Teach Cursive Tree Letters | The OT Toolbox

Teach Cursive Tree Letters

Here on The OT Toolbox, we've been sharing lots of ideas on how to teach cursive writing. Today, you'll find creative activities and tips for teaching cursive letter formation of tree letters. Cursive tree letters are those ones that start with a line up followed by a traced line back down. Lowercase cursive letters i, j, p, t, u, and w  are tree letters. This cursive letter family is a group of cursive letters that are formed with similar pencil strokes.

Breaking letters down into cursive families can help students learn cursive letter formation. Below, you will find information on how to teach cursive letter formation of "tree letters".


Check out how each letter of the alphabet is broken down into chunks of similar letters in this Facebook video.




Try this cursive handwriting activity to help kids learn to write in cursive, using an image of a tree for cursive letters i, j, t, u, and w.




Teach cursive letter formation "tree" letters

This post is part of our 31 day series on teaching cursive. You'll want to check out the How to Teach Cursive Writing page where you can find all of the posts in this series. 

For more ways to address the underlying skills needed for handwriting, check out the handwriting drop-down tab at the top of this site.


Cursive Letter Formation of "Tree" Letters



When instructing students in forming these letters, start by outlining a cursive letter lesson plan of activities. You can read more about cursive letter lesson plans here.


Students can start out with learning The Tree Letters, start by practicing a series of upward curves across a line of paper. This can look like a string of cursive letter t's joined together. When practicing the curve of the cursive letter t motions in a strand across a page, don't worry about the crossing of the t's. Instead, set awareness on re-trace and the start/stop point of each curve.

Most important is the re-trace portion. Instruct students to draw the lines with proper re-trace as they trace back over the lines to create another line up and down. 

When beginning with cursive instruction, students should concentrate on an upward curve from the base line to the middle line or top line of the paper. This is the "tree" of a tree trunk visual and is the re-occuring stroke in the letters i, j, p, t, u, and w. 

Rainbow Writing Cursive Letter Tree Letters Activity


One activity that can practice the formation needed for tree letters is to practice drawing rainbows. Using a variety of colored pencils or markers, ask students to draw a small rainbow that starts at the baseline and peaks at the middle line. They can then trace back over that rainbow with other colors. 

Then, ask students to create a series of rainbows across the line of paper using one color. They can then draw over that series of rainbow bumps with each colored pencil or marker. 

As students trace over the previous color, ask them to keep their colored pencil or marker on the lines and to continue with re-trace back down to the baseline and back up again. 

Try this cursive handwriting activity to help kids learn to write in cursive, using an image of a tree for cursive letters i, j, t, u, and w.

Activities for Teaching Cursive Letter Tree Letters


Use short phrases to instruct cursive formation. Phrases like "Pause", "Stop", "Trace back", "Curve up", "Curve Down", and "Swing away to connect" can help. 


The verbal prompts should involve starting and stopping points such as "Start at the baseline", "stop at the middle line", or "Stop at the top line". Line names should remain consistent with names used by the student in learning printed handwriting. Bottom Line, Middle Line, and Top Line are simple cues that typically work well.

Try this tree themed activity to teach cursive letter tree letters:


1.) Students learning the Tree Letters will benefit from a visual image of a a series of curved lines up and back down with a visual of a tree's branches at the top. The tree's trunk should trace back down over it's first line to create a single trunk line. Use a green stamp to create a small leaf top on a letter t.


Try this with a series of letter t's and the other Tree Letters. Be sure to ask students to copy only 2-3 letters at a time while working on formation so that poor habits are not established.


How to Teach Lowercase Cursive i


Use the following verbal prompts to teach lowercase cursive letter i:

Start at the baseline. Curve up to the middle line. Pause. Trace back down the tree trunk. Then swing away to connect. Go back and add the dot.

Instruct students to trace over the lines and create a small set of "roots" at the bottom of the tree trunk.

How to Teach Lowercase Cursive t


Use the following verbal prompts to teach lowercase cursive letter t:

Start at the baseline. Curve up to the top line. Pause. Trace back down the tree trunk. Then swing away to connect. Go back and add the crossline.

Instruct students to trace over the lines and create a small set of "roots" at the bottom of the tree trunk of the t

Note about letter t- Older styles of cursive handwriting used a height of letter t that was taller than the middle line yet shorter than the top line. For ease and consistency with children, a height that reaches the top line can be most efficient. 

How to Teach Lowercase Cursive p

Use the following verbal prompts to teach lowercase cursive letter p:

Start at the baseline. Curve up to the middle line. Pause. Trace back down the tree trunk. Pass the baseline. Pause. Trace back up the tree trunk to the middle line. Curve around in a circle. Stop at the tree trunk near the baseline. Then swing away to connect. 

Note about cursive letter p- This letter has a lot of re-trace. It also has a point where the pencil needs to stop without crossing over another line. This closure point can be a difficult precision point for some students. Work on re-trace and motor control for closure points in multi-sensory activities such as with sandpaper or in writing trays. 


How to Teach Lowercase Cursive u



Use the following verbal prompts to teach lowercase cursive letter u:


Start at the baseline. Curve up to the middle line. Pause. Trace back down the tree trunk. Then swing away to create a second tree. Curve up to the middle line. Pause. Trace back down the tree trunk. Swing away to connect.


How to Teach Lowercase Cursive w



Use the following verbal prompts to teach lowercase cursive letter w:


Start at the baseline. Curve up to the middle line. Pause. Trace back down the tree trunk. Then swing away to create a second tree. Curve up to the middle line. Pause. Trace back down the tree trunk. Then swing away to create a third tree. Curve up to the middle line. Pause. Trace back down the tree trunk. Swing away to connect.

How to Teach Lowercase Cursive j




Use the following verbal prompts to teach lowercase cursive letter j:

Start at the baseline. Curve up to the middle line. Pause. Trace back down the tree trunk. pass the baseline and loop to the left. Swing up to the baseline and away to connect. 


A few tips for teaching tree letters



It would be very difficult to teach cursive handwriting only by verbal instruction. Carryover and accuracy would suffer!

A visual component and slow teaching strategies are very important. Try these tips to help with learning cursive bump letters.

Use large motor movements when starting out with cursive instruction. 

Teach each letter individually and for short periods of time each day.

Practice cursive letters in multiple sensory experiences, including shaving cream on desks, writing trays, in goop, with play dough or slime, etc.

Practice near copy work using a visual cue like these free cursive letter flashcards.

Practice each letter in a group focusing on one letter at a time. When a new letter is introduced, continue with previously learned letters. 


Want to teach other cursive letter families? 
Here is information on how to teach wave letters (c, a, d, g, q).
Try these ideas to teach bump letters (m, n, v, x, y, z).

Try this cursive handwriting activity to help kids learn to write in cursive, using an image of a tree for cursive letters i, j, t, u, and w.

More Cursive Handwriting Tools and Resources:

Affiliate links are included.










Try these cursive writing tools to help with forming letters:
Affiliate links are included. 


Cursive Writing Wizard is a free app on Amazon that allows students to trace letters and words. The app has stickers and animations as well as games that promote learning of cursive letters and connecting lines. 


Cursive Handwriting Workbook is a workbook for kids in elementary grades and focuses on  formation of cursive letters (upper and lower case) as well as words. 


Teachers can use a laser pointer in the classroom to help students see parts of cursive letters as they instruct each part of the formation. This is helpful when teaching letters in cursive letter families.




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