The Pickup Counter

I love a new idea, no matter how small. This one is called “the pickup counter”. I tried it at the end of last year and will surely integrate it as a regular step in teaching handwriting this fall. The exercise is: students hold up a closed fist when we practice writing a letter on the board, in the air, or on my alphabet cards (pictured below). While reciting the handwriting instructions, students raise a finger each time we say, “pickup!”. This helps them stay engaged and think about when, and how many times, they should lift their pencil for each letter. Example: Uppercase A: We say, “Start at the top. Slant down, pick up, back to the top, slant down, pick up, cross in the middle.” For this letter students should lift their pencil twice during formation and if you’re using the pickup counter” during instruction, your students will have two fingers up when you’re done writing uppercase A.


The background: I’ve been watching new kindergarten students (or first grade students that enter our school from another) write for a long time, and every year I notice the same thing: that in the beginning, they start letters from a variety of places, go in various directions, lift their pencil when they shouldn’t, or keep their pencil on the paper when they should be lifting it. So I decided to clear things up. I teach students how to write letters using my own handwritten font and specific instructions that focus on where each letter starts and how many pickups it has (how many times you lift your pencil during formation). It’s that simple, and it works like a charm. Click here to watch a short video.


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