I spend a great deal of time on the mechanics of handwriting the first three weeks of school. To teach where the letters go on the lined paper, I use the following approach (which was shared with me by my wonderful sister-in-law who also teaches first grade):
The lines on the paper are the "highway" and the area below the line is the "ditch." (you may have to elaborate on the word ditch if your students aren't familiar with that word) I drive my toy car on the "highway" and I tell the kiddos that writing on our "highway" is a lot like driving on a real highway. I have a cute smaller pink car that I use for this lesson but couldn't find it for this picture. I will be really sad if I can't find my pink car.
Explain to the kids that when their mom or dad drives down the highway, they stay on their side of the road. The lower case letters are like this. They have to stay on their side of the highway which on our paper, is the bottom half of the highway.
Sometimes a wide load has to go down the highway (like when a mobile home is being moved) and they get to drive on both sides of the highway. The capital letters are like this. They get to take up the WHOLE highway. The letters b, d, f, h, k, l and t are tall letters and they get to "drive" on both sides of the highway too.
There are some special vehicles that get to drive or park in the ditch. Utility workers get to drive in the ditch when they need to work on utility poles. Policemen get to drive and park in the ditch when they are trying to catch speeders. They have special permission to drive in the ditch. The g, j, p, q, and y are the only letters that have special permission to drive in the ditch.
I then give students some handwriting paper and they color in the ditches green and we practice writing one of each type of letter: 1. lowercase letters that have to drive on their half of the highway 2. capital/tall letters that drive on both sides of the highway 3. letters with tails that have special permission to drive in the ditch
Here is a letter sort activity that I made to go with this lesson. There are 3 different pages so you have 3 days of practice. Use the same sorting mat for each day. Click on the links under the picture to get the pages.
Last year, I had tubs set up with different activites for students to work on when they were finished with all their work. I am doing this again this year - just updated and cutesified a little. This is the poster that hangs on the wall:
These are the labeled tubs (I know the yellow one looks out of place but a red one wouldn't fit in the space):
Here is a peek in a few tubs:
(I ordered the cute mini dominoes from Oriental Trading)
Sight Word Stamping:
(I got the alphabet stamps on the dollar aisle at Target)
Here is the link for the poster and tub labels and any recording sheets that go with each tub.