, most have great difficulty. They have been coloring with the paper in reading position for years before any instruction is attempted. You will need patience to build the child's confidence in this new process. Correlate use of both downstroke and slide-right movements with lots of coloring activities.

The "reading position tendency" is even stronger with letterforms. The child will need lots of coaching and practice to gain confidence in the perception of symbols in the writing position. Our position guide also helps with this learning. It provides a "reading exercise" that can be used regularly to build confidence. When applied to the desk properly, the guide shows the letters in writing position. Use the images for recognition practice. Show the letter, say the sounds, write in the air, touch the letter on your guide. Use the guide with the alphabet song - touch the letters as you sing.


Step Six
Coaching Position
Use the ABC's and 123's book in writing position and fingertrace the model of the target letter. Seat yourself at the left side of the table to guide the fingertracing movements with your right hand. This will also help the child learn to keep his or her writing arm closer to the body.

Step Seven
Use the "coaching position" above to help as the child writes. Our teacher handbook provides reproducible pages for "basic stroke" exercises. There are also pages presenting sets of lines. The line spacing changes to allow various sizes of letter production. Start with unlined paper, a chalkboard or even a "magic slate." Once the movement pattern is well established it will be easier for the child to learn the "place-in-space" concepts involved with using sets of lines.


Copyright © 2001, Rand H. Nelson, Peterson Directed Handwriting



Video Presentation
Handwriting With The Left
This presentation uses video to illustrate the two best approaches for writing with the left-hand and explains why most lefties do not learn to use either one of them. You will learn a relatively simple adjustment to help those who struggle greatly improve fluency and legibility, and you will learn how to teach the absolute best process. The narrated slide show uses video to explain and illustrate the Overhand Adjustment and the Sidestroke Approach. On broadband the program runs about 16 minutes. Your connection speed will affect video buffering time.

Launch Presentation

Left Handed


Meet Live Now


You Tube