Anything Left-Handed > Left handed children > Teacher Training > Writing problems

Teacher training – comments on our article
– Views on lefthanders and writing

We posted an article about Teacher Training and Left handed Children in March 2012 and received a huge response, with over 200 comments totalling some 30,000 words and hundreds of emails – this is certainly the biggest response to anything we have ever posted.

You can see the original article “Teacher Training and Left handed Children” here

and the follow up article with conclusions from the initial feedback here

A lot of people told us about their experiences and those of their children with writing problems and the level of support they got (or at least didn’t get!) from teachers.   Here is a selection:

  1. As a youngster myself the only class I ever failed was penmanship because the teacher didn’t know what to do with me
  2. I was constantly having my writing book straightened” so that I had to write with my hand smudging the words I had written. I write with my book/paper sideways to write toward myself. Teachers should be made aware that whatever the position of the book there is no right” way, only the comfortable way. To top it all, I got marked down on occasion for scruffy writing.
  3. Little attention is paid to establishing good writing practices for left handers. Left handers often need special attention to make sure that they are holding pencils in the right grip and positioning the paper in the right way. This does not happen in my experience.
  4. At school I had a bad time with handwriting – my handwriting was deemed poor, careless and illegible” No help was offered as to how I could improve. It wasn’t until I was introduced to Italic writing an bought a left handed Italic pen that things improved. Left handed fountain pens make a big difference and now my writing is considered pretty O.K. Don’t ever try and change a left hander, whether child or adult. I was once asked if I would not find it easier to use my right hand to which I replied About as easy as you would to use your left hand”
  5. If trying to teach joined-up writing to left-handers, don’t punish them if they don’t manage it. I write capital Ns from right to left to this day, and form letter Os by drawing a clockwise circle. This meant that when trying to write joined-up (which I still don’t) at school, I used to go round and round in circles until finally I sling-shot off to the right to form the next letter. I also cross Ts and Fs from right to left. I only realised these differences in adulthood.
  6. As for handwriting schooling from 41/2 – 7 years was a waste of time, he suffered arm pain because he had to do it the school’s way, he is left handed but I cried on deaf ears. School became a chore for him. He is just about average now but if he had had the correct left handed nurturing in those early years then maybe things would be different.
  7. My 8yr old is in Grade 3 in Australia. They copy a list of spelling words each day for a week as part of their homework. I have had to ask the teacher if the four days can be done in reverse across the page. ie Fri to Mon instead of Mon – Friday. Every time my child wanted to copy the next days words into the next column, they were hidden under her hand. The Teacher had not even thought about that.
  8. I don’t know if this is the same for many people but as a child I would write certain letters backwards.
  9. My parents were proactive with my writing and getting the right tools but I still had teachers who thought my writing was messy” because I didn’t write certain letters the way they wanted, I have had to help my cousin who is the only left handed person in his family by pointing out to my aunt and uncle the reason he was having difficulty is that his handwriting sheets were all for right handers and as soon as they got the right ones by pursuing it with the teachers he was fine. In my experience unless someone has experience of being left handed then it doesn’t cross their mind a lot of the time that there are different ways things are done, I constantly had to swap seats with my right handed neighbour as we kept bumping elbows when writing and yet it was also inferred that it was my fault!!
  10. In elementary, I remember my cursive assignments being graded poorly because it did not look just like the guidelines! My teacher humiliated me in front classmates nearby, saying aloud that I got a C on the assignment and compared my work to the work of a classmate (who was right-handed). Teachers need be aware of styles for left-handers and to encourage students to be unique, but still write legibly. In addition, parents must understand the difficulties for a left-hander in a right-handed world. Being the only left-hander in my family, no one understood what I was going through.
  11. Nobody showed me how to write left handed and I started using the hook style. This is a big problem with any sort of ink as the writing becomes smudged. My inability to write legibly and quickly was always a disadvantage in exams. It held me back in the eleven plus but I still passed. At secondary school I switched myself to an italic writing style and adopted Osmiroid fountain pens and their left handed nibs. These allowed a better hand position even with the paper straight. I continued to suffer at GCE O” level A” level and as a undergraduate. It took me longer to write my Ph.D. thesis than it might otherwise have done. What hurts me is that I can find more useful advice on writing left handed in five minutes on the internet than I was ever taught at school.

If you have anything to add, please leave a comment using the box below.

Links to the other pages of results from this project so far:

The original article “Teacher Training and Left handed Children”

Follow up article on initial feedback and comments

Detailed Comments on teacher training and left-handed children

Teacher experiences and lack of guidance
Positive comments on teachers and lefthandedness
Views that teachers should NOT provide special guidance for left-handers

Writing left-handed

Equipment problems (scissors, desks, computers, other items)

Forced change of hand

Advice and guidance to help lefthanders


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53 comments on “Writing problems
  1. Obi Whippet says:

    I am left-handed and yes, I had problems in the 1950s with dip pens and smudging (and got knocked across the room for it by the headmaster’s mother). So I developed those defensive habits of crooking my hand, writing up the page, etc, till I was old enough to be allowed a quicker-drying fountain pen. But it never hurt my formation of the letters, and then I was able to write decent copperplate. BUT… the initial smudging problem began only after we graduated from a pencil to a blobby dip pen. Otherwise I’ve never understood why there’s a problem apart from the smudging. Why doesn’t the same problem occur in reverse with right-handed Arabs and Iranians?

  2. Ashani says:

    I was left-handed naturally. And my parents have forced me to use the right hand to write. However, I use my left hand when using scissors. Now I can not remember them forcing me to do this. But my mother has mentioned this to me when I was quite grown up.
    As I am growing up this was not affecting me at all as I am aware. But currently, I am at this huge mental breakdown with anger that why they have done such foolishness and never accepting that they were wrong. What keeps me bugging day and night is they don’t even accept that they are wrong

  3. Deb says:

    My granddaughter is in 1st grade. She brought her grade card home yesterday and the teacher gave her bad marks for writing, I watched her practice writing and it struck me that possibly her problem was due to her being left handed. I started doing research on the internet and found that she should have special supplies for left handed people. Let me tell you it was an eye opener! At the beginning of the year her teacher said she was having problems with the use of scissors well yes the scissors are for right handed people. My daughter and her husband are going to the school and talking to the teacher and principle about the situation. Only in 1st grade and the public education system is already failing her. The kicker is that she is in a A+ school and the teacher doesn’t seem to know that left handed students need different supplies and need to be taught things differently. We now know this and will make sure that she is taken care of in school to have a great learning experience.

  4. Lyndall Van Dalen says:

    My son is in grade 3 and is left handed,his teacher complains because he writes slow and work stays incomplete. What can i do ?

  5. Andrew Harris says:

    My teachers (especially maths) often moan at me for having poor handwriting and my parents regularly scream at me for the same thing (Note: my maths teacher is left handed and my parents are ridiculously over expectant of me and claim that anything less than 100% is acceptable in every test. I would also like to note that I’m a 14 year old boy)

  6. Mike says:

    Maybe I’m just lucky, but I was always praised for my penmanship as a lefty growing up. I hooked my hand writing like many others do, but I would also hold the pencil in the same direction it would be if a right handed person was holding it. Maybe that made the difference.

  7. Jason says:

    I was the best student in my class from class nursery to 4 all my teachers remarks about me were excellent exept work on handwriting i don’t know how or when but i adapted to this and now i write the fastest amd best writing as for using fountain pens just hold them so you can see the inner part( black part) and it writes just fine now i am in second year and am a remarkably good student

  8. blackbombchu says:

    It’s not because of the left-handedness that the teachers are giving him a hard time; it’s because he has less ability than the other students to learn the material as fast. You’re correct that it’s because of his left-handedness that he’s struggling to learn the material. In general, the left side of brain which controls the right side of the body dominates more in language skills and the right side of the brain dominates more in spacial sense but left-handers have a tendency to use the side of the brain that controls their left hand more and so have a tendency to have a better spacial sense and be worse at learning school material than right-handers.

  9. Stacey says:

    When I write I my hand will start to hurt after a while, I have had lots of incidents where I have ended up smudging my work and teachers use to say I had messy hand writing. Though it is not as bad anymore my main problem is speed, and my mum still says I have messy handwriting… don’t know what to do. I hold my pen so that it is resting on my ring finger, with my baby finger tucked directly underneath the ring finger. Meanwhile my middle and index fingers sit on top of the pen a little apart from each other, and my thumb rests over the side of my index finger.

  10. Stacey says:

    I have the same problem myself. I am currently a university student and am a left-handed writer. All my classmates in primary and high school were right-handed and so on occasions I would often bump elbows with them when sat next to them on a desk, forcing me to tuck in my elbow and arm to avoid it. There was no support available for me, and I doubt the schools I went to had even thought about offering support for left-hand writers. Even now I have the same problem, I can’t write fast enough in lectures to take notes (forcing me to rely on my tablet instead of being able to freely write), and any exams I have ever done I have never finished within the time given because I write slower than those who are right-handed. By the time I got to college I finally tried to seek help about my writing difficulties to see if I could get any support. They gave me a dyslexic test but I passed it as being fine and so was not entitled to any extra time on exams to help me. I do not have any special left hand pens and my grip on any pencil or pen is different to everyone else, but I get treated just the same as any right-handed person. I have found it hard to find anyone who can relate to my problem, and as such find someone who can give me the advice I need. Now I am at university I am again failing to complete assessment paper’s within the allotted time, its funny as i glance over at people sat next to me in an exam room and they have written 2 pages worth of work and I’m still on the first one! After my recent assessment which saw me run out of time I knew I would be lucky if I passed, I tried talking to my tutors but some of them dismissed it as time management. Its been the same story for as long as I can remember and my mum knows it too. I’m currently aiming to become a police officer and so recently underwent the process to become a special constable, one part of which was an assessment consisting of two multiple choice exams and a written statement. I passed both the multiple choice but failed the written statement as again I ran out of time, what’s worse though was that I failed and was not offered a chance to resit (only two other people in my class out of all the applicants who had taken the test failed with no resit offered as well). I’m concerned that the same problem is only going to continue from here on out and even though I have a 6 month wait before I can apply to be a special constable again, I’m worried that I will fail again for the exact same reason and there is nothing I can do about it….I’m starting to wonder if I will ever get past the application process and go on to be a police officer.I don’t know who I can turn to, my uni have said that if I want to take a dyslexic test there will be a charge (which I should not really have to pay since I am already paying high tuition fees to study there), but even if I did I know I am not dyslexic but that’s all anyone seems to associate it with… its frustrating and being left handed is affecting my work, I’m getting low grades and there is nothing I can do about it. I don’t know where I can go for advice, if anyone on here has anything they can suggest that I would be eternally grateful 😀

  11. Ashley says:

    I have a 6yr girl LH and over the summer she started writing backwards and I don’t know what to do.. I’m RH so I don’t know what I’m doing. She didn’t do this at school or even when we were teaching her name the first time. It just came out all of a sudden and now she is writing her numbers backwards and it takes her all day just to do one assignments. What can I do ? Please help?

  12. louise Kozyra says:

    Both my children are left handed, they find the way the school teaches hand writing very difficult, my sons teacher put him a guide on his desk but it wasn’t till i pointed out she’s put it on the left so he couldn’t see it she realized, my daughter finds it hard to get a flow doing joined up writing as she can’t see what she’s just done, the teacher again couldn’t help!

  13. Scott Clark says:

    “My 8yr old is in Grade 3 in Australia. They copy a list of spelling words each day for a week as part of their homework. I have had to ask the teacher if the four days can be done in reverse across the page. ie Fri to Mon instead of Mon – Friday. Every time my child wanted to copy the next days words into the next column, they were hidden under her hand. The Teacher had not even thought about that.”

    Sorry but I’m a left-hander and even I didn’t think about that. Unless you’ve just spent five hours reading manga, it’s very natural to read and write starting on the left side of the paper.

  14. Jeanie says:

    I am left-handed and found a simple solution to improving my writing. Simply change the position of your paper. If you are left-handed, place the top of your paper slanted toward the right so that the bottom of the paper is under your left hand. Most left-handed students will place the paper to accommodate a right-handed writer. That is, the top of the paper is placed toward your left hand and the bottom being under your right hand. Changing the position of your paper will allow you to hold your pencil/pen properly and have an acceptable writing style.

    • Patt Behler says:

      thanks heavens that you proposed a logical, simple solution for left handers’ writing position. I learned it in the 5th grade years ago here in the Midwestern United States. It’s just the opposite way from the position taught for right handers. As you say, don’t angle the paper with top to left and bottom to right; this forces the writer to angle the left writing hand in a curve to write and is difficult to hold the position and also can cause smearing. Place the paper with the TOP of the paper slanted at a 33-35 degree angle to the RIGHT with the bottom slanted to the LEFT under the left arm and hand, A normal hand position for writing is easy to achieve that way. I write a beautiful style left handed! Try it, lefties!!