You’re using paper wrong. Here’s how to fix it.
Written by Cheri Dotterer
Paper. Paper position. Paper type. Paper with lines. Paper without lines. Construction paper. Cardstock. Colored paper. Cardboard. Texture.
Have you ever thought of so many variations on paper? 90% of worksheets are copied onto 20# white paper. Elementary workbooks use glossy paper.
Position: Paper should not be straight in front of the student. It should be turned on an angle for better biomechanics.
Right-handed students should have the lower-left corner pointing to their stomachs. Left-handed students should have the lower right corner pointing to their stomachs.
Illustration by Alyssa Marzilli
Thinner paper doesn’t provide enough friction between the pencil and paper. Increasing the weight of the paper will increase friction, which increases neurological feedback and motor control. For better pencil control, I recommend trialing different weights of paper with your student instead of merely standard 20 lb paper.
A technique that Beverly Moskowitz teaches in the Size Matters Handwriting Program is to use construction paper to increase the density of paper between the writing surface and the surface under the paper. She cautions that you do not laminate the paper as this defeats the purpose.
For students who have handwriting difficulties, consider copying their worksheets on thicker paper to increase the density.
Note: for students with fatigue issues, this suggestion may be contraindicated.
Color: As a person who suffers from light sensitivity issues, I have always found that newspaper gray and light yellows, were easier to read. I highlight much of my reading materials to reduce light glare. Students may also have light sensitivity issues. The easiest way to problem-solve is to have a sample worksheet copies on every color available to you. Once the student picks their favorite, copy everything for that student on that paper. Slowly introduce white again if success happens over time. Empower students to inform you how they are feeling about the paper color. If they do not find it helpful, try another technique.
Irlen.com has more information regarding changing paper color. There is a strategy and certification course.
Texture: Are you aware that some students consider handwriting paper noxious. We found this out from one of my students. He refused to write until one day he used a cloth under his hand and wrote a paragraph without refusal.
If you see refusals, consider the paper.