Why writing by hand could make you smarter

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Article via Psychology Today.

Looking for help with handwriting? Our after school group starts March 27.

Have you ever tried to read your physician’s prescriptions? Children increasingly print their writing because they don’t know cursive or theirs is simply unreadable. I have a middle-school grandson who has trouble reading his own cursive. Grandparents may find that their grandchildren can’t even read the notes they send. Our new U.S. Secretary of the Treasury can’t (or won’t) write his own name on the new money being printed.

When we adults went to school, one of the first things we learned was how to write the alphabet, in caps and lower case, and then to hand-write words, sentences, paragraphs, and essays. Some of us were lucky enough to have penmanship class where we learned how to make our writing pretty and readable. Today, keyboarding is in. The Common Core Standards no longer require elementary students to learn cursive, and some schools are dropping the teaching of cursive entirely, dismissing it as an “ancient skill.”[1]

The primary schools that teach handwriting spend only just over an hour a week, according to Zaner-Bloser Inc., one of the nation’s largest handwriting-curriculum publishers. Cursive is not generally taught after the third grade (my penmanship class was in the 7th grade; maybe its just coincidence, but the 7th grade was when I was magically transformed from a poor student into an exceptional student).

Yet scientists are discovering that learning cursive is an important tool for cognitive development, particularly in training the brain to learn “functional specialization”[2]—that is, the capacity for optimal efficiency. In the case of learning cursive writing, the brain develops functional specialization that integrates both sensation, movement control, and thinking. Brain imaging studies reveal that multiple areas of brain become co-activated during the learning of cursive writing of pseudo-letters, as opposed to typing or just visual practice.

There is a spill-over benefit for thinking skills used in reading and writing. To write legible cursive, fine motor control is needed over the fingers. You have to pay attention and think about what and how you are doing it. You have to practice. Brain imaging studies show that cursive activates areas of the brain that do not participate in keyboarding.

Much of the benefit of handwriting in general comes simply from the self-generated mechanics of drawing letters. In one Indiana University study,[3] researchers conducted brain scans on pre-literate 5-year olds before and after receiving different letter-learning instruction. In children who had practiced self-generated printing by hand, the neural activity was far more enhanced and “adult-like” than in those who had simply looked at letters. The brain’s “reading circuit” of linked regions that are activated during reading was activated during hand writing, but not during typing. This lab has also demonstrated that writing letters in meaningful context, as opposed to just writing them as drawing objects, produced much more robust activation of many areas in both hemispheres.

In learning to write by hand, even if it is just printing, the brain must:

  • Locate each stroke relative to other strokes.
  • Learn and remember appropriate size, slant of global form, and feature detail characteristic of each letter.
  • Develop categorization skills.

Cursive writing, compared to printing, should be even more beneficial because the movement tasks are more demanding, the letters are less stereotypical, and the visual recognition requirements create a broader repertoire of letter representation. Cursive is also faster and more likely to engage students by providing a better sense of personal style and ownership.

Other research highlights the hand’s unique relationship with the brain when it comes to composing thoughts and ideas. Virginia Berninger, a professor at the University of Washington, reported her study of children in grades two, four and six that revealed they wrote more words, faster, and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand versus with a keyboard.[4]

There is a whole field of research known as “haptics,” which includes the interactions of touch, hand movements, and brain function.[5] Cursive writing helps train the brain to integrate visual, and tactile information, and fine motor dexterity. School systems, driven by ill-informed ideologues and federal mandate, are becoming obsessed with testing knowledge at the expense of training kids to develop better capacity for acquiring knowledge.

The benefits to brain development are similar to what you get with learning to play a musical instrument. Not everybody can afford music lessons, but everybody has access to pencil and paper. Not everybody can afford a computer for their kids—but maybe such kids are not as deprived as we would think.

Take heart: Some schools celebrated National Handwriting Day on January 23. Cursive is not dead yet. We need to insist that it be maintained in our schools.

About the Author: William Klemm, Ph.D., is a senior professor of Neuroscience at Texas A&M University. He is the author of 20 books, including: The Learning Skills Cycle. A Way to Rethink Educational Reform (Rowman & Littlefield); Making a Scientific Case for Conscious Agency and Free Will (Academic Press); Mental Biology(Prometheus); Core Ideas in Neuroscience (Smashwords.com); Memory Power 101(Skyhorse); and Improve Your Memory for a Healthy Brain (Smashwords.com).

After school Handwriting Group starts March 27

Our Handwriting Group will help kids ages 5-10 develop skills for efficient and neat handwriting. Areas worked on include correct pencil grip, letter formation, letter reversals, spacing of letters and good body posture. Since handwriting is a complex skill, a multi-faceted approach is used. Fine motor and visual motor activities along with sensory motor activities are used to develop the proprioceptive, vestibular, tactile and visual systems. We use the Handwriting Without Tears workbooks. This group starts Wednesday, March 27 and runs weekly until May 1st, 5pm-6pm. The 6 session program is $330. R

Handwriting & Yoga Summer Camp 2018

We will be holding our Handwriting & Yoga Summer Camp the week of June 11th. This camp is ideal for kids between the ages of 5 and 10 who need to improve their writing legibility, have issues with letter reversals, spacing, and correct letter formation. Led by an occupational therapist, our campers will undertake activities designed to improve their gross and fine motor skills and body awareness.  The yoga aspect will give kids the skills they need to improve their attention and learn self-relaxation techniques for stressful situations.

Camp cost is $400. Siblings get a $20 discount.

Daily Schedule:

8:45 Drop off
9:00 Sensory Motor Activities
9:45 Snack (bring from home)
10:00 Fine Motor & Visual Motor
10:15 Handwriting Activities
10:50 Break
11:00 Yoga
12:00 Pick Up

To register, please fill out our registration form.

Handwriting & Yoga Summer Camps June 2016

Solaris Camp - Gish Pics

Our Handwriting and Yoga Camps are ideal for kids between the ages of 5-10 who need improvement in writing legibility, are having issues with letter reversals and need to work on developing cursive skills. We will be using the Handwriting Without Tears curriculum which was developed by occupational therapists. To lay the foundation for good handwriting, each day we will incorporate sensory motor activities that work on the proprioceptive, vestibular, tactile and visual systems as well as activities to improve fine motor and visual motor skills. The daily yoga practice will help your child to improve body awareness, attention, self-regulatory abilities and learn relaxation techniques (important for reducing stress and anxiety). Your child will get the most benefit if they sign up for at least 2 weeks. Camps will be led by occupational therapist Yulene Broussard and yoga instructor Annette Raj, and facilitated by volunteers. Each camp is limited to 6-8 kids.

Camp dates:

  1. June 6th – June 10th
  2. June 13th – June 17th
  3. June 20th – June 24th
  4. June 27th – July 1st

Daily schedule:

8:45 Drop off

9:00 Sensory Motor Activities

9:45 Snack (bring from home)

10:00 Fine Motor & Visual Motor

10:15 Handwriting Activities

10:50 Break

11:00 Yoga

12:00 Pick Up

Prerequisites

Your child must be able to do the following:

  • Sit at a table and attend to a task
  • Can write and identify all letters of the alphabet
  • Be able to participate in age appropriate classes
  • Follow activities without direct one on one supervision

 Cost

$400 per week.

$20 off each week if all 4 weeks are booked.

$20 sibling discount.

$100 non-refundable deposit for each camp week is required to secure a place. The balance is due by May 2nd.

Please fill out the registration form to register. Solaris Camps June 2016