The educational tasks assigned to children have increasingly become digitized and moved to online platforms. This has resulted in many schools deciding not to teach handwriting skills. While it is true that kids need to spend time learning skills vital for keeping up in the digital world, such as how to type by touch, research studies suggest that manual handwriting is valuable because it can help improve learning. A new study published in July by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology found that more of the brain gets stimulated when students manually write compared to when they type on a laptop. Writing is a complex process that involves vision and motor skills in addition to processing the feedback about how the delicate motion of writing feels (kinesthetics).
It’s Beneficial for Students of All Ages
These new results support other studies that found writing manually may improve how well students learn and may increase their creativity. According to these studies, stimulation of multiple areas of the brain while writing may improve letter recognition and reading fluency in beginning readers. For preschoolers learning to recognize letters, handwriting exercises help improve letter recognition when used in conjunction with saying the letter name and discovering how the letter sounds.
For older kids who use manual handwriting to write stories and takes notes, there are additional benefits. When taking notes manually, there is not enough time to write down what is being said word-for-word, as can be done when typing notes on a laptop. Instead, it is necessary to process what is being said and then write down the concept being communicated using a few concise words. According to researchers, this additional processing of information helps students understand and retain it better. The depth of the brain stimulation involved in manually handwriting stories may also help increase the creativity of essays and stories.
Help Your Kids Learn to Write
Learning the fine motor skills involved in handwriting can start as early as age 2 ½. Young preschoolers can practice making the shapes involved in printing capital letters, such as vertical lines, horizontal lines and diagonal lines. Once they have mastered making lines, older preschoolers are ready to start practicing more complex shapes, such as circles and triangles, and can begin writing their first letters. Introduce letters one at a time and begin with capital letters that only involve straight lines.
- Handwriting practice can be tedious and is probably not your child’s favorite task. Break the handwriting practice for the week into small segments and schedule handwriting practice as the first homework task of the day.
- Help your child hold the pencil properly. By age 3 1/2, preschoolers should be able to use the thumb and forefinger ‘pincer’ grasp to hold a pencil or crayon. Breaking new crayons in half may make it easier for preschoolers to use a pincer grasp. Some students may benefit from using pencil grips that make pencils easier to hold properly.
- Set up some multi-sensory fun to help your preschooler learn how to properly form letters. Buy or craft some large letters out of different materials for your preschooler to trace with her finger. Mark the ‘start point’ for each letter. To help, draw arrows on the letter to indicate the direction of each stroke involved in forming the letter.
- Teach your third grader cursive by introducing letters one at a time. Introduce lower-case letters first, then upper-case letters. Print some cursive word tracing worksheets for practice connecting letters.
Asvik, Eva Ose et al, (28 July 2020) The Importance of Cursive Handwriting Over Typewriting for Learning in the Classroom, Frontiers in Psychology,