Therapist Thursday….Using Three-Lined Paper for Letter Formation

by: Michelle Yoder, OTR/L

I am often asked why we teach children how to form their letters using three lines or three-lined paper when many schools use composition books.  That is a great question!  My follow-up question is usually something like, “Can you read a kindergartener’s work in a composition book?!”  (See sample below!)

 Well, first and foremost, we want to set children up for success, especially with handwriting! During initial instruction and learning, we want to provide them with guidelines for formation.  The top, bottom and middle dotted lines provide clear boundaries for letter formation and promote consistent size and shape of letters.  In turn, you’ll see nice neatness and legibility!

 n addition, the middle dotted line provides:

  • a nice starting point for lower case letters
  • a guideline for changing directions in an upper case letter like K, S or Y
  • something to aim for when they’re buzzing around for a B or ending a P

 Now, once they’ve become familiar with the formation of both upper case and lower case letters, they’ll be ready to write on composition/notebook paper.  (Ideally, I’d say second grade or third grade.) The fact that they learned on three lined paper will actually help them transition with ease because they’ll have a clear understanding of which letters should be tall, which should be short, etc.  When it is time to make that transition, offer wide ruled paper, rather than college ruled, as it provides a larger space so that they can make a clear delineation between those short and tall letters.

 Check out this writing sample that I found from when my daughter was in Kindergarten.  Notice the inconsistency in the size of the letters?  Her lower case r’s and s’s are taller than some of her “tall” letters or even some of the capitals!  Had she been given a middle line to use, she would have had a boundary to adhere to!3linedpaper


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