If you’ve ever dove into the world of Montessori, you’ll know that neat handwriting is considered a priority. While that’s all well and good, we need to rethink how we teach it in order to make it more inclusive for all types of learners. If we don’t, we risk pushing diverse types of learners out of our Montessori classrooms for good.
Why do we teach handwriting?
We teach the skill of handwriting to help children learn to communicate legibly and transfer ideas that are in their head onto paper. It’s an important skill that students will take with them throughout their lives.
What’s the problem with requiring neat handwriting?
If neat handwriting is a skill that students will carry with them as they grow, why is requiring it an issue?
When we say, “it’s important that all children write neatly,” we push children who may not be able to do so out of the Montessori classroom. The message that we’re sending is that Montessori education has created a factory model. You must operate like this and meet these criteria to be a Montessori student. However, that isn’t at all what Montessori learning was founded upon.
If we continue to require neat handwriting, students with diverse learning needs may find themselves frustrated and unable to communicate. This creates a hostile learning environment for the child, and that’s not what Montessori is all about!
How to Make Handwriting in the Montessori Classroom Inclusive
Thankfully there are ways that we can make handwriting in Montessori classroom inclusive for all types of learners. Here are some ideas:
- Using devices and tech tools - some children best communicate through devices. Students can download assistive technology apps to help bring their writing to life such as Voice to Text, Clicker, or WordQ.
- Giving students outlined notes - allow students to fill in portions of notes or writing activities instead of forcing them to write the entire thing. This still gives them practice with handwriting while making tasks less overwhelming.
- Providing extra time - know that some students may need additional time to get their thoughts onto paper and that’s okay. Give them the time they need to do so.
- Offering clear guidelines - Consider providing students with a visual that shows them how long their writing should be. Adjust this accordingly to meet each student’s individual needs. You can also break student writing into steps to help them focus on little chunks at a time. Having clear guidelines makes writing less daunting.
- Using alternative types of resources - allow students to write using paper with raised lines. This helps them form letters by giving them lines as a guide. Also consider making highlighted lines as a guide for students.
Please note that just because we provide alternative options for our students doesn’t mean we are giving up on handwriting. According to Pollock & Missiuna, “A healthy balance needs to be achieved between the content that is to be learned and the written product that results. For example, if the goal is to improve handwriting then the product should be handwritten, if the goal is to display the learning that has been mastered, there is no necessity for it to be handwritten.”
Now that we know that handwriting should instead be required based on the task and have recognised the barriers requiring neat handwriting can bring about, it’s time for us to make changes to minimise these disparities in the Montessori classroom.