Is Handwriting Really Important?

Let's look at the research!

     

As you help your child with homework, letter writing, story writing, etc.  Please follow the above guidelines.  Your child should sit comfortably in a chair and use his/her "anchor hand" to hold the paper.  (I recommend that with the Right Hand position-pictured above-the paper is tilted to the left a bit.)  Your child should notice the top, middle, and bottom lines, and place the letters correctly.  Emphasize beginning sentences with a capital letter and making the rest lower case.  The students should know that "I" in relation to ourselves is always capital as are people's names.  

Writing is an important part of the kindergarten school day.  We are learning to write sentences to communicate information, analyze data, and tell a story about important events in our lives.  Writing expectations increase greatly as your child progresses in school, and so it is very important that your child gain control of those fine-motor muscles necessary to build endurance for longer periods of writing.  The following is an exerpt from an article titled, "How Handwriting Trains the Brain:  Formatting Letters is the Key to Learning, Memory, Ideas" from the Wall Street Journal on October 5, 2010-

"Recent research illustrates how writing by hand engages the brain in learning. During one study at Indiana University published this year, researchers invited children to man a 'spaceship,' actually an MRI machine using a specialized scan called 'functional' MRI that spots neural activity in the brain. The kids were shown letters before and after receiving different letter-learning instruction. In children who had practiced printing by hand, the neural activity was far more enhanced and 'adult-like' than in those who had simply looked at letters.  'It seems there is something really important about manually manipulating and drawing out two-dimensional things we see all the time,' says Karin Harman James, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Indiana University who led the study."

In a 2008 study in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, adults were asked to distinguish between new characters and a mirror image of them after producing the characters using pen-and-paper writing and a computer keyboard. The result: For those writing by hand, there was stronger and longer-lasting recognition of the characters' proper orientation, suggesting that the specific movements memorized when learning how to write aided the visual identification of graphic shapes.

Other research highlights the hand's unique relationship with the brain when it comes to composing thoughts and ideas. Virginia Berninger, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington, says, "Handwriting differs from typing because it requires executing sequential strokes to form a letter, whereas keyboarding involves selecting a whole letter by touching a key."

She says, "Pictures of the brain have illustrated that sequential finger movements activated massive regions involved in thinking, language and working memory—the system for temporarily storing and managing information."

And another recent study of Berninger's demonstrated that in grades two, four and six, children wrote more words, faster, and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand versus with a keyboard.

Some great handwriting apps which should support, but not replace, actual pencil/paper practice:

abcPocketPhonics   

Letter Quiz   

Letter School