Handwriting is actually a much more important skill than we think. Besides having legible penmanship in school, new studies have shown how much of an impact handwriting is on learning. Handwriting is also improving how children express and understand their emotions. Most importantly, when you write longhand, as opposed to typing, you are comprehending and retaining much more information.
Choosing to write out ideas instead of typing them actually gives you more of an opportunity to express your ideas. As you form each letter and word you are consciously thinking about what you are saying and what you want to say, more so than if you are typing.
Writing out notes for class, or drafting a paper, or even jotting down thoughts with a pen and paper gives us more freedom to express our ideas, thoughts and feelings. We are not limited by formatted type or a computerized “page layout”. If we need to, we can create graphs and diagrams, we can draw arrows, and symbols, that can communicate what we are trying to express more than a word document or spread sheet can.
Moreover, children who are writing more than typing have a better understanding of their own thoughts and emotions. They are able to work through problems easier and their cognitive development is heightened. A recent study actually showed the increased brain activity of subjects who are writing out words longhand compared to subjects who are typing those same words on a computer.
When we form letters we are making both conscious and unconscious decisions. Consciously we processing information and writing it down. Unconsciously we are running through our head what shapes we want to create to make these letters to make these words. When we type we are using less brain function because we repeat the same motion for the keystrokes of every letter of every word.
For example, it takes more effort to write the word “keyboard” than to type it. When I write it out I have to form the lines and curves of the letters I want. I have to control my pen to stay on the line of the page and to provide enough spacing so the letters aren’t smashed together but not too much so that they don’t appear to be disjointed. Now, I have been writing for many years so it is not as much as of a conscious effort for me to write out this word as it would be for a child who is learning their letters. If I were to type “keyboard” though, all I would have to do is hit 8 letters on my keyboard and the computer does the rest of the thinking for me.
The same is true for a child who is still learning to express themselves. Yet it is much more detrimental to them. If they do not learn at a young age how to express themselves and how to fully engage their mind in their creative thinking and writing they will surely be at a disadvantage in school and life.
If a student is typing, the brain will be less engaged then if the student were writing. The student can more fully form their thoughts and have a better understanding of what they are writing when they take the extra time to “pen” the letters instead of type them. That extra time gives the student the opportunity to consider what they are writing, why they are writing that and if that is what they want to write.
The Limitation is the Advantage
The common objection that typing is faster, therefore better, is completely wrong. Typing is faster, yes, but that is why it is hurting brain development, retention of information, and cognitive processing. The average typing speed is a little over 40 words per minute. Yet, even going that quickly how much information does the person actually retain of what they were typing? According to the Princeton University study “students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand.” So while we can record more information via computer we are actually performing worse than if we took the time to write out the information.
As I mentioned earlier, when we write out our notes longhand we have to make many decisions. We have to decide what to write and how. A college student, for example, has to process information quicker and pay closer attention as they are given a limited amount of time to take notes. They are therefore processing the information as they are hearing it rather than typing up everything automatically.
The same is true for your student. The more efficient they are at writing out their notes the greater their comprehension is. As your child practices their handwriting and note taking skills they will be growing more confident in their classes. You will see soon that even their most difficult subject become easier because their understanding of the subject has grown. This growth is due in large part to your student handwriting their notes, making decisions on what needs to be written down and what they already know.