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The Handwriting Debate Continues

Many thanks to Lavinia Mancuso of Everyone Reading for sharing this informative article on the value of teaching handwriting.   Great tennis fan that I am, I especially liked her comparison of the need to practice the skill just as Rafa Nadal  practiced (and still practices)  his tennis skills.

A Shout Out for Good Handwriting

”There is a growing field of research that supports the French belief that handwriting is an important skill—not just for its own sake, but because it is correlates with other important skills and brain functions, such as language learning, reading development, and working memory” (Susan Vachon. Education Week, 12/3/14, website.)

“In a study that followed children in grades two through five, Virginia Berninger, a psychologist at the University of Washington, demonstrated that printing, cursive writing, and typing on a keyboard are all associated with distinct and separate brain patterns — and each results in a distinct end product. When the children composed text by hand, they not only consistently produced more words more quickly than they did on a keyboard, but expressed more ideas. And brain imaging in the oldest subjects suggested that the connection between writing and idea generation went even further. When these children were asked to come up with ideas for a composition, the ones with better handwriting exhibited greater neural activation in areas associated with working memory — and increased overall activation in the reading and writing networks.” (Maria Konnikova. “What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades,” The New York Times, June 2, 2014)

Cursive writing may be best:

“… scientists are discovering that learning cursive is an important tool for cognitive      development, particularly in training the brain to learn “functional specialization”[2]—that is, the capacity for optimal efficiency. In the case of learning cursive writing, the brain develops functional specialization that integrates both sensation, movement control, and thinking. Brain imaging studies reveal that multiple areas of brain become co-activated during the learning of cursive writing of pseudo-letters, as opposed to typing or just visual practice.” (William R. Klemm. D.V.M, Ph.D. “Why Writing by Hand Could Make You Smarter,” Psychology Today, March 14, 2013.)

This research is not new:

“In learning to write, children need to develop enough fluency so that the mechanics of producing text do not interfere with the process of composing.  Having to allocate considerable attention to the mechanical demands of handwriting, for instance, may lead a writer to forget already developed intentions and plans or disrupt planning about the next unit of text to be written. (Scardamalia, Berieter, and Goelman, 1982)” (Steve Graham and Naomi Weintraub, “A Review of Handwriting Research: Progress and Prospects from 1980 to 1994,” Education Psychology Review, March 1996.)

…or isolated:

Just Google “Handwriting and Dyslexia” to see how much research there is on the topic.


Why do we not do a better job of teaching handwriting?  It would benefit all children and make life much easier for those with dyslexia.  Writing is the synthesis of multi-sensory language education.

Rafael Nadal couldn’t compete if he had to figure out how to hold his racquet every time the ball went whizzing by. The child who has to think long and hard before he writes a or a d will not win any prizes either.  Penmanship is not Wimbledon.  It should be a game anyone can play.

Rafa was a talented kid, but his uncles and coaches didn’t wait for him to figure out the strokes himself. They taught him how to hold his racquet, where to place his feet, how to keep his eye on the ball, etc., etc. etc.  Then he practiced a lot under their supervision.  Correct practice truly does make perfect.

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