At my children's gymnastics practice this week I watched a father of a four year old daughter attempt to teach his daughter to write letters in a workbook. She was frustrated. The father showed her where to start the lines and named the letters. She tried. Then her father said, "You're not following the rules. You need to stay in the lines." He had the best intentions and spoke nicely to his daughter. I wanted so badly to give him advice, but it was clearly not my place. I was able to stay in my seat with my mouth shut and think of a post for this blog.There are different styles to choose when teaching a child to form letters. Draw Your World has examples of some of the most popular styles. My favorite is Manuscript which is similar to D'Nealian. The transition from printing to cursive is easy. Manuscript printing has the writer leave the pencil in contact with the paper most of the time. Writing letters has a flow similar to cursive writing. You'll find some demonstrations here.
I think a young child should be taught the correct formation of letters without the restriction of lined paper in the beginning. Many experts suggest teaching a child letter formation before focusing on proper size and spacing. Children should be given direct teaching and monitored in the beginning. Once a child has practiced forming a letter the wrong way muscle memory takes over. Unlearning the old way and relearning the correct way can be difficult and cause more frustration.
My oldest son started the lowercase r in his name from the bottom. He also started his n and m from the bottom. His kindergarten teacher noticed, and we worked on it at home. He knew the way he wanted to write these letters, but he went back to his old way most of the time. I felt bad that I didn't take the time to teach him in the beginning. Eventually the new way became automatic. I made sure to take a little time to help my twins before they got to kindergarten. Our favorite way to practice letters was with finger paint.
I like to teach a child a few letters at a time with similar formations. The highlighted link to cursive earlier in this post has cursive letters grouped according to similar formations. Someday soon I plan to make a video showing the sequential teaching of manuscript printing with finger paint.