When was the last time you wrote something down that was longer than a list? I’m talking about a series of complete, grammatically correct sentences, possibly accentuated with interesting verbs and adjectives? Thanks to modern technology, we are more likely to punch out a text, type an email or use a word document to compose any writing these days, so why bother to encourage our children to work on their handwriting in school? Is handwriting a lost art that needs saving, or is it superfluous in the tech-based world of today?
I recently came across a fascinating article which suggested that handwriting really does matter and must be explicitly taught in schools. It claimed that children who practise handwriting achieve greater success with reading and spelling. Research has found that as a child learns to write words down, while making letter-sound connections, they are essentially activating circuits in the brain which promote literacy skills. While this concept is generally embraced in early primary school, handwriting skills can quickly get tossed aside in later years as students learn to use iPads and laptops to draft, revise and edit their writing. They learn to rely on automatic spelling and grammar programs, dictation and word prediction, thereby missing vital opportunities to flex some literacy muscles. While the article acknowledges the importance of technology for students with dyslexia and learning disabilities, handwriting still must be taught and practised throughout school.
As a teacher with largely upper primary experience, I concur that handwriting is still a crucial skill to learn and practise. By late primary, if students haven’t mastered a smooth and clear handwriting style they are less likely to be reaching for a pen and paper, and not only do their spelling and reading skills suffering for it, but I believe their ability to retain information is weakened as well. I have always encouraged students to write down important facts by hand to understand and remember them best, but this only works well if handwriting is not a difficult task in itself. I’ve seen many students who are unwilling to take risks with their learning as well, when they feel their handwriting and spelling abilities are lacking. Children need to be taught at an early age to write clearly and efficiently and they need to maintain this skill throughout their school careers.
So how to encourage students to develop their handwriting when technology is so prolific? Fostering a love of writing by hand from an early age is key, but parents of upper primary and secondary students could try a few of the following ideas; find a pen pal overseas and send some snail mail once a week, update a journal or personal diary or simply carry a book around to jot down daily observations, jokes, funny quotes or write poetry, lyrics or stories when they have time to kill on public transport or over the weekend. I suppose the first step is to have some technology free time and to have the writing tools readily available. Check out the links below to read the article in full and get some more ideas for improving your child’s handwriting.
Read the article here
Tools to help with handwriting
Importance of Handwriting Article
~ Bryony ~
Lauren is the owner of MPT, a primary school teacher, tutor and Mum to a nearly 2 year old son.