By: Suzanne Schuchert, M.S., CCC-SLP
I often hear people say, “Does handwriting really matter anymore now that students are using computers earlier and earlier? Can’t they just learn to type?” While these are great questions, supporting students’ handwriting skills has more benefits than just improving legibility
Let’s look into the ways that handwriting is connected with other academic skills.
Visual Recognition of Letters
Handwriting plays a large role in the visual recognition of letters. Rapid letter recognition is key for developing readers. Students need to be able to see a letter and quickly recall its name and sound as they are learning to “sound out” words.
If their brain is taking a long time to recall each letter, their working memory might not be able to hold all the individual sounds in the word long enough to blend those back together and read the word.
The good news is that learning letter formation via handwriting provides multisensory input that supports students’ abilities to remember letters long-term, with greater automaticity. If you were learning a new Chinese symbol, would you remember it better if you formed it with a pencil or pushed a button with that symbol on it?
Improve Expressive Writing
Automatic handwriting writing results in better expressive writing. Imagine trying to write an email, a quick note to someone at home before you run out the door, or even a 5- paragraph essay if you had to think about the formation of each and every letter!
When students form letters with automaticity, they can devote more cognitive resources to other important things they need to think about while writing. It allows them to consider their grammar, spelling, sentence structure, and ideas. Expressive writing takes a massive amount of brain power for our students. Why waste it on letter formation?
Avoid Future Difficulty with Typing
Children with handwriting difficulties may also experience difficulty with typing. Some students who struggle with handwriting might not automatically become successful if they are given the option to type instead of writing with a pencil.
Difficulties with memory and attention that negatively impact handwriting can make it hard to learn to type. If we notice difficulty with handwriting, we need to start thinking early about ways we can support our students as they begin to type, but that doesn’t mean we just abandon handwriting intervention, either!
Limit The Frequency of Letter Reversals
Creating a “motor plan” for letter formation can help reduce letter reversals. I would like to have a stern conversation with whoever decided to make lowercase b, d, and p look so much alike and sound so much alike.
Thankfully, skills students learn while learning to write these letters can help with their ability to read them accurately. If they know that a d starts with a “magic c”, goes up like a helicopter, and comes back down to bump the line, they will be less likely to write a b when they mean to write a d.
The more they continue to write their letters the correct way, the less likely they will be to reverse them when reading and spelling.
Create a Plan For Success With ETLC
Overall, reading, spelling, handwriting, typing, and writing all are linked and have impacts on each other. Working on handwriting consistently for short amounts of time (e.g. 10 minutes per day) can set students up for success with various academic skills!
At Enrichment Therapy and Learning Center, we can help students who are struggling with handwriting and create an individualized plan for success.
Contact us today to schedule a free screening!
740 Community Drive, Unit A
North Liberty, IA 52317
5530 West Pkwy, Suite 300
Johnston, IA 50131