According to a report developed by the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne, the majority of Australian children across all age groups are exceeding the current national recommended guidelines for screen time. Further, the report found that two-thirds of primary school-aged children have their own mobile screen-based device.
There is no denying that electronic devices form an increasingly important role in our daily lives. But is this having an impact on handwriting and, subsequently, literacy skills?
A Norwegian study into the effect on word recall when handwriting versus keyboard writing, found that there were some cognitive benefits to handwriting that may not be retained in keyboard writing. The report found that “participants had significantly better recall of words written in the handwriting condition, compared to keyboard writing.”
We uncover some further benefits of handwriting:
1. Develops fine motor skills
Handwriting and pencil grip help to develop fine motor skills that are vital for a variety of classroom activities and skills. Generally, poor handwriting tends to be the first indication of concerns with fine motor skills simply because it’s something that is easily recognised. Handwriting helps children to practise many complex skills such as in-hand manipulation, eye-hand coordination and muscle memory. Fine motor skills are important to develop dexterity and strength and help children perform daily tasks such as feeding themselves and getting dressed. In the classroom, they are utilised when performing two-handed tasks such as cutting and gluing, when playing with small items, colouring and doing puzzles.
2. Encourages creativity
The process of handwriting can enhance creativity. “The act of putting pen to paper, forming raw thoughts and ideas is crucial for individual creativity,” said handwriting expert, Dr Alison Keegan. The speed at which we write, in comparison to typing, as well as the fluidity with which we perform the task, enhances the creative process. Creative ideas take time to emerge. Putting pen to paper, where we can move in tangents and make connections and notations in a way that is restricted in the electronic form, helps to draw out and develop creative thought. Handwriting gives children more time to focus, which leads to better thought-out writing. In addition to encouraging the creative process, handwriting is also beneficial for developing creative skills such as drawing, sketching and painting.
3. Memory retention
A study reported in the Wall Street Journal examined students who took handwritten notes in class and compared them to students who took typed notes. While those who took typed notes were able to record more words per minute and had better recall of content immediately after the class, those who took handwritten notes had greater recall up to a week later and were able to grasp concepts more readily.
4. Promotes critical thinking
Writing helps the thinking process and enhances critical thinking skills. Critical thinking is defined as “the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement.” The process of handwriting contributes to higher order thinking, enabling a student to plan and prepare arguments and develop thoughts in a way that is more restricted when typing. Brainstorming handwritten notes and mind-mapping are often the preferred method when thinking critically, for good reason.
5. Improves spelling
In this digital age it is easy to rely on spelling applications such as spell check to correct spelling errors - this doesn’t allow students to learn the fundamentals of spelling, or allow them to master spelling skills. Spelling involves many sub-skills such as the ability to perceive the whole in its individual parts, auditory perception of letter sounds, phonemes and decoding skills. In the same way that children are taught not to rely on calculators to solve maths problems, spelling needs to be mastered by handwriting. Handwriting teaches us not to rely on aids and shortcuts to correctly spell words. Rather, it allows us to train our bodies through muscle memory to recall the shape and movement of words so that it becomes natural.
How to encourage handwriting at home
You can encourage children to write by hand at home. Younger children can practise by helping to write shopping lists and letters to friends and family. As children grow, you can discuss the benefits of handwriting with them and encourage them to favour handwritten notes over typed, to improve learning and retention.
At Trinity Grammar School, we recognise that a great start to a boy’s learning journey can make all the difference to his academic success. Pre-Kindergarten at Trinity is a specialised option for boys that may not be quite ready for Kindergarten.
Our well-structured Pre-Kindergarten programme will encourage your son to engage in a variety of developmentally appropriate learning experiences that nurture his curiosity and sense of wonder, and challenge his thinking – making for a smooth transition to Kindergarten.
To learn why Pre-Kindergarten at Trinity Grammar School provides the best preparation for school, download our Pre-Kindergarten prospectus.