In Kindergarten I remember learning to write the print alphabet in a non-alphabetical order. Later, in 2nd grade, we also learned script out of order.

The reason for this was that we were learning letters with common structures. For instance, I believe we first learned letters that had only straight parts: T, t, L, l. Then more complex shapes were added, with curves, such as B, b.

With cursive, it was the same thing, first learning letters with with basic loops, like 𝓵 & 𝓮.

Given that this was 25 years ago, I don't remember the exact order these were done it.

I know there was a purpose behind it, and I've found this Handwriting Teaching Order page, but it only loosely explains why the method works. Unfortunately, I can seem to find the right keywords to find scholarly articles on this subject.

In response to @Erica, some workbooks from more reputable companies base the their order on types of lines used. Free stuff I find is in alpha order. But the structured order isn't consistent, and I'm not sure how much difference it makes.

I'm interested in research-based information expert advice from educators or parents that have taught handwriting at home in a structured format regarding whether or not certain teaching orders are more effective than others, possibly regarding the acquisition of different fine motor skills or progressing through more complex letter construction.

I'm looking at this information as we're teaching our 3-year-old letter construction, and are trying to develop a long-term plan for progressing through the alphabet. Although we'll start with print, I would like information both print and script.

  • What an interesting question! My gut reaction was "yeah, print should be in order and script grouped by shape instead" -- but then I realized I have no reason to back that up other than "I did it that way too."
    – Acire
    Apr 21, 2016 at 17:17
  • @Erica Some workbooks from more reputable companies base the their order on types of lines used. Free stuff I find is in alpha order. But the structured order isn't consistent, and I'm not sure how much difference it makes.
    – user11394
    Apr 21, 2016 at 17:35
  • Just to be clear, this is about letter writing rather than letter recognition, right? Does the hypothetical student recognize all the letters, and know their order in the alphabet? Also, do they already recognize them in capital and lowercase?
    – anongoodnurse
    Apr 21, 2016 at 18:44
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    I don't know the age of the child, and this matters. It might help you to know that most 5 year olds and under (and a lot over) have terrible handwriting, partly due to their fine motor skills with a pencil. So starting with bigger objects (their fingers in a tray of sand is easy), a white board and dry-erase marker, etc. helps them make the shapes more easily, and as they get better and more confident, start the fine motor skills with a pencil.
    – anongoodnurse
    Apr 22, 2016 at 13:09
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    I've done a bit of looking around, and it somewhat confirmed a suspicion I harbored: there aren't "scholarly" studies out there to support one method over another. Teaching handwriting is based on various theories, e.g. the Palmer method, D’Nealian, Zaner-Bloser, and others. I think the closest thing to "scholarly" will be in the literature dealing with kids with learning disabilities (e.g. dyslexia.) If you're interested in helping your child to learn to print letters and are willing to make do with opinion, you'll have more answers.
    – anongoodnurse
    Apr 23, 2016 at 15:02

1 Answer 1


You should keep in mind that children, especially very young children, learn best when directed by their own interests and their own individual abilities. A lot of what might be considered a best practice when teaching a group of children simply isn't applicable in an individual setting. My personal opinion, based on observing my daughter learn to write, is that letter writing order is one of those areas.

We started homeschooling my son after he had learned to write the alphabet during a year of public school, but my daughter never had any schooling outside the home.

The very first thing she wanted to learn to write is her own name. Based on my observations of other children, I think this is almost universal. This desire was highly motivational for her. Teaching her the letters in her own name first ensured that motivation continued to come from her and not from her parents. Next she wanted to write the names of family members, and we gladly obliged by teaching her those letters.

Later, she wanted to practice "all the letters," so one time I printed out a practice sheet containing one row each of dotted letters to trace over. She happily did most of them and, to my great fascination, she crossed out the ones she "didn't need." She recognized those letters were too difficult for her developmentally at the moment, and simply chose to delay learning to write them. I don't recall what order she learned them, and I couldn't fathom the reasons if I tried, but my point is the order was the right order for her. During this entire time, the motivation to take the next step always came from her. She learned much more happily, easily, and quickly than her brother did.

In a classroom, teachers have to pick an order that's going to work for a majority of the students, but may not be individually best for all of them. You don't have that constraint, so don't artificially limit yourself. Start learning to pay attention to the individual learning cues your child is giving you.

  • This is a good point. We already have ours practice in a workbook, and we also started with his name first (and doing shapes/lines that helped him get better at those). We actually put our workbook pages in page sleeves in a 3 ring binder, and use dry-erase markers, so he can do them over-and-over again.
    – user11394
    Apr 22, 2016 at 1:38
  • Separately, would you say that the initial teaching of letters was what was more guided by your daughter's desires, or the whole process of spending time practicing to increase legibility was also based on what she wanted to know?
    – user11394
    Apr 22, 2016 at 1:40
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    For us, the entire process, although I realize not every parent is comfortable with that much improvisation. For example, a lot of her writing practice lately is making up princess stories. She's still getting all the handwriting practice, and sometimes some rather advanced spelling practice for her age, but it's easy to motivate her to do it because it's her idea. Apr 22, 2016 at 3:20

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