Handwriting Heroes fast tracks student literacy by accelerating handwriting instruction with a streamlined approach that moves students to becoming fluent, independent writers in a matter of weeks. Using highly memorable chants and stories, this program leverages the research-based practice of explicit instruction in handwriting, along with other key learning sciences strategies, to promote equity in foundational literacy development.
As an occupational therapist, Cheryl Bregman observed the challenges faced by students with learning disabilities when it came to handwriting, and the subsequent negative impacts on their literacy and writing skills. Moreover, she recognized the time constraints that educators face daily. Drawing from empirical research and her extensive practical experience, she developed a K-12 solution that accelerates handwriting instruction and sets students on the path to success in literacy.
The traditional approach to handwriting instruction involves teaching one letter per week in both upper and lowercase forms. This time-consuming process takes nearly six months to complete. During this time, students are also expected to be writing text before fully mastering proper letter formation. As a result, they often resort to guessing how to form letters, leading to the development of inefficient patterns and bad habits that can be difficult to break. Fortunately, research supports a more efficient instructional pace based on two important components of effective instruction. The first involves grouping letters with similar visual features, such as straight, curved, and diagonal lines, and teaching them together. This technique, known as chunking, also facilitates kinesthetic learning since all the letters within the group begin with the same motor pattern. The second factor involves prioritizing the teaching of lowercase letters since they account for approximately 95% of all handwriting and reading. Capital letters are only introduced once students have developed automatic and legible skills in lowercase writing. These evidence-based, and innovative time-saving strategies result in remarkable gains in handwriting acquisition in record time along with up to 80% reduction in instructional time (2)!
Handwriting Heroes uses concise and humorous letter stories to aid students in recalling why letters follow a specific path and what sounds those letters make. The use of attention-grabbing animations and wordplay motivate the students to retell the stories as they make the letter, resulting in faster acquisition of correct letter formation. Research indicates that using songs and chants, presented through engaging animations and stories, is more effective in helping children remember writing rules compared to traditional instructional methods (3).
Handwriting Heroes incorporates a memorable song for each of the five letter groups, with a focus on the starting stroke shared by all the letters in the group. Research indicates that songs can boost learners’ motivation, especially when combined with stories (3). Moreover, putting lyrics to music can aid children in recalling information more efficiently. Evidence-based studies reveal that frequent verbal repetition strengthens sensory-motor connections in the brain and supports working memory (3, 4, 5). It’s no wonder that the Handwriting Heroes songs are a powerful mnemonic tool, captivating students’ full attention and enhancing their memory and recall of both the letters in the group and their shared stroke.
The Handwriting Heroes program is designed to engage different types of learners by incorporating various strategies. This includes visual activities such as animations and comic-like illustrations, auditory activities such as stories, action words, and songs, and movement activities such as air writing and finger tracing with puppets. These activities stimulate multiple memory paths, resulting in greater understanding, retention, and recall of the letterform. Furthermore, these strategies help to create strong connections between letter names, forms, and sounds. Research has shown that explicit instruction in letter formation using multimodal strategies like those included in Handwriting Heroes can improve handwriting fluency for students at different developmental levels (6).
Work Smarter, Not Harder
In education, time is a valuable resource, and traditional handwriting programs can take over six months of instruction to achieve legible handwriting. In contrast, Handwriting Heroes offers an accelerated learning approach that enables students to master lowercase letters in just five weeks, requiring less than seven hours of instruction. Teachers appreciate the streamlined curriculum, which requires no special training and minimal lesson preparation. By implementing the curriculum with consistency and fidelity, research indicates that “frequent, brief, and explicit instruction that helps children learn to automatize letter production…” will save you planning and prep time (7).”
Heroes at the Helm
According to a study, 90% of teachers reported feeling unprepared to teach handwriting due to insufficient training during their college education. This motivated Cheryl Bregman to empower educators to take charge of their handwriting instruction. Teachers are provided with training, instructional tools, and embedded support to easily differentiate instruction for whole class, small group, or individual instruction. By using research-based, multi-sensory methods, students of all developmental stages can now access an adaptive, efficient, equitable, and effective handwriting curriculum that promotes fluency. Handwriting Heroes, a program that combines the arts, humor, storytelling, and the latest research in motor learning and memory, is the key to achieving handwriting proficiency for all.
- Engel, C., Lillie, K., Zurawski, S., & Travers, B. G. (2018). Curriculum-based handwriting programs: A systematic review with effect sizes. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 72(3), 7203205010p1-7203205010p8.
- Jones, C. D., Clark, S. K., & Reutzel, D. R. (2013). Enhancing alphabet knowledge instruction: Research implications and practical strategies for early childhood educators. Early Childhood Education Journal, 41, 81-89.
- Davis, G. M. (2017). Songs in the young learner classroom: A critical review of evidence. Elt Journal, 71(4), 445-455.
- Lummis, S. N., McCabe, J. A., Sickles, A. L., Byler, R. A., Hochberg, S. A., Eckart, S. E., & Kahler, C. E. (2017). Lyrical memory: Mnemonic effects of music for musicians and nonmusicians. Psi Chi Journal of Psychological Research, 22(2), 141-150.
- Lafleur, A., & Boucher, V. J. (2015). The ecology of self-monitoring effects on memory of verbal productions: Does speaking to someone make a difference?. Consciousness and Cognition, 36, 139-146.
- Graham, S., Harris, K. R., & Fink, B. (2000). Is handwriting causally related to learning to write? Treatment of handwriting problems in beginning writers. Journal of Educational Psychology, 92(4), 620–633.
- Berninger, V. W., Vaughan, K. B., Abbott, R. D., Abbott, S. P., Rogan, L. W., Brooks, A., Reed, E., & Graham, S. (1997). Treatment of handwriting problems in beginning writers: Transfer from handwriting to composition. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89(4), 652–666.