Handwriting: Is Handwriting Dying Out? – Why Lack of Handwriting Could Cause Impulsive Behaviors and High Emotions in the Classroom
This article provides helpful information about why handwriting is important and how it could lead to learning problems in the classroom if it is removed from regular curriculum. Affiliate links are included for your convenience.
I’ve always been fascinated by old style handwriting. People practiced for hours on end to have that perfect tidy script. Tidy handwriting was a sign of being distinguished and well educated. Even as the ability to write became more commonplace, particularly formed letters were still highly stressed. But as typewriters, printing presses, computers, tablets and smart phones have moved on to the scene, handwriting has become more and more obsolete. Children don’t even write notes to their friends anymore. They slip out their phones and send a text. We don’t write letters to friends or family anymore, we email them. Even handwritten grocery lists are on the chopping block because there’s an app for just about everything.
So what does the death of handwriting have to do with learning? Well, with an increased reliance on computers, there’s been a decrease in time and concern spent on teaching handwriting. Kids are learning how to write still, but the neatness isn’t as stressed. Kids are sliding through writing letters in ways that will never lead to legibility and cursive is facing removal from the curriculum. So to start with, it’s changing the way we teach. But there’s a shift in learning from this with a much bigger and much worse outcome.
What Handwriting Does to the Brain
Despite the fact that handwriting seems like a means to an end, there is a lot more going on beneath the surface. It has an immense impact on the brain.
In our article on mixed dominance, we discussed the importance of lateralization in the brain. Lateralization happens when the brain divvies up the functions of the brain to either the right or the left side and then develops one side as dominant over the other (usually the left). The brain needs to develop a dominant side in order to continue properly through the stages of development. Well, surprise to us! Developing the fine motor skills required for handwriting plays a huge role in encouraging lateralization and overall brain development. According to Jeanette Farmer, “Neural activity, the primary means of transmitting information, develops the mind, and nothing other than playing a musical instrument, compares to the intense neural activity handwriting creates.” Handwriting isn’t just a motor skill. It requires the brain to process comprehension and language in sync with precise movements.
One major outcome of proper lateralization is an increase in impulse control. Impulsive behaviors originate in the right side of the brain. The left side of brain controls more rational logical lines of thinking. So when a dominant side of the brain is established and the two sides are communicating with one another properly, they can decide that impulsive thoughts are just that and aren’t good to follow through on.
One consequence of poor impulse control is an increase in emotionality. High emotionality is responsible for outbursts and meltdowns. Everyone experiences anger and frustration (functions of the right side of the brain), but most people have their brains organized well enough for there to be at least some intervention from the more logical left. This doesn’t mean our actions always make sense, but it tempers down full blown rage. This setup is also why toddlers are notorious for tantrums. The lateralization process hasn’t completed yet so the right brain has free reign to overreact.
Consequence to Learning
It’s not uncommon to find poor impulse control and emotional meltdowns coinciding with learning problems. Robert Slywester, professor emeritus of education, said, “Emotion drives attention, and attention drives learning, memory, behavior and just about everything else.”
Children with difficulty regulating their emotions are going to struggle curbing distaste for sitting in the classroom, anger when they are met with a challenge or facing a difference in opinion with a teacher or classmate. Impulse control also plays a large role in attention. Children who are not able to stymie the string of random urges that the right brain throws at them aren’t able to keep their attention on the lesson in class. They’re too busy touching their neighbors hair that’s poking up or taking a nearby crayon that doesn’t belong to them.
It’s easy to see these types of behaviors on the rise. Children are being diagnosed with ADHD and other similar conditions everywhere we look. Other factors play into this, but there is a definite correlation between the decrease in handwriting emphasis and an increase in attention and behavior problems. So no matter how much our technology takes over, handwriting still needs to be a focus.
To improve your child’s impulse control, emotional grounding, fine motor development and skills for reading and writing, we have developed an e-Handbook specifically geared to helping students in these areas. The Rewiring the Brian Handbook provides instructions and fun activities to help children build their cognitive development for higher learning.
Handwriting exercises can prep the brain for planning, reviewing, organizing, attending, expressing and speaking. Forming letters, words and sentences must eventually become automatic for children. If children cannot identify one letter to the next, they won’t be able to communicate their ideas or turn expressive language into well-written text.
Our e-Handbook provides parents, teachers, Occupational Therapists, Pediatric Therapists, and educators with several fun, playful learning activities to ignite learning and includes some of the following:
- Instruction to Rewiring the Brain
- How handwriting exercises benefit your child’s learning development
- Line exercises for letter development and recognition
- Mazes, dot to dots, tracing, coloring, hole punch activities and more
- Curves, boxes and shapes
- Fun fine motor activities you can try at home
The Rewiring the Brain Handbook contains 41 pages of fun activities that can easily be printed from your home computer. Activities should be done for at least 20 minutes per day. All activities require adult supervision in the beginning and can be used in conjunction with music therapy and gross motor development. To get your copy, click here.
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning disabilities achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs