How to Improve Handwriting Legibility: Line Orientation

Many children have a hard time learning how to form letters and numbers. As a pediatric occupational therapist, I receive many referrals for this problem. Handwriting is a very complex function that requires many underlying skills. To read more about this, click the following link: Fine Motor Skills Unveiled. When looking at a child’s handwriting, it is important to figure out what is impacting legibility the most. Sometimes it is poorly formed letters, sometimes all the words are squished together.  There are many things that can make handwriting difficult to read.  When there are many factors impacting legibility, it is a good idea to tackle one thing at a time. This way you can hone in on one problem area at a time. Once improvement is noted in that particular area you can tackle the next. Why is this important? Often times kiddos with handwriting difficulties become overwhelmed when trying to fix all the errors they’ve made. When this happens, little progress is made. It may seem like it will take too much time to tackle one problem at a time, but it really doesn’t and the end result is surely worth it. This post will focus on how to help kids learn how to print letters with correct line orientation or how to place letters correctly on the line.

Use a Checklist

Checklists help kids organize and plan out the steps needed to edit their handwriting.  They provide a visual model to help kids identify their errors.  Also, checklists are interactive providing a hands on approach to the editing process.  And who doesn’t like to check off boxes; it can be very satisfying.

Often times handwriting checklists try to tackle all the components of handwriting at a time.  This can be overwhelming for students, like TMI (too much information). In this post, I am focusing on line orientation or letter placement.  Placing letters correctly on the line and knowing if they are tall, short or descending letters aka diver letters. Problems with line orientation can make handwriting difficult to read. The checklist below addresses only one legibility component, line orientation.

Letter Placement Checklist

Side Note: I like to laminate the checklist or put it in a page protector so it can be used over and over again with a dry erase marker.  It is helpful for some kids to have the checklist adhered to their desk.  You can shrink the image and tape it to the corner of the desk.  This will serve as a visual reminder to edit their handwriting. You can also write samples of the letters on the line to provide additional support like in the picture below.

Letter Placement Checklist

To further reinforce line orientation skills, you can have the child scan written material (their handwriting or any text). Ask them to draw a circle around or highlight a certain category of letters. For example, highlight all of the tall letters, or draw a circle around all of the diver letters. This will improve visual awareness of variations in letter size. It will also help with visual tracking skills.

Would you like to use these checklists with your little ones? Get your free PDFs here:

Please leave a comment if you find these checklists helpful. Or please share a strategy that has worked for you!

Published by Linda Craig Dennis

Pediatric Occupational Therapist, Author and Creator of Fun Strokes Pre-writing Program

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