Sky Ground Writing Paper | The OT Toolbox

Sky Ground Writing Paper

A simple trick to teach kids how to write on the lines is sometimes all that it takes to make hours of handwriting practice "click". This modified paper technique is a common way that is used among Occupational Therapists to address line awareness, letter size, and letter formation needs in kids.  

Try using commercial sky/ground paper or these ideas for DIY versions of the paper for a visual cue that may help kids learn to write on the lines, form letters with appropriate size, and make letters accurately in a way that helps with legibility and overall neatness.

Use the sky ground technique of writing to help kids improve legibility through imporved line awareness, letter formation, and letter size.

Sky Ground Paper for Better Handwriting

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I am a huge advocate of using simple tricks to help kids improve their handwriting.  This post is part of our 30 day series on simple ideas for better handwriting.  While I'm just a tad behind in my posting schedule (don't worry, I've got all 30 great ideas planned out for you!), I am keeping the round up of easy handwriting tricks up to date. 

Check out all of the easy handwriting tips here.  

Be sure to join over 400 others in the Facebook group that I've created for handwriting help.  Jump in, ask questions, share your tips and tricks and join the fun:  Sweet Ideas for Handwriting Help

Now onto the paper!

Modified paper is a common way to address handwriting needs.  There are all kinds of adapted paper out there that can help kids improve their legibility and neatness of written work.  Just a few examples include bold lined paper, raised lined paper, colored lined paper, highlighted bottom space paper, and graphpaper.  Today's topic addresses sky-ground paper

Sky ground paper is a modified version writing paper that is designed to add a visual component to kids' written work.  The color-coded lines can help kids visualize the appropriate size of letters.  Consider the "tall" letters: b, d, f, h, k, l, t, and all of the upper case letters start at the top line.  However, occasionally, kids omit use of that top line and either start the letter's formation above the top line, or the start the letter under the top line.  Their handwriting results in written work that appears inconsistent in difficult to read.  

Varying size of letter height is a big component in overall legibility.  When letters are formed too large for the available writing area, letters begin to grow in width or are inconsistent in overall size.  Space between words suffers as a result of the child attempting to squeeze their written response into the available space. 

Likewise, letters that are supposed to meet the middle line or have a "tail" that drops down below the baseline should be appropriately placed on the line.  When a child seems to have visual perceptual difficulties or difficulty with visual motor integration, letter placement or pencil control may suffer.

Beyond letter size, another indication for the need to add a visual component to paper with the sky-ground paper is poor letter formation. Some children form letters in parts.  They make a "d" by drawing a circle and a line.  Other times, kids form letters quickly and in a flowing manner while writing.  For example, when writing the word "car", the child may make the letter "a" and then quickly draw a curved candy cane shape for the letter "r" by starting at the bottom line after forming the letter a with a downward line.  

Using sky-ground paper can help kids to form letters appropriately, with top-to-bottom formation.  Using visual and verbal cues of the colored lines and even pictures on the lined paper can address these needs.

Related Read: Try these handwriting accommodation strategies to address a variety of handwriting challenges. 

Visual perception Needs and Modified Paper

Visual perceptual needs in kids are often times visualized when a child attempts to write.  You may see difficulties with line awareness, spatial awareness, or size awareness.  This is because the visual perceptual skills are needed to place letters on the lines and play an important part of line awareness, size awareness, letter formation, and copying skills.

Visual motor integration skills and modified paper

When kids attempt to place letters on the lines, a difficulty with eye-hand coordination may be observed.  Coordinated use of the pencil to place letters where they want them can be difficult when they are lacking in visual motor integration abilities. 

 Use Sky Ground Paper to Help with Handwriting

By seeing the blue line for the sky and the green line for the ground, kids can see and understand the size differences in letters.  Tall letters that reach the top lines are the ones that start at the sky or the blue line.  The small letters (a, c, o, r, etc) are letters that reach the middle line but should not go up into the sky.  And tail letters (j, g, p, etc) have a tail that goes down under the ground. 

What a visual for the child that can now “see” how letters should be placed on lines!

When helping kids use this paper, add verbal prompts such as:
“Start the tall letters in the sky.”
“Short letters start in the middle but they don’t go underground.”
“Make your “G” by starting in the sky and curving around to the ground.  Add a line in the middle.”
“Tail letters hang down underground.”
“Make your “t” start in the sky and pull down to the ground.’

This technique is great for the visual learner!

 Use the sky ground technique of writing to help kids improve legibility through imporved line awareness, letter formation, and letter size.

While there are several versions of this paper available online, you can easily make your own version for quick intervention.  Use a thin blue marker and thin green marker to quickly add lines to paper.

Use the sky ground technique of writing to help kids improve legibility through imporved line awareness, letter formation, and letter size. 

Add sky and ground lines to workbooks, too. This is a great way to use the modification for kids who are writing with a single rule size.

 Smart Start sky ground paper Smart Start paper 


There are several versions of this paper available under the name Smart Start paper.  

House Handwriting Method 

Another trick that builds on this method is the concept of a house.  For kids who are older or those that don’t want marker lines or special paper to be used, try this house method of writing. 

**Children can become very aware of how their paper looks different that their desk neighbor.  Differences can be stressful for these kiddos that are already struggling to write legibly due to underlying needs.  A lesser modification is great once they have shown success with adaptations such as sky ground paper or DIY paper cues.

The House Method for spatial organization and letter formation
In this method of handwriting, draw a house shape on one margin of the paper.  The tall letters go into the attic, the small letters are in the first floor, and the tail letters go into the basement.  This is a very simple DIY to create by simply drawing one house on the left hand margin of the lined paper.

Line awareness and letter formation difficulties with older kids
Children who are beyond the age-appropriate level of double lined paper can still use both of these line awareness and letter formation techniques.  Just modify single lined paper with either the marker lines or a simple house shape. 

Looking for more letter formation handwriting ideas? 

Use the sky ground technique of writing to help kids improve legibility through imporved line awareness, letter formation, and letter size.
Did this quick tip work for you and your kiddo?  Let us know in the comments below or in the Sweet Ideas for Handwriting Facebook group!

Get 29 pages of modified paper with a Christmas Theme for legible and neat Letters to Santa, Christmas Wish Lists, Thank You Notes, Holiday Lists, and MORE!