August 9, 2018 – AWE Learning Staff
Think back on the past week. Did you use a keyboard? Did you handwrite a note or a reminder? While the growth of technology has certainly increased our use of and comfort level with typing, handwriting continues to remain an important skill. In particular, early learners are growing up with technology in their hands, but handwriting is still an indispensable skill to be taught in the elementary school classroom.
Research has shown that there is a positive correlation between strong handwriting skills and increased academic performance in reading and writing. The use of pen and paper boosts memory. Students that are considered ‘longhand note takers’ engage in more cognitive processing than those that are ‘laptop note takers’. Studies demonstrate that note takers build their short- and long-term memory recall because the notes include his or her own words and handwriting. The movement of using a writing utensil can help to encode and retain information long-term. Handwriting activates areas of the brain that are involved in thinking and working memory and allows the writer to store and manage the information.
Handwriting supports executive function by engaging the young learner’s attention and building his or her ability to focus. In fact, children that can write quickly and clearly are more likely to demonstrate skills in expressing their thoughts through written words. Handwriting is a more tedious process than typing. Since writing by hand is typically a slower process than typing, writing notes verbatim is more challenging. As a result, one is forced to process the information and summarize it in a way that makes the most sense.
While writing can be challenging, especially for early learners that are delayed in building fine motor skills, handwriting is still an important skill to learn. Parents, teachers, and library staff can help play a key role in assisting early learners to build fine motor skills and improve handwriting.
Like the saying, ‘Practice makes perfect,’ practice helps to build handwriting skills. Below are some suggested tasks to assist in increasing fine motor abilities and visual-motor performance:
- Allow for scribble time.
- Color in the lines.
- Trace shapes and pictures.
- Exercise core muscles.
- Build hand-eye coordination.
- Monitor media use time.
Letters are certainly not the first thing that young learners begin to write. Giving early learners the opportunity for scribble time and making the simplest marks requires the child’s brain, nerve cells, and muscles to work together and produce the building blocks of legible writing. These include:
- Recognition of shapes and letters,
- Moving in a sequence and direction on a page,
- Copying shapes, including vertical and horizontal lines, circles and crosses.
While enthralled with technology, don’t let your early learners forget about writing by hand – use a crayon, pencil, pen, etc. Help your early learners build their visual-motor skills by encouraging them to write notes by hand, rather than relying solely on technology.