The arrival of tablets and iPads in schools increasingly raises the question as to whether or not learning handwriting is important. The answer to this question is, yes. It’s very important! Even in this digital world where more and more computers, laptops and smartphones are being used, and many children complete their school work on a tablet. Today, I’m sharing several reasons why handwriting is important and should continue to be taught in school.
Learning how to write by hand is more than just holding a pencil, it’s a building block to learning. The ability to write benefits children in many ways — academically, creatively and emotionally — and it will continue to benefit them throughout their entire life. In fact, many authors, creatives, and so called cheap essay writers started their career writing by hand. Here are five reasons why handwriting is important in the keyboard age.
1. It Helps Build Motor Skills
One reason why handwriting is important is that it helps young children develop and strengthen motor skills – both fine and large. Writing the letters of the alphabet engages the fine-motor muscles of the fingers and hands, the larger muscles of the arm and body, as well as the muscles in the eyes.
In addition, when first learning to write, many young children have difficulty holding a pencil and putting it to paper. Yet as more time is spent practicing, they develop better motor dexterity.
Learning handwriting also helps strengthen hand-eye coordination, which is another important part of development during the early childhood years.
2. Good handwriting skills lead to stronger academic performance.
Another reason why handwriting is important? It leads to stronger academic performance. In fact, studies have shown that developing fine motor skills in early childhood not only helps with writing success, but also leads to better performance in reading and math. Learning handwriting in the early grades is also linked to basic reading and spelling achievement.
There’s also the fact that writing and reading go hand-in-hand. The ability to read handwriting is gained through a students’ learning to write and develop their own handwriting. And as children practice writing, they learn vocabulary words, spelling, sentence structure, and story structure, all of which help build a strong reader.
In addition, by learning to write letters it’s easier for a child’s brain to remember and recognize the learned letter; for example, when a child learns how to form the letter N, they can also be learning its sound. By interacting with each letter in this physical way, students begin to recognize and remember the letters and the letter sounds for easier recall when they are learning to read.
3. Improves Focus and Memory
The third reason why handwriting is important is that is helps improve both focus and memory. Writing engages a child’s full attention and helps his or her developing ability to focus.
Being able to write fluently allows the mind to focus more fully on a topic. If a child struggles with their handwriting, it takes away their focus from other tasks. However, when a child masters handwriting, his brain can focus entirely on the task at hand.
There’s also the fact that when we write something down, it tends to stay with us longer. It’s much easier to remember something you write by hand as opposed to something you type.
4. Enhances Critical Thinking Skills
A fourth reason why handwriting is important is because it helps children develop critical thinking skills. Learning to think critically is one of the most important skills that our children today will need for the future. It is the skill involved in making judgments and solving problems. Lumenlearning.com defines it best:
“critical thinking is clear, reasonable, reflective thinking focused on deciding what to believe or do. It means asking probing questions like, “How do we know?” or “Is this true in every case or just in this instance?” It involves being skeptical and challenging assumptions, rather than simply memorizing facts or blindly accepting what you hear or read.”
Writing actually improves the thinking process and helps the development of critical thinking skills because the writer has to use those skills to gather information, make sense of that information, to analyze, compare, contrast, make inferences, and clearly state ideas and arguments.
5. It’s Part of Everyday Life
Despite the fact the we live in a digital world, many people still write in some way every day. Whether it’s taking notes in class, jotting a reminder, writing a grocery list, or sending a card to a loved one, writing still is and will continue to be part of our everyday lives.
Why Not Learn to Write on an iPad?
While there are plenty of great apps that children can use to learn to write, any time spent on apps needs to be in addition to time with real pens and paper. There are a few reasons for this.
First of all, the brain engages differently when we write something by hand versus typing it on a keyboard or touching a screen. Studies have shown that writing improves memory, and that students retain learning better when working with new ideas through handwriting instead of typing on a keyboard or screen.
Secondly, keyboards and pens use very different cognitive processes. It takes several years and much practice for a young child to master the fine motor skills of holding the pencil or pen firmly while moving it in such a way as to form each individual letter. In addition, handwriting requires several different skills like feeling the pen and paper, moving the writing tool, and directing movement by thought. Using a keyboard is completely different: all you have to do is press the correct key. The movement and skill needed to do this is exactly the same whatever the letter.
Third, in a 2012 study by James and Engelhardt, they found that when pre-literate children wrote letters using freehand, it activated the brain’s reading and writing circuit. However, when the children typed or traced letters, this ‘literacy circuit’ did not activate. More evidence that handwriting may help facilitate reading acquisition in young children.
Lastly, when using apps to learn to write, children are less challenged to develop a legible and nice handwriting.
While using an app to help children learn handwriting can be beneficial, just remember that there is no substitute for time spent practicing with a real pen and paper.
While modern technology has dramatically changed the way we communicate through writing, the skill of handwriting remains as important as always in education, employment and in everyday life.