Sunday, April 19, 2009

Barchowsky's Fluent Handwriting

Barchowsky’s Fluent Handwriting was developed by Nan Jay Barchowsky and is an italic handwriting meant to produce legible handwriting at age-appropriate speed. Developing good rhythm is crucial to this, therefore practice exercises are used to help make the movements more automatic. The lower case letters look very similar to regular post-script handwriting but are taught with small exit strokes to make joining letters easier when it is time. A concept that is a little different than most writing programs is that a child should never write more than four or five letters without stopping and starting. Writing too many letters in a row can cause writing problems such as size and shape of letters and words.

There were three different products I reviewed from this company. The first was the BFH Fluent Handwriting Manual. This is very well written and a great reference tool. However, there is a lot of material covered in it and you will need to take a little time to read it over to understand the differences between this program and others. Once you have read it, it will become a wonderful tool to refer back to again and again as you teach your child. I really liked all the different examples included, as well as how the patterns are listed and which letters of the alphabet correspond to each of them. There is also a very useful section on the different writing problems that may occur and why they are happening.

There is a CD (for Mac and Windows) which comes with the manual that contains lots of instructional materials and worksheets to be used along with the program. There are topics you can click on that quickly take you where you need to go. The topics include:

1. Getting Started:
  • Finding Your Way
  • In the Beginning
  • For Older Students
  • Glossary
  • Teaching Tips
2. Index: Begin through Level 4

3. Concept:
  • Rhythm
  • Posture
  • Direction
  • Lowercase
  • Capitals
  • Numerals
  • On Your Own
4. My Pages: You can save any worksheet into this section and it will be there when you need it. I really liked this feature. It saved me a lot of time from searching when I needed to quickly print out a worksheet. As I looked through them when working on my lesson plans, I would quickly add them to My Pages and then when it was time to get all of my materials for school ready, all I had to do was print.

There is a wealth of information on this CD. The worksheets alone would be a great bonus, but there are also videos and gross motor activities for developing writing readiness. The pattern worksheets were designed in several different ways such as the shape of an animal or reptile to be more appealing to children. All of the worksheets for both younger and older students are kept short. This program is not meant to take more that 10-15 minutes a day. It is not necessary, nor recommended, that a child work longer than that. He will get results from a small amount of practice each day. That is one of the reasons this program will probably appeal to your child. He is not going to be sitting at a desk or table for an hour each day writing until his hand hurts.

The second product I reviewed was the Beginner’s Handwriting. There are 28 practice charts which can be used when introducing handwriting to your child. They are big (11 x 17) and meant to develop gross motor skills. They include warm up exercises, letters, and joined letters. I would highly recommend them for new writers. They can be used with a dry erase marker and easily wiped off to use over and over again. Your child will enjoy practicing the different patterns because they are more fun to do than just sitting and writing on regular paper. I wouldn’t say these are strictly for beginning writers. I actually used them with my son, who is eight, because he struggles with handwriting and I felt this would be a better way for him to practice the movements that needed to become automatic.

The third product I reviewed was the FIX IT WRITE manual. This came 3-hole punched and is meant to be put into a 3-ring binder. Older children who are struggling with writing, have some writing issues that need corrected, or need to be able to write faster will benefit from this. There are two parts:

Part 1: Things that may need fixing- This shows and discusses all the different problems with writing. It also covers posture and recommended writing surfaces to improve handwriting.

Part 2:
  • Section 1: Print Script to Cursive with Italic Features- This is the groundwork for Fixing It Write and addresses how to fix the problems and includes 18 daily lesson plans.
  • Sections 2: Conventional Cursive- If your child prefers the look of conventional cursive, this section gives instruction on how to improve writing in this style with 16 daily lesson plans.
This manual includes writing exercises within the pages themselves. They can be written on or taken out and duplicated so they can be used over and over for extra practice.

The Barchowsky Fluent Handwriting program is very flexible. What I liked most about it is that all lower case letters, with the exception of a few, are joined exactly like they are printed. For many children, the transition of print to cursive is an absolute nightmare because for several years they have been writing letters one way and now they are expected to write them a completely different way AND join them together. That is not the case with this program at all. What you print is what you will join. The capital letters are the same way. One alphabet is all your child will ever need to learn! Of course as they get older they can develop their own style and get a little more creative if they want to, but it is such a simple style to use and it is very attractive to look at.

There is also a font which can be purchased separately to use to create copywork or making up your own exemplars. This is a great way to create writing material that is of interest to your child.

I would highly recommend this program. I have used others and my son usually ended up in tears. He really enjoyed this and we will continue to use it. I myself have been trying to correct my own chicken scratch with it and hope to have more legible handwriting when I am done. I wish I would have known about this program when I was first introducing handwriting to my son. I will be using it with my daughter when she is ready.

The prices for the products I reviewed are as follows:

BFH Fluent Handwriting Manual: $65.95
Beginner’s Handwriting: $29.95
FIX IT WRITE: $17.95
Fonts: $25.00

To learn more about these and other products this company has to offer, please CLICK HERE.

Heidi Miller-Ford

1 comment:

Jenn said...

Heidi, I have a website question for you if you don't mind emailing me. I'm at