Tracing letters is a well known strategy that teachers and parents employ to develop kids’ handwriting, reading, and spelling abilities. If schools do not spend sufficient time on this crucial activity, it is recommended that students be provided with chances to practice this skill during workshop time, homework or after school programs. There is scientific evidence that indicates that tracing letters, numbers or shapes improves some aspects of reading and writing comprehension, but especially letter-sound correspondences. I reproduce next for its importance for this subject the abstract of an article “Training letter-to-sound connections: The efficacy of tracing” by John R. Beech, Helen Pedley and Ruth Barlow (1994):
“There is evidence that training letter-to-sound connections can be important for future reading development. The present study involved training letter-sound connections for two groups of pre-readers equivalent in their IQ, knowledge of letters and age, to examine the importance of tracing letters in order to learn such connections. All children were trained individually. Each 15-minute training session was divided into three parts. In one 5-minute part of each session, the “Letter” group pronounced a letter shown on a computer and traced it on the screen with a pen, while the “Shape” group traced non-letter shapes. In the second 5-minute part, the Shape group named letters and watched them being traced while the other group watched the program tracing non-letter shapes. Thus both groups experienced the same letter-sound training and tracing activity, but only the Letter group experienced both in conjunction with each other. In the final 5-minute session both training groups received training in phonemic awareness training for 5 minutes. It was found that both groups improved significantly on a letter-to-sound test relative to a control group not receiving such training. However, only the Shape group significantly improved in a sound-to-letter test. It is concluded that tracing vertically on a computer screen does not appear to be advantageous for teaching letter-sound connections for this age range and can even be a distraction for learning sound-letter connections.”
Nowadays you can find programs like Fonts 4 Teachers that allow you to make hundreds of handwriting worksheets for students to trace either at home or school. With lines, arrows and/or dots; or a combination of all of them. Furthermore, you can tailor the worksheets to students’ cognitive levels.
Ramon Abajo, Handwriting Expert & Teacher of the Year