This paper introduces the theoretical foundation for the development of a pen-based system dedicated to helping to teach handwriting in primary schools. Knowledge given by a kinematic theory of rapid human movements is used. The system proposed includes a letter model generator which is used to create letter shapes with a human-like kinematics. The system generates feedback to pupils after a multilevel analysis of the handwriting. The analysis presented deals with shape conformity, shape error identi6cation, 7uency analysis and kinematic parameter evaluation. Discussion on how 7uency measurement and error quanti6cation can be useful in developing a learning metric is also presented. ? 2002 Pattern Recognition Society. Published by Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.