Numeral Writing as an Introduction to Cursive Writing
Most people pay scant attention to cursive writing skills, but this inability can be a major barrier to completing written tasks, especially for children in elementary classrooms. Students are forced to rely on their printing skills when cursive is not carefully taught. Generally in elementary schools today, there is little formal instruction as to how one creates letters or numbers, and even less supervised practice. As a result, many students have time-consuming cursive writing skills and write only when absolutely necessary. They do not do much better writing numerals.
There are a number of common errors such as students writing numerals from the bottom up instead of from the top down. These patterns are generally ignored with the result that the students remain slow numeral writers. Worksheets and homework take much longer than necessary and are demoralizing for many children. How do your kids write numerals?
The teaching of writing skills has numerous component skills which make up the composite behavior. Each of these component skills can be measured and taught if necessary.
Writing digits is less complicated than forming either printed symbols or cursive writing letters. When forming numbers there is a simple rule. All numbers start from the top and go downwards. Students begin by putting their pencil tip on the dot and then following the arrow in the correct direction.
2, 3, and 9 start at the dot and are directed by the arrow to go upwards to the right and then down.
0, 1, 6, and 8 start at the dot and are directed by the arrow to move downwards.
7 starts at the dot and goes across to the right and then down at an angle to the left.
5 starts at the ball and goes horizontally to the left, then down and to the right.
4 requires the student to make two separate motions, both starting from the top and going down. The first movement is exactly like writing a 1. The second stroke starts at the top then crosses the first stroke by moving horizontally to the right.
It is easy to see how a student could be confused about where to start and how to determine the direction and/or angle of the rest of the stroke in order to form any of these numerals.
To reduce this confusion we will separate the numerals into groups which require identical or similar strokes.
The initial group consists of 1 and 7
The second set is comprised of 2, 3, and 9
The third set is made up of 0, 1, 6, and 8
The final set has only the numeral 4 because it is the only one that requires two positioning of the pencil and two distinct movements.
Some students are capable of seeing an example and copying it. Others require more careful guidance as seen in tracing the numerals. Copies of the required practice sheets for tracing numerals are appended to this document.
The student is provided with a model of the numeral. A dot indicates the starting point. An arrow designates the direction of the stroke. One or more numerals using the same types of strokes can be initiated at the same time. If the student cannot create 50-60 strokes per minute should be given the task of tracing the numerals first. Once they have achieved 50 – 60 strokes per minute tracing numerals, they can attempt the see/write numerals task.
When the student can create 50-60 numerals per minute for each of the four tasks, they can begin to write the entire set of numerals from 0-9.
Number writing from 0-9 is a second tool skill that indicates the speed and accuracy with which a student can produce readable numerals. This task is done for 30 seconds by having the Student and Student repeat the numbers on a sheet of lined paper as quickly and accurately as possible. Again Think/Say counting from 0-9 is generally a task with which the student is already fluent, so the speed of their pen or pencil will not be slowed by knowledge of the next number to be written. The model looks like this;
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 repeated as often as possible for 30 seconds.
In order to See/Write the answers to 50 single digit math facts, the students will need more than 125 numerals since many answers will demand two numerals. The fluency level is between 125 and 150 numerals per minute with no more than 2 errors. Once again, any numeral that cannot be deciphered on a hand-printed price tag is considered an error. The standard for fluency is 0-2 errors per minute.