You’ve heard the argument: Handwriting is over—it’s keyboarding skills all the way. Not so fast. Of course our students need strong keyboarding and tech skills, but handwriting has benefits and creates brain connections that can’t be easily replaced. Here are seven reasons why handwriting matters (plus a cool contest to encourage your writers!). Pass it on!
1. Good handwriting skills lead to stronger academic performance.
Research has proven that there is a positive correlation between better handwriting skills and increased academic performance in reading and writing. A study published in the Journal of Early Childhood Education and Development looked at 1,000 students when they were in pre-K and then later in second grade. They found that pre-K students with good fine motor skills—from handwriting instruction and practice—outperform their peers on both reading and math by second grade.
2. Using pen and paper boosts memory.
You probably know this one is true just from your own personal experience. When we write something down, it tends to resonate better in our brains. Researchers have confirmed this time and time again. “Longhand note takers engage in more cognitive processing than laptop note takers, thus selecting more important information to include in their notes, which enables them to study this content more efficiently,” says a study published in Psychological Science. So whether kids are in third grade or 10th grade, taking the time to write something down in a neat and tidy way can help them remember it!
3. Handwritten correspondence is more meaningful.
You know those handmade cards, poems and other mementos you’re planning to make in your classroom this year? If your students have good handwriting, these gifts will be even more special and meaningful. Plus, it’s always nice when parents can actually read the card their dear child wrote!
4. Writing is part of our daily lives.
Even though we live in a digital world, most of us still write in some way every single day. We keep notes in meetings, we jot down reminders to ourselves and we leave messages for others. As a teacher, you know how the little words of encouragement you put on top of a student’s paper can be very personal and meaningful.
5. Good handwriting helps kids focus.
Researchers have stated time and time again that you can’t underestimate the value of those “other” skills—that is, the ones that don’t show up on a formal test. Fine motor skills (especially through handwriting) are definitely included in those skills, as cited in a 2012 study in the journal Child Development. They write, “handwriting supports executive function by engaging a child’s attention and developing her ability to focus.”
6. The value of handwriting goes beyond elementary school.
It’s not just about dotting those i vowels and crossing all those t consonants in grade school. Carol Christensen is a cognitive psychologist, and she has studied the impact of handwriting for years. She says that fluency in handwriting is strongly related to the quality and quantity of students’ complete written text as late as grade 8.
7. Your students could win big in the Zaner-Bloser National Handwriting Contest!
The National Handwriting Contest is an excellent excuse to get your students to brush up on their handwriting, both print and cursive. There’s even a category for special needs students. The 2016 contest closed in January, 2016, but build it into your plans it for next year. The most recent contest awards $1,000 and trophies to the top students. Plus, each teacher of a Grand National Grade-Level Champion is awarded a trip to the International Literacy Association Conference. The top winners’ schools also receives $1,000 worth of educational materials.