Building Block 1 introduced brain-hand connectivity as a key player in the development of fine motor skills. Building upon this lesson, we will explore automaticity and its role in both handwriting and ultimately test grades. At DrawntoDiscover we recognize automaticity as a foundation for developing higher level writing.

As adults, when we jot down a note, we don’t have to think about the movements of the hand and fingers to form letters. It’s automatic. However, children learning handwriting need to train their brain so when they go to write it’s muscle memory. The term we use to describe this is ‘automaticity’. Automaticity is when a process can be effected swiftly, accurately, and without the need for conscious attention. The development of writing skills may require automatization of lower-level skills so that they use less of the available working memory resources. 

The article “Handwriting: What Do We Know and What Do We Need to Know?” describes how automaticity improves writing quality. If young writers have to devote large amounts of working memory to the control of lower-level processes such as handwriting, they may have little working memory capacity left for higher-level processes such as the generation of ideas, vocabulary selection, monitoring the progress of mental plans and revising text against these plans. But, when handwriting is practiced and made automatic, you are able to focus more on what you are writing as opposed to how you are writing it. This reasoning supports multiple studies that have found better handwriting correlates with better grades and better scores on standardized tests.

Boys vs. Girls

Is there a gender difference in automaticity? Research shows that girls generally have better handwriting than boys on measures of overall quality, speed, and letter formation. It’s possible the gender difference in handwriting is because boys are less likely to obtain the necessary automaticity in handwriting at the expected age. This in turn may be interfering with their ability to compose. As handwriting skills are closely associated to writing skills, we must pay extra attention to ensure the handwriting of both boys and girls is legible. Poor handwriting is an injustice to children; without the necessary handwriting skills, their composition and writing abilities suffer.

Our success in this area is driven by “Today we are going to draw a rocket ship…as their skills develop “Today we are going to draw a bicycle, or a bulldozer…then in second grade the International Space station…etc. Boys love drawing geometry! That is the key that unlocks their willingness and engagement, and we label as we go along. Boys love the challenge of the sight word daily practice. It’s not drill drill drill if do it right! My experience has taught me that boys are as high in fine motor or even superior! This is a mindshift we all must soon recognize.

Without a doubt, the information here will help build a foundation for success. Continue learning with us to Building Block 3.

Stay tuned…


Missed the beginning of this 4-part series? Check out:

“Helping Children Better Express Themselves: Intro”

“Building Block 1: Brain-Hand Connectivity”

~Caleigh Cramer and Miss WEndy


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