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Penpals for Handwriting.

Penpals for Handwriting

Gill Budgell Kare Ruttle

Cambridge University Press 2008

(Years 5-6): Teacher's Book ISBN 9780522755253 22.75 [pounds sterling]

OHTs: ISBN 9780521755160 64.25 [pounds sterling]

CD-ROM: ISBN 9781845651060 99.95 [pounds sterling]


Penpals for Handwriting is a complete handwriting scheme for 3-11 year olds and it claims to 'lead the way to fast, fluent and legible handwriting'. Complete, it certainly is; with no stone unturned to provide the most modern, comprehensive whole school handwriting scheme it would be possible to imagine. Interactive whiteboard exercises, big book, practice books, video clips, paper practice sheets--you name it, it is there. It is also user friendly, both for adults and children. Year 6 might LOL (laugh out loud) at some of the video clips but I did like the idea of picking up items with chopsticks in a timed test.

As a SATs marker, I think that any scheme that would actually improve the handwriting of the average primary school child is well worth a try. In fact, the scheme promoters claim that because handwriting is worth up to 3 marks in the SATs, then good handwriting could mean the difference between level 3 and 4. This 3% has been halved from 6% some years ago and may be why handwriting has taken a turn for the worse in recent years. It is abundantly clear that some schools place no importance whatsoever on handwriting, whilst others have it high on their agenda. There again, there is the argument that handwriting is far less important than it used to be because of the invention of the word-processor.

In the end I suspect the success or failure of this scheme depends on two things. One, the personal attitude of any one head teacher to handwriting, and two, whether OFSTED have told the school that handwriting is a perceived weakness. The promoters use the OFSTED logic in their blurb and I was sceptical of this until my head teacher sister told me that she has adopted this scheme for that very reason and was finding it excellent!

I can see huge benefits for a whole school approach to handwriting but feel that the commitment needed to use this scheme is also huge. The financial outlay on the scheme would be over [pounds sterling]1000 before buying pupil books. The time commitment would have to be at the expense of something else in the curriculum. It does not seem to be a scheme that you could 'dip into' and therein lies both its strength and its weakness. Most children do like being able to write fluently and this scheme, if an integrated part of the school week, would certainly enable them to do this. It could be justifiably argued that having good handwriting improves self-esteem and so PHSE time could be used for delivery of the scheme. The practice sheets could also be sent home as part of a homework policy. If the management commitment to the scheme is there, whatever the motivation, then this scheme will do what is says on the tin.
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Author:Bamford, Ruth
Publication:NATE Classroom
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 22, 2008
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