Monday, February 20, 2012

Is Handwriting Important?

Ah, technology!

It is changing the landscape of education.

Once upon a time handwriting was an art-form, taught and practiced in schools with a rigor that was borderline obsessive. Friends, of my generation, who attended Catholic schools tell tales of strict ruler-bearing nuns who would not hesitate to rap them on the knuckles for illegible penmanship.

Today we still teach children how to hold a pencil and form letters properly but we also teach them how to use a keyboard.  In fact, state standards require children to publish their writing using digital technology.  Less importance is placed upon handwriting - the days of the artistry of quill and ink are gone forever.

This shift has brought about the handwriting debate.  Should we even teach it anymore given the emphasis on and ease of computer-based technology?

Is handwriting important?

Several research studies suggest it is because the act of writing, forming letters with a pen rather than a keyboard, influences academic development and performance.

For young children it aids in letter recognition because it adds a kinesthetic component to an otherwise abstract concept and provides repeated opportunities to solidify learning.

In general, writing by hand has an impact on composition skills.  Some studies found a correlation between handwriting fluency and writing achievement and this influence continued on past the primary grades.

And poor handwriting, no matter how brilliant a paper may be, negatively influences the reader. Presentation is a huge part of the equation. Research also supports the conviction that children with better handwriting are also more adept at using proper punctuation, capitalization and grammar.

There may be a time when pen and paper are obsolete but for now I can attest to the fact that there is nothing like getting a handwritten note in the mail.  It beats an email or a text every time.


Barbara said...

We were just talking about this with friends yesterday. I remarked that I had recently received a hand-written (legible) TY note from their daughter, who is a physician. I went on to say that our son would probably not have gotten beyond 4th grade had he not been able to use a computer to express himself. He had huge motor skill issues, but so much to say. Children today could get by just learning how to print. That's all many of them ever do.

Ms.M said...

I love handwriting things, and I don't do it often enough anymore. I remember going to class, in collage, and just practicing my printing instead of paying attention to my teachers. By the time I graduated I had what my friends called "the best teacher writing/ printing". I am sad to say that it is not so great anymore, due to my constant typing.

I see the value in teaching keyboarding, but do still think that handwriting is so very important. I mean what happens if the power goes out and we want to leave a note? Ha!

Not sure if you watch Fringe but in the "alternate universe" they don't even know what a pen is. I think I would be sad without pens. :/

Ms. M
Ms.M's Blog
A Teacher's Plan

Steve Reed said...

I think it makes sense to teach handwriting, for all the reasons you listed. I can see how writing by hand helps kids learn the language, letter sounds, spelling and other skills. Besides, there are still likely to be times when a functioning keyboard is unavailable and a note would have to be written out.

Having said that, it's amazing how much my own handwriting has gone to hell, because I type everything now!

Pauline said...

The influence handwriting has on learning is enough to keep it in the curriculum; in addition. there is a certain artistic satisfaction to forming letters into words and words into paragraphs. The way words look on a page influences the reader, whether in type or in handwriting. It's a pity that someday handwriting might be a "lost art." It is a much more personal connection with writing than typing will ever be.

la bellina mammina said...

I miss handwritten notes and thank you cards so I still do write and send them as much as I can. I try to teach my boys to do the same things even though they complain their handwriting is not too pretty....

la bellina mammina said...

I miss handwritten notes and thank you cards so I still do write and send them as much as I can. I try to teach my boys to do the same things even though they complain their handwriting is not too pretty....

Gary said...

Barbara - I love handwritten notes and cards. Because they are more time consuming and involved than simply sending and email or text they are more treasured but also because they hold a bit of the person who sent them. Each person has a unique style of writing and it connects us. I know the handwriting of each of my close friends, and some of them do prefer to print but that is special too.

Ms. M. - About 5 years ago I gave a bit of attention to improving my handwriting to fit a more standardized version and was impressed with the results. That is until I send my sister a card (which I painstakingly wrote in pristing handwriting) and she said it was nice but wasn't me. She preferred my personal style of writing/forming letters. Typing is certainly faster and easier but I hope we never lose the personal touch.

Steve - Like you, my handwriting has gone to hell but I do still write in journals so that gives me an opportunity for extended time with a pen in my hand.

Pauline - Yes! Let's not diminish the impact of artistic expression with those loops and curly cues! I love it!

La Bellina - I love when you visit my dear! The kids in my class sometimes complain that their hands hurt from writing. I remember that feeling too. It comes from holding the pencil too tightly and not relaxing your grip. Do your boys ever complain about that? Anyway, practice makes perfect...

lacochran's evil twin said...

I know that I write very differently when it's with a keyboard or if it's long hand. I know it's unpopular, but I hope they don't stop teaching kids how to write and write properly, without a keyboard or spell-check. (Says the woman who has very sloppy penwomanship and loves her spell-check.)

Gary said...

Twin - I do love me my spell check!

Arielle Lee Bair said...

I agree. I love handwritten notes. I love getting REAL mail from people. It's so personal, touching, special. When I write, I prefer to type, simply because I'm a master typist and can type as fast as my mind thinks, whereas pen and paper just take too long for me these days. BUT I get more satisfaction from seeing my own scrawl on a page than my typed words. In short, handwriting is more HUMAN. :)

mouse (aka kimy) said...

i wish i could hand write a response. i'm with you i love receiving handwritten letters or notes.... handwriting has so much personality!

Gary said...

Arielle - Typing IS so much easier when the mind is racing and you have so many thoughts you want to get down. I find it much easier to write papers now than back in the olden days when I had to write things down on tablets and editing and revising was a difficult roadmap to follow (arrows everywhere, writing in the margins, a big mess)! But I do love writing by hand when I am writing in my journal--sitting on the beach or in the kitchen while dinner is cooking--or writing a letter. It really is more human. And that is important.

Kimy - And a little personality goes a long way!


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