iPad Generation’s Fingers Not Ready to Write, Teachers Say

By Simon Leo Brown
ABC Radio Melbourne (November 13, 2017)
This news article shares the concerns of teachers for children entering Kindergarten and Elementary School: students are not ready to learn handwriting. This deficit has a negative impact on learning overall. Teachers are noticing a big decline in fine motor skills. Students do not know how to hold a pencil or crayon or even scissors. Pediatric occupational therapist, Lisa Clark, has noted that children are spending far less time with “messy play” and this is hampering their development. Ms. Clark noted the need for parents to provide their children with hands-on activities to help develop these fine motor skills. As Ms. Clark stated, “Holding a pencil is a more dynamic movement of the hand – the index finger and thumb really need to be engaged, so it’s more of a complex movement.”

Drawing Children Into Reading: A Longitudinal Study at South Haven Maple Grove Elementary

By Marlene and Robert Smith
Report to the South Haven Community Foundation (2011)
The South Haven Community Foundation sponsored a study of Drawing Children Into Reading. Two groups of students were compared in the 3rd grade: one group who received a weekly, 70-minute drawing lesson from Wendy Halperin for two years (Kindergarten and 1st grade) and a a control group who did not receive the lessons. The positive effects of the lessons were retained through 2nd and 3rd grade. Participating students demonstrated superior penmanship, story writing (including 50% more words generated), performance on the state-wide reading assessment, and observation skills. info-graphic-6

Want to Improve Children’s Writing? Don’t Neglect Their Handwriting

By Steve Graham
American Educator (Winter 2009-2010)

Numerous studies have found that proper, early handwriting instruction not only improves legibility, it also improves the quantity and quality of children’s writing. When children develop fluent, legible handwriting, they can better focus on generating and organizing ideas. The best way to develop this legibility is through carefully planned, explicit handwriting instruction.

Drawing Children Into Reading: A Study of Art Lessons’ Effects on Literacy

By Marlene Smith and Robert Smith
A Helen Gill Memorial Research Grant Project (2010)

155 kindergarten and 1st grade students received weekly drawing lessons from Wendy Halperin for one school year. Compared to a control group, the researchers found that participating students demonstrated better legibility, correct use of lower-case letters and fewer erasures. Teachers reported that students developed greater focus and observation skills. Additionally, parents noticed that their child’s confidence level grew not only with writing but in a willingness to try new tasks.

How Handwriting Trains the Brain

By Gwendolyn Bounds
Wall Street Journal (October 5, 2010)
Writing freehand is more than a way to communicate. The skill of writing can improve idea composition, expression and fine motor skill development. According to Dr. Karin James, professor of psychological and brain sciences at Indiana University, “It seems there is something really important about manipulating and drawing out 2D things we see all the time”.

The Motor-Cognitive Connection: Early Fine Motor Skills as an Indicator of Future Success

By Bill Jenkins, Ph.D.
The Science of Learning Blog (April 19, 2012)

A review of research from the past decade has drawn a clear connection between fine motor skill development in early life and future success in math, science and reading. Indeed, when attention, fine motor skills and general knowledge are grouped together, they are much stronger predictors for later math, reading and science achievement than early math and reading scores alone.

What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades?

By Maria Konnikova
New York Times (June 2, 2014)

In a study comparing children who physically form letters on a page with those who watch others writing a letter, Dr. Karin James, professor of psychological and brain sciences at Indiana University, observed that the actual effort of writing engages the brain’s motor pathways. An MRI scan showed that 3 areas of the brain were activated when looking at letters formed by freehand, while those who looked at someone else’s previously constructed letter had significantly weaker brain activation.

The Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand over Laptop Note Taking

By Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer
Psychological Science (July 30, 2014)

Despite growing popularity, using laptops for note taking may do more harm than good. Three studies examined the learning effects of typing classroom lecture notes on a laptop versus using written, longhand note taking for college students. The studies found that using laptops for note taking, even when controlled for the potential distractions they may cause, resulted in shallower processing by students. Students who wrote notes by hand better processed information, reframing it into their own words and, thus, performed higher on classroom tests.

Watch How You Hold That Crayon

By Peg Tyre
New York Times (February 24, 2010)

Twenty-five years ago pediatric Occupational Therapists primarily worked with children with severe disabilities. Today, in many affluent areas, plenty of able bodied children are receiving OT services to strengthen hand muscles, learn how to hold a pencil and help children write more legibly.

It’s Academic: Keep Cursive Writing

By Post-Tribune Editorial Board
The Chicago Tribune (March 24, 2017)

This opinion piece argues that it’s important for young students to be able to read and understand handwriting. While teaching handwriting and cursive skills seemed to have fallen out of favor in recent years, more states are beginning to re-emphasize cursive and the art of penmanship. The authors cite the increasing evidence that handwriting plays an important foundational role in early education.

Handwriting Generates Variable Visual Output to Facilitate Symbol Learning

By Julia X. Li and Karin H. James
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General (2016)
Volume 145, No. 3, pp. 298–313

This study investigated why handwriting helps letter learning in children. Seventy-two 5-year old children were measured on a categorization task across six different types of learning conditions. Results demonstrated that children who experienced a greater variety of examples while learning, performed better on the recognition task. “Our results suggest that letter categorization ability would be enhanced with increased handwriting practice and/or learning multiple examples of letters in various ways.”

Handwriting in Early Childhood Education: Current Research and Future Implications

By Laura H. Dinehart
Journal of Early Childhood Literacy (2014)
Volume 15, No. 1, pp. 97-118

In this review of the literature on handwriting and its place in early childhood education, Dr. Laura Dinehart with the Department of Teaching and Learning at Florida International University, clearly demonstrates the link between handwriting and academic achievement. Even in this increasingly digital age, fine motor writing skills and handwriting readiness are very important for children entering school. Such readiness can be “critical to improving academic skills in the long run.” Dr. Dinehart calls upon educators “to develop and implement programmes (sic) they know to be best practice when teaching early handwriting or handwriting ‘readiness’ skills.”

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