Peterson Directed Handwriting


I received the complete home school kit for second grade from Peterson Directed Handwriting for testing and review. Included were a We Write to Read teacher handbook, a pupil book, two Try-Rex pencils, an Animated Letter Cards CD-ROM, and a set of self-adhesive position guides. (The kit also includes an audio CD with songs about the writing principles taught in the program, but I didn’t receive one for review.) Rand Nelson created Peterson Directed Handwriting after doing extensive research and determining that movement-based writing instruction is more effective than the many trace-and-copy methods that are popular in classrooms today.


Though not difficult to understand, the explanations about the methodology and processes used in the program are academic and more complex than what you would typically find in a teacher manual. Since the Peterson Directed Handwriting approach is so different from other handwriting programs, it’s necessary to understand the theory behind the method before you can get started putting the concept into practice. I find it hard to even summarize the approach for the purposes of this review. You can hear Rand Nelson explain the directed handwriting approach in this 20-minute slide show presentation if you are interested in a detailed explanation of the method.

This is the most teacher-intensive homeschooling curriculum I have used to date. One of the keys of the program is a high level of teacher supervision and direction. My husband was in the Marines, and he has said before that one of his superiors told them during training that practice doesn’t make perfect—perfect practice makes perfect. I think that statement describes the theory behind the Peterson approach as well. Having students do copywork and other handwriting practice on their own without direct supervision is discouraged so that they won’t develop incorrect handwriting techniques. This makes sense to me, as I have until now taken a less hands-on approach to teaching handwriting, and my daughter has a few bad habits that I need to help her correct as a result of having her practice writing without my direct supervision.

I understand the theory behind Peterson Directed Handwriting, and the principles make sense to me. Both of my daughters (age 3 and 7) responded well to air writing and the gross-motor training that is incorporated into the daily lessons. However, implementing the methods has been challenging and awkward for my second grader and me. When I asked her if she liked Peterson, she smirked and air-wrote NO. The program is geared more for classroom use than for use in the home; the lessons call for using a chalkboard, and the paper positioners used for helping students slant their writing paper correctly for lateral handwriting are supposed to be used with a desk, not a kitchen table. I felt like we were both battling this program because we’re not used to it, but I plan to try this program again in the new year and have found the wealth of general information available on the web site beneficial.

The Peterson site offers a helpful online information directory with articles about using Peterson Directed Handwriting, research, and general principles to follow when teaching handwriting, paper positioning, and pencil grip. You can see a sample of the Animated Letter Cards here. You can access an online meeting room to chat live with a Peterson specialist and ask questions, which is another helpful tool when using this program.

The complete kits for grades one through four cost $38.55 each, and pencils and other resources and supplies for teaching handwriting are available.

For other reviews of Peterson’s Directed Handwriting, see the TOS Crew blog.

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