Cursive Handwriting’s Benefits
Emphasis on teaching cursive writing has been on the decline since the 1990s. At least 41 states do not require handwriting instruction. (USA Today, 8-12-13) Since the advent of Common Core, with its required keyboard instruction instead of handwriting, along with the increased pressure for teachers to teach what will be on national standardized tests, most expect writing to all but disappear from public school classrooms. Along with it goes an important process for children.
Handwriting engages the brain in important ways that selecting letters on a keyboard does not. Research continues to show that the hand-brain relationship is important for children and adults. The sequential strokes required to form letters and words activates regions of the brain involved in “thinking, language, and working memory.” “It seems there is something really important about manually manipulating and drawing out two-dimensional things we see all the time,” according to an Indiana University psychology and neuroscience researcher. Researchers used MRIs to see that “practice helps with learning letters and shapes, can improve idea composition and expression, and may aid fine motor-skill development.” (Wall Street Journal, 10-5-10)
According to Judy Willis, M.D., a neurologist and educator who is an authority on brain research and learning:
The neural activity or mental manipulation that transforms formulas, procedures, graphs, and statistical analyses into words represents the brain’s recognition of patterns. When this is also done in writing, the facts, procedures, and observations are processed symbolically in the writing process — giving the memory another storage modality and truly illuminating the patterns for the brain to follow as it adds new learning to existing concept networks. (Edutopia.org, 7-11-11)
The benefits of handwriting also help to alleviate emotional and environmental pressures in the classroom. “A multi-sensory handwriting program relaxes the emotional brain to reduce stress levels in students and improve learning,” according to experts. The author of Teaching with the Brain in Mind states:
Two generations ago, 95% of people in America used handwriting. Today, most use keyboarding. Yet the skills of handwriting remain important. They are memory, focus, prediction, attention, sequencing, estimation, patience and creativity.” (National Science & Math Initative.org, 10-25-13)