The Case for Teaching Handwriting

In today’s world of electronic wizardry where keyboarding, touch screens, and clicks are the tools of choice, it might seem anachronistic to teach handwriting, but an article in Literacyhow makes a strong case for penmanship.

The article headline says it all: “Why Teach Handwriting? It’s Brain Training!”

In a full-throated defense of the value of learning to write in script, the authors remind us that handwriting is still the predominant mode of communicating in school; doing it poorly “can impact performance across all subjects for students who struggle to take notes, take tests, and do homework.”

But equally important are the following benefits (excerpted from the article):

Handwriting is a language skill, not just a fine motor skill. When pre-literate children draw letters freehand (as opposed to tracing them or using a keyboard), they increase activity in the same three areas of the brain that are activated in adults when they read and write (James, 2012).  This demonstrates that the handwriting process actually changes the brain, reinforcing the neuro-circuitry used for higher level reading and writing skills.

Handwriting impacts students’ writing process. “Of all of the knowledge and skills that are required to write, handwriting is the one that places the earliest constraints on writing development.  If children cannot form letters—or form them with reasonable legibility and speed—they cannot translate the language in their minds to written text” (Graham, 2009).

Handwriting influences spelling and reading development. “… handwriting in the earliest grades is linked to basic reading and spelling achievement; for example, when children learn how to form the letter m, they can also be learning its sound. Attention to the linkages among handwriting, reading, and spelling skills can help to reinforce early achievement across these areas” (Spear-Swerling, 2006).

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