In the age of technology, is it still necessary to teach handwriting in schools? The past few years have shown us most communication and work can be done digitally, and with the absence of standards for handwriting, is it necessary? The short answer is yes. Handwriting is a complex skill that engages cognitive, perceptual, and motor skills simultaneously and is directly associated with the development of literacy skills.
Gripping a pencil, moving it across the paper, first scribbling, then forming letters, develops fine motor skills. Using a keyboard develops different cognitive processes than those associated with using pencil and paper. Therefore, learning keyboarding before handwriting may reduce the ability of children to recognize letters which can impact overall reading ability. The development of fine motor skills is associated with academic success in reading and math.
Forming letters activates pathways to the brain that support strong reading skills and letter naming recognition. As children form letters, they are also learning the letter sound. Along with handwriting, spelling embraces many foundational literacy skills, including the ability to perceive the whole word in its individual parts, auditory perception of letter sounds, auditory memory, and decoding skills. Together, handwriting and spelling are important foundational literacy skills.
Studies have shown that direct explicit instruction is needed for teaching handwriting, yet it doesn’t require a large investment of time and resources, and it can be incorporated throughout the curriculum. Whether your district has adopted the D’Nealian, Zaner-Bloser, or Handwriting Without Tears method, one thing is clear, direct instruction before practice is important. Building the background of how the letter is formed makes handwriting practice more meaningful and effective.
Explicit handwriting instruction can be integrated with any core instructional program. Experts recommend that handwriting instruction be focused, short, and practiced at regular daily intervals with emphasis on correct letter formation. Handwriting is then practiced and applied throughout the day as part of the core instruction. Students practice handwriting as they write about their reading, prepare notes for presentations, and develop essays.
Follett is a valued curriculum partner to K-12 districts. Through our partnerships with more than 6,000 publishers, we have many resources to support teachers and students in handwriting instruction and practice. Handwriting Without Tears series materials are available through Follett and address direct, guided, and independent instruction. Follett also has several student workbooks and teacher resources for D’Nealian and Zaner-Bloser handwriting. We carry alphabet wall cards and desk strips along with handwriting practice paper.
While we live in a digital world, the importance of handwriting instruction can’t be underestimated. Handwriting promotes literacy learning and the development of fine motor skills, which impact reading achievement. With a nominal investment in resources and time, handwriting instruction can supplement any core program. As your curriculum partner, Follett provides resources to support direct instruction, guided practice, and independent practice of handwriting.
Sarah has been at Follett since 2011 as a Classroom Specialist and most recently Manager of Follett Classroom Libraries. Prior to Follett, she was a master’s level educator teaching grades ranging from PreK through Grade 7. She has a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education Grades K-9 certificate with Middle School endorsements in science, social studies, and language arts, and is a certified Grades K-4 reading teacher with a Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction. She lives in Crystal Lake, Illinois, with her two children, Anthony and Valerie, and their rescue dog, Luna.
Lori is a master’s level educator with ten years of classroom experience, primarily teaching Grade 3. Most recently, she taught for six years at an International Baccalaureate school where she served on the IB reauthorization team, ELA pilot team, and technology committee. Lori also presented at the 2021 and 2022 IB Global Conferences. When she’s not working, she enjoys crafting and spending time with her family. Lori lives in South Central Pennsylvania with her husband, three children, and two dogs.
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