Handwriting is Not a Lost Art


Any school that cares about academic achievement should care about handwriting.

With the introduction of technology in the classroom has come a raging debate over whether spending time on penmanship—especially cursive penmanship—is still a good use of students’ and teachers’ time. I get it. In an age where almost every student has access to a device (and spends more time on that device than we’d like to admit), focusing on penmanship can seem downright antiquated. But while pen and paper lack the cultural pizzazz of a new educational app, the research is clear. Writing by hand beats typing. Hands down.

Research tells us that these two things make a big difference in the classroom:

First, students who take notes by hand have greater understanding of what they hear and better retention than students who take notes on computers do. In a landmark study entitled “The Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard,” researchers Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer found that students who type their notes tend to transcribe what they are hearing and only process it on a shallow level. Student who take notes by hand actually digest the content and reframe it in their own words—a process that increases both understanding and recall.

Second, students with strong penmanship write better compositions. This point is most crucial for the elementary grades. Even with the presence of technology, the fact remains that student in elementary school will necessarily do a lot of their initial work with pen and paper. These are also the years when their brains are developing the skills to be good writers. All students start their journey as writers in the knowledge-telling phase. That is, a thought comes to mind, and they write it down. Another thought comes to mind, and they write that one down as well. In order for students to progress as writers, they need to move past this stage as soon as possible. Students with poor handwriting get caught in this knowledge-telling process. Because they have to concentrate so hard on the actual act of writing down words, they have little brain power to devote to planning and organizing their writing. (See “A Meta-Analysis of the Effectiveness of Teaching Handwriting,” Graham & Santangelo, 2012.)

Students with strong, fluid handwriting—what we at CursiveLogic call “automatic” handwriting—aren’t thinking about writing words, they are thinking about the words themselves. When handwriting is automatic, students’ minds are free to compose rather than merely to write.

But what about cursive? Are there any additional benefits to going beyond manuscript? I’ll leave the research on how cursive and print impact the brain differently to another day and just make one point. I’ve found pitting cursive against print to be a red herring. Schools that value handwriting teach cursive. The choice to eliminate cursive is almost always a choice to prioritize keyboarding over handwriting.

University-Model® school students can benefit from CursiveLogic‘s ten-week program that can transform a poor writer into a strong one by achieving automatic handwriting.

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