There are many people who feel that the lead-in (entry stroke) should be abolished! On 1st April 2021 the DFE made an announcement about not using the ‘lead-in’ or ‘entry’ stroke. “At first children should not be taught to join letters or to start every letter ‘on the line’ with a ‘lead-in’, because these practices cause unnecessary difficulty for beginners.” DfE, October 2021.
This is the font that is taught by companies such as Letter-join and the results are very worrying as outlined below. The Magic Link handwriting programme teaches structured and speedy cursive handwriting to both right and left-handed children and does not include ‘lead-in’ entry (cursive) strokes.
What is a ‘lead-in’ stroke? (also known as ‘entry’, ‘pre-cursive,’ ‘continuous cursive’)
The skill of handwriting is a difficult process and many teachers strongly believe that the ‘lead in’ or ‘entry stroke’ is unnecessary, arduous to form and should be abolished. A lead-in stroke has many other names; It is also known as ‘initial flick’ ‘entry flick’, ‘in-stroke’ ‘pre-cursive’ ‘whoosh-in’ or ‘continuous cursive’. This is the aspect of a font, encouraged by many schools, involving a small flick at the beginning of all letters of the alphabet. This flick is often introduced when children first learn to write. This style of handwriting is sometimes referred to as ‘continuous cursive’ or ‘cursive’.
The lead-in stroke at the start of a letter is the subject of much controversy and debate amongst many teachers and educators. This font has an upward flick at the beginning of each letter which often makes writing tedious and laboured. Magic Link teachers have taught thousands of children and have evidence to show that faster and more fluent writing is achieved when the entry stroke is removed.
Dr Angela Webb, former chair of the National Handwriting Association believes that the practice to impose a continuous cursive handwriting style, especially on children as young as five, may be misguided. She states that “Many have found that the teaching of continuous cursive, with its florid letterforms and its baseline ‘entry’ and ‘exit’ strokes, whilst achievable by some children, leaves many struggling to write.” Click here to see full article.
Arduous, messy handwriting taught using Letter-join:
6 reasons to abolish the lead-in/entry stroke…
1. The lead-in/entry stroke makes letters hard to form.
Devotees of the entry stroke used to enjoy the simplicity of having the same starting point for each letter. Initially, it seems logical to start each letter ‘from the ground’ and aesthetically the font is sometimes seen as being beautifully old-fashioned and traditional. When entry strokes are introduced at the joining stage, many children see them as an ‘add on’ and become confused. They may try to write them in a downwards direction after the letter is completed thus defeating the whole point.
When children are taught to use an entry stroke with every letter, they require extra guidance, particularly in the letters: ‘o’, ‘r’ ‘v’ and ‘w’. These letters require 2 different types of strokes in the same letter; the entry stroke and the exit stroke and these two strokes are formed differently, which adds to the confusion. Furthermore, some children continue to use the accustomed lead-in stroke and end with an extra loop that can be mistaken for a ‘u’. Teaching cursive with no entry stroke has been proven to be simpler and easier.
2. The lead-in/entry stroke complicates simple letters!
There are often real difficulties caused by entry strokes which arise as soon as they are introduced. When introduced as part of a child’s first letters, they often make the simple letter shapes very confusing and more difficult to form. For instance, the movement made from a lead-in stroke leading into the letter ‘a’ is too complex for many small children to master. In Magic Link, we teach that the ‘a’ is made with the same move as the ‘c’. Without an entry stroke the letter ‘c’ starts at ‘no 12’ on a clock and is formed by heading towards ‘no. 9’ and then ‘no.6’. This simple letter is much easier to produce without an entry stroke because a pupil can immediately focus on that direction. Adding an entry stroke suddenly makes this simple letter complicated!
Letter-join font vs Magic Link font
3. The lead-in/ entry stroke slows down the speed of writing.
Speed is one of the main, fundamental targets in handwriting as examinations involve writing down as much information as possible in a limited time period. Requiring a child to repeatedly add the entry stroke at the beginning of every letter, significantly slows down speed of writing.
Extra time is required to form this additional unnecessary movement at the beginning of every letter. This can be incredibly frustrating for children, especially as they get older, as fast, legible handwriting is a crucial factor in exam success. Teachers who insist that children must use the entry stroke, may inadvertently be damaging their pupils by slowing them down and potentially jeopardising results and future exam success. This small entry stroke takes double the amount of time and often causes confusion and leads to messy handwriting. Insisting on entry strokes may reduce a child’s chance of success.
4. The lead-in/entry stroke can cause children to lose confidence in writing.
The entry stroke is often difficult to master and many children lose confidence in attempting to produce letters. The struggle and extra effort to produce this style is time consuming and unnecessary and can result in children disliking handwriting. Having to add an entry stroke at the beginning of each word is laborious and hard compared to the Magic Link font, which has no unnecessary flick and curls and makes handwriting easy to learn.
The 15 Magic Link Letters of the Alphabet
5. The lead-in/entry stroke serves no purpose and can cause fatigue.
The flick at the beginning of words serves no purpose at all. It does not add to the flow or speed of a child’s writing and appears to be an obstacle, adding up to 50% extra time to the handwriting movement. Children often become obsessed with this unnecessary letter stroke which does not add to meaning, neatness or content and is pointless. Crucially the entry stroke does not assist the child with joining up their writing.
6. The lead-in/entry stroke reduces a child’s enjoyment of handwriting.
Writing words and sentences are an important part of communication and this should be fast, fluent and fun. Adding an obstacle such as the entry stroke means that many children’s writing becomes laboured and slow, reducing the enjoyment of handwriting. Children may tire more easily and not enjoy writing as much as others who do not adopt the entry stroke handwriting style.
Conclusion: The Magic Link font is a simpler alternative with amazing results!
The Dept of Education has announced the end of the lead-in stroke and does not recommend teaching cursive handwriting from the start. The disadvantages of entry strokes are enormous; having a flick at the beginning of every letter can be tedious and confusing often resulting in poor or illegible handwriting. The ‘lead-in’, continuous cursive’ style requires a higher level of gross and fine motor coordination which many children find too difficult and this style should be abolished. Dr Angela Webb also states that “Forcing children with motor coordination difficulties to join may create a range of unnecessary problems with writing and result in an aversion to doing it.”
Some parents have reported that Letter-join has been detrimental and “catastrophic”. Katie Cohen, a qualified primary teacher with over 15 years experience, stated that ” The school I taught in made me teach the Letter-join scheme. I found this extremely challenging to teach as there was absolutely no logic to the method whatsoever. The children struggled to form their letters correctly which resulted in them having bad handwriting. I used to get quite a few complaints at parents’ evening so I decided I had to put a stop to this and realised the children benefited more from receiving no handwriting lessons than using letter-join!!” Katie is now a highly successful Magic Link teacher.
Magic Link teachers, parents, pupils and schools have proven evidence that children write letters, words and sentences much more easily when they are taught the simple Magic Link font compared to using the Letter-join font. Magic Link is taught in many schools with fantastic results in neatness as well as speeding up handwriting allowing pupils to focus on content rather than formation. Parents or guardians also have the option to find a Magic Link teacher. Magic Link has hundreds of fantastic reviews on TrustPilot and Google with excellent testimonials. Removing the entry stroke results in faster, fluent, neater handwriting and the opportunity of achieving higher educational success.
Children ages 6-9 Before: taught using Letter-join and after the Magic Link course