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Some research about handwriting...

Posted: Fri Aug 30, 2013 7:12 pm
by debbie
In my personal version of the Synthetic Phonics Teaching Principles, I include 'handwriting' as the third 'core skill'. The government in England does not mention handwriting as a core skill or part of the 'core criteria' for teaching systematic synthetic phonics. I think this is remiss.

The 'handwriting' element of the teaching is tremendously important and it is not uncommon for poor handwriting to be noticeable in otherwise very good primary schools. It is not infrequent that the teachers and assistants themselves may use very idiosyncratic pencil-holds and handwriting rather than the tripod-grip and the 'school' handwriting styles for marking and writing on the board.

“Writing is an immensely important and equally complex and sophisticated human skill commonly ascribed a fundamental role in children’s cognitive and language development, and a milestone on the path to literacy. Nevertheless, compared to the vast field of reading research, there has been less scientific attention devoted to the act and skill of writing. … A large body of research in neuroscience, biopsychology and evolutionary biology demonstrates that our use of hands for purposive manipulation of tools plays a constitutive role in learning and cognitive development, and may even be a significant building block in language development. Furthermore, brain imaging studies (using fMRI, i.e., functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) show that the specific hand movements involved in handwriting support the visual recognition of letters. Considering the fact that children today or in the near future may learn to write on the computer before they master the skill of handwriting, such findings are increasingly important. In this article we present evidence from experiments in neuroscience and experimental psychology that show how the bodily, sensorimotor – e.g., haptic – dimension might be a defining feature of not only the skill of writing but may in fact be an intrinsic factor contributing to low-level reading skills (e.g., letter recognition) as well, and we discuss what a shift from handwriting to keyboard writing might entail in this regard (p.386).

Mangen, A., & and Jean-Luc Velay, J-L. ((2010). Digitizing literacy: Reflections on the haptics of writing, Advances in Haptics, In Mehrdad Hosseini Zadeh (Ed.), InTech. DOI: 10.5772/8710. Retrieved from: ... of-writing


“Writing helps in many ways. First the physical act of forming the letters forces the child to look closely at the features that make one letter different from another...Second, writing letters (left to right) trains the ability to read left to right. Third, saying each sound as the letter is written helps anchor the sound-to-letter connection in the memory” (p.239).

McGuinness, D. (2004). Growing a reader from birth: Your child's path from language to literacy. New York: W.W. Norton and Co.


Thus, replacing handwriting by typing during learning might have an impact on the cerebral representation of letters and thus on letter memorization. In two behavioral studies, Longcamp et al. investigated the handwriting/typing distinction, one in pre-readers (Longcamp, Zerbato-Poudou et al., 2005b) and one in adults (Longcamp, Boucard, Gilhodes, & Velay, 2006). Both studies confirmed that letters or characters learned through typing were subsequently recognized less accurately than letters or characters written by hand. In a subsequent study (Longcamp et al., 2008), fMRI data showed that processing the orientation of handwritten and typed characters did not rely on the same brain areas. Greater activity related to handwriting learning was observed in several brain regions known to be involved in the execution, imagery, and observation of actions, in particular, the left Broca’s area and bilateral inferior parietal lobules. Writing movements may thus contribute to memorizing the shape and/or orientation of characters. However, this advantage of learning by handwriting versus typewriting was not always observed when words were considered instead of letters. In one study (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1990), children spelled words which were learned by writing them by hand better than those learned by typing them on a computer.

Mangen, A., & and Jean-Luc Velay, J-L. ((2010). Digitizing literacy: Reflections on the haptics of writing, Advances in Haptics, In Mehrdad Hosseini Zadeh (Ed.), InTech. DOI: 10.5772/8710. Retrieved from: ... of-writing

Posted: Thu May 29, 2014 10:19 am
by debbie
This is a short article in The Telegraph:

Write it don't type it if you want knowledge to stick ... stick.html
Write it don't type it if you want knowledge to stick

Children and students who write by hand learn better than those who type, a study shows.

By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent8:00PM GMT 20 Jan 20114

The process of putting pen to paper and reading from a book seems to imprint knowledge in the brain in a better way than using a keyboard and computer screen.

Reading and writing involves a number of senses and when writing by hand our brain receives feedback from our muscles and finger tips, they say.

These kinds of feedback are stronger than those we receive when touching and typing on a keyboard and strengthens the learning mechanism, according to the findings published in the journal Advances in Haptics.

It also takes more mental effort and time to write by hand and so this is thought to also help imprint memories.