Language for Letter Formation

Handwriting has long been a system to store information and communicate with others. In recent years, technology has changed the way we communicate when writing, however the skills of handwriting continue to have an important role in everyday life.

Time spent on teaching and learning letter formation in the early years pays dividends in the long run. But some students struggle to produce legible handwriting at an appropriate speed and with minimal conscious effort.  This greatly impacts on their capacity to dedicate cognitive function to high order tasks, such as composition of words and content.  Without fast and legible handwriting, students will miss out on a variety of learning opportunities.

Language for Letter Formation was developed from research conducted at The Glenleighden School in 2012. The Teachers as Researchers project (funded by the Commonwealth Literacy Numeracy and Special Learning Needs (LNSLN)) aimed to investigate how a multidisciplinary team can effectively work together to support students with language disorders in the area of literacy.  One of the focuses during this research was on handwriting.

Language for Letter Formation uses handwriting to introduce and reinforce the letters of the alphabet in a multisensory way. Each movement to write a letter in the Queensland Beginner’s Alphabet was broken down into a single action and described using simple and explicit language.  Some descriptive words, such as ‘bounce’, ‘curve’, ‘cut’ and ‘touch’, were added to differentiate some movements from others, provide a sense of directionality and also include some words the students themselves were using to describe actions.

lanagueg letter 2

A song for each lowercase and uppercase letter was developed, which includes the explicit language used when teaching letter formation. Each song melodically follows the movement of the letter (e.g. when making a downward stroke, the melody of the song also goes down).  This aims to provide an additional layer of exposure to the language and give students a greater sense of movement.  The language is repeated twice in each song to provide opportunities for repetition and overlearning.  When writing letters, it is important for students to call them by name, as they do not always represent a single phoneme, so each song begins with naming the letter being described. Click to hear the ‘m’ sound file:25 m

This resource is not intended to be utilised in isolation, but rather support the handwriting component of any literacy program. Letters may be introduced and revised in any order.  For example, you could start alphabetically, choose letters from people’s names or start with those that are formed in a similar way.

Some available resources, include:

  • 52 songs (including CD cover)
  • A Language for Letter Formation Classroom Chartlanguage letter
  • A Language for Letter Formation Desk Strip

For further information, please contact

Written by Vanessa Jouet (music therapist), Andrea O’Brien (occupational therapist) and Shaun Ziegenfusz (speech-language pathologist)

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