Continuum Unpacked

Alphabetic Knowledge

Letter Formation

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Category: Alphabetic Knowledge

 Alphabetic knowledge refers to knowing the letters by name and understanding alphabetic order

Knowledge and Skills: Letter Formation

Kindergarten/Grade 1
Naming and forming upper- and lowercase letters both in and out of order


Grade 1
Naming and forming upper- and lowercase letters both in and out of order, and demonstrating knowledge of alphabetic order

Grade 2



Grade 3



Grade 4



Looks like: Kindergarten / Grade 1

Beginning to print upper- and lowercase letters with appropriate formation patterns

Looks like: Grade 1

Printing upper- and lowercase letters with appropriate formation patterns, size, orientation, placement, and spacing

Why is this important?

Writing is translating oral language into written text. Writing begins with letter formation; teaching students handwriting not only improves their handwriting, but also their composition; research suggests that teaching handwriting can improve the length, quality, and fluency of written composition (Graham & Santangelo, 2014). 


Letter formation should be taught explicitly and systematically, with opportunities for guided and independent practice to build accuracy and automaticity.

When teaching letter formation, consider:

1. Pencil grip – teaching an effective pencil grip gives students a strong start to handwriting.

2.  Posture and paper position – students should sit tall and angle their paper depending on their hand dominance, stabilizing it with their non-dominant hand.

3. Letter strokes – teach students the different strokes used to make letters: lines (vertical, horizontal, and diagonal) and curves.

4. Letter formation patterns – explicitly teach the formation patterns of letters. This is a critical step to ensure students develop fluent and legible handwriting.

5. Letter placement – consider using sky/grass/ground or hat/belt/shoes to support students in placing letters correctly, and understand ascending and descending letters.