The need to flex our writing skills with physical pen and paper is becoming increasingly rare.
So, why do we still bother teaching handwriting in schools? Technology gives us interactive, instant letter formation through typing and apps. Isn’t it obvious that the next generation will need even less handwriting practice than we did?
If writing was only about recording information as fast as possible, that might be the case.
But research shows us it’s definitely not.
Teaching young learners from pre-k onwards to form letters is not about speed (as any kindergarten teacher will tell you!).
Beyond the educational benefit, the fine motor skills that learners develop through handwriting practice are something that typing does not provide. The pencil grip is applicable to a multitude of modern-day tools, from soldering in electronics to fine arts and many medical devices.
The act of taking notes by hand, as opposed to typing has been studied by multiple occupational therapists. Not only do learners who form letters by hand maintain a better level of legibility, their ability to recall lesson content improves over learners who type notes. Amazingly, these learners had better recall even if they didn’t reread their notes afterward. This means that the motor pattern of handwriting itself helps us remember concepts. How cool is that!?
So how can we combine the benefits that handwriting skills provide with the interactive technology that we see in modern learning environments?
Enter the stylus. A tool for developing and maintaining handwriting skills on a touchscreen device instead of traditional pen and paper. There are dozens on the market, but our favorites are the Logitech Pen for USI-enabled Chromebooks and the Logitech Crayon for iPads (2018 and later), which were designed and tested with students in mind. They are light, pixel-precise, and, perhaps most importantly for the classroom, durable.
As you already know, Kami works well with a keyboard and mouse. But adding a Logitech stylus to your handwriting resources can help young learners build their handwriting skills in a modern environment. Now you can check remote learners’ handwritten assignments without having them hold pages up to the camera; their writing will appear in collaborative Kami documents!
Here are some activities for handwriting practice you can introduce to your learners to develop those fine motor skills and ignite their development. Even just one or two of these will make a great supplement to your lesson plans.
- Identifying words of interest: Show your learners a short video and ask them to write down all the words of a certain category. For example, you could ask younger learners to listen for “all the five-letter words”. Older learners might be tasked with “recording all the adjectives”. This teaches them to listen for only vital information and is great handwriting practice, especially if you remind them to focus on legibility and spacing between words.
- Letter writing: Usually seen as a formal style of writing, the act of penning a handwritten letter displays a personal touch that is becoming less common. Formal letters are almost always typed these days, so encouraging learners to create their own handwritten letters to someone they are close to is an excellent use of handwriting skills. Be sure to demonstrate the correct pencil grasp before assigning any lengthy writing projects!
- Cursive Whispers: Cursive writing can be tough to learn, but here’s a fun way to gamify the experience for your learners. Once you’ve taken some time giving explicit instruction to your learners on the fundamentals of cursive handwriting, try a game of whispers, except the message must only be written and sent in cursive handwriting; no talking allowed! You can make the message more complicated if your students are picking up cursive quickly. This is a good test of legibility and spacing and also can yield some hilarious results!
Recognizing the benefits that well-developed handwriting skills provide to learners of all ages is integral to maintaining handwriting instruction in our schools. You’ll be surprised at how much more interaction your learners will demonstrate when they’re able to apply handwriting skills to your lesson plans.
Perhaps there is still a place for cursive in the age of keyboards.