Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Shouldn’t my child learn handwriting in school?
Children are being asked to perform tasks at younger ages than ever before. Many children are now starting kindergarten without the underlying motor skills needed for successful handwriting. They are being asked to do things before they are developmentally ready. A study from Vanderbilt University shows that only 12% of teachers have taken a course in how to teach handwriting.
When should my child start learning handwriting?
Handwriting instruction can begin with pre-writing activities the year before the child enters Kindergarten, usually around the age of 4. These activities pave the way for handwriting proficiency. Multi-sensory goal directed play is the best way that young children learn. Children who feel competent with handwriting perform better at school. Handwriting and reading are interrelated skills. Ease in handwriting directly correlates to ease in reading.
My child is writing their name, doesn’t that mean she knows how to write?
When a child is taught how to write their name before being taught the fundamentals of writing (the alphabet), the skill is acquired from rote teaching and not from true learning. A skill attained through rote teaching is called a splinter skill. A splinter skill is not transferred to other skills and does not facilitate further learning. A splinter skill is not a true form of learning. Rather it is only a result of focused training; certain building blocks of the skill (of writing) may not be in place. As a result, the child may form bad habits such as holding the pencil incorrectly and forming letters incorrectly. These habits can become ingrained and be carried with them to and throughout their schooling.
How do I know if my child needs coaching?
If your child "hates" to write, complains about his or her hand hurting when writing, has sloppy handwriting, a weak or incorrect grasp, or letter formation, spacing, or alignment difficulties, he or she may benefit from handwriting coaching.
Is handwriting really important in the age of computers?
- Handwriting is a big component of a child’s schoolwork It is required for completing worksheets, taking tests, note taking, recording in student planners, and standardized tests. Even if computers are beign used in school’s or for final papers, a student will still be writing during the day.
- When school budgets include a computer at every student’s desk, writing demands may be reduced.
- In the lower grades, children spend a large part of the day handwriting. According to a study published in 1992 (McHale & Cermak), 85% of all fine motor time in second-, fourth-, and sixth-grade classrooms was spent on paper and pencil activities. Poor handwriting can affect a child’s performance in every subject including math.
- Research has shown that children with good penmanship get higher scores regardless of content.
- In 2005, a handwritten essay was added to the SAT. SAT essays written neatly and/or written in cursive were given a higher average score.
What is the benefit to handwriting when we can use a computer?
Recently there have been studies that handwriting can make you smarter. Numerous studies and anecdotal evidence reveal that handwriting is much more than a manual way of setting letters and numbers on paper. It's a life skill that affects how we function in the world. When teaching writing, one is teaching a way of thinking and building a pattern for learning. This skill then becomes a foundation for spelling, vocabulary, writing composition, math, and even reasoning. Occupational therapist and early education specialist Emily Knapton points out that reading and writing happen simultaneously. "Practice with writing supports emerging and struggling readers. That's because children encode first before they can decode. So writing can lead to better decoding."
Judy Caprara, a learning specialist at Berkeley, who works with struggling students to boost their academics made a case for handwriting in The Tampa Tribune. "Most students still opt to take their notes by hand because they say it's easier to retain information. That connection of hand motion and the brain is crucial in the learning process."
-Resource, Your Brain on Handwriting: Pathways to Learning & Creativity, Frog Jump Gazette, May 2011
At what age should my child have a hand dominance? How can I help my child if they still switch hands during writing, coloring and cutting?
At age 4, a child should be showing a preference toward using a specific hand for activities (such as feeding or coloring). If a task is new or difficult they may switch hands because as a way of “feeling” their way through the task, to notice that one hand really does feel better when it is being used. However, by age 5 handedness is well established. When a child begins writing instruction, it is important for them to be using the preferred hand consistently. Writing is a kinesthetic and motor task that requires practice and repetition. By switching hands, it slows the acquisition of a consistent motor plan/sequence.
How do I know which hand is my child’s dominant hand?
When giving your child items to use such as silverware, crayons, pencil, scissors, toothbrush/paste, balls, etc place them at their middle onto the table instead of to one specific hand. Take note which hand your usually takes the item with or uses to complete the task. Also, pay attention to how adept they are with each hand. Does your child usually start out with one hand but switch as she tires? Ask your child which hand feels better with activities and why.