Does that seem repetitious? Maybe, but it’s true! Handwriting, or what teachers often refer to as a transcription skill, is critical on its own. But what you may not now is that improving handwriting skills has been demonstrated to improve a child’s compositional skills, including compositional fluency. According to many studies, early handwriting instruction not only improves a student’s legibility but also has a highly positive effect on the quality and length of that student’s composition as they advance through grades in school.
If a kindergarten or first grade student struggles to recall letters or remember how to form a letter, that student is using up valuable “brain energy,” which cannot be applied to developing thoughts or ideas on paper.
For a struggling writer, being discouraged by difficulty with handwriting can set the stage to avoid writing at all since the student can begin to feel he or she is “not a good writer”.
Handwriting needs to become an “automatic skill,” which can be used effectively to coach the student into becoming a skillful writer. The fundamental skills of handwriting provide the underpinnings needed to encourage the development of more and more complex compositional skills. It is estimated that 70% of an elementary student’s day is composed of performing some type of fine motor skill, with handwriting comprising a large chunk of this time. Therefore, it is important to provide additional and appropriate instruction as early as possible to students that are experiencing difficulty with basic handwriting skills.
Recently there has been much discussion about the potential demise of handwriting instruction in schools, with proponents of both sides of the argument focusing on theoretical, practical, budgetary, or other factors. The increased introduction of technology into schools, including everything from smart boards to tablet and laptop computers, tends to focus thought on teaching keyboarding rather than writing by hand on paper.
Keyboarding can be an option for some. However, it is important to take into account that keyboarding does not have the same positive correlation with development of compositional fluency that writing by hand does. For this reason, along with other significant factors such as fostering the brain development that occurs through practicing handwriting at an early age, educators and policy makers should take care to retain handwriting instruction into curricula for early education. Extra focus should also be applied to students who are struggling with handwriting skills.
Handwriting is a complex skill that requires the integration of many different components. Developing good handwriting relies on sound foundations in sensory processing and postural skills. For my next blog, I will discuss these foundational areas upon which developing good handwriting skills depends.
“Explicit supplemental instruction that helps young children write letters accurately and quickly can increase the probability that they will become skilled writers…such instruction was a better predictor of children’s success than student or family variables or even the teachers’ sense of efficacy or their approach to writing.”
Quote Taken from:
Steve Graham, Karen R. Harris, and Barbara Fink, Is Handwriting Causally Related to Learning to Write? Treatment of Handwriting Problems in Beginning Writers. (2000) Journal of Educational Psychology 92(4), 620-633.