Pen and paper still needed in early learning

Young primary school boy handwriting

New research from Murdoch University has shown that children’s handwriting skills can predict their reading and writing abilities later in life.

Dr Anabela Malpique and Associate Professor Deborah Pino Pasternak conducted a study assessing children’s abilities to write quickly and effortlessly from pre-primary to year one.

Dr Malpique, who led the reseach said there is substantial evidence signalling traditional handwriting should not be replaced by computer only experiences in schools.

Our findings are well-aligned with other neuroimaging studies that support the need for handwriting in developing effective reading and writing abilities.

“In a time where handwriting by paper and pen is being replaced by digital devices, we find this move is counterproductive.”

The Murdoch researcher said the results indicated the amount of handwriting activities in the classroom impacts a child’s handwriting performance, which was especially clear as the time spent in classrooms teaching handwriting varied considerably between and within schools.
Within pre-primary, this time period ranged from 20 minutes to five hours and in year one ranged from 30 minutes to two hours.

“Our research showed taking the time to develop the muscle memory in handwriting during pre-primary, has a positive effect on how quickly children memorise and replicate the way letters are formed in year one.

“This is important because it frees up cognitive space so children can focus on translating their ideas into writing, not having to think about the action of handwriting itself.

"Research shows that poor writing quality in early primary can explain the writing difficulties students have later in upper primary and high school.

“There is a very real connection between writing and reading in early development,” said Dr Malpique.

Dr Malpique’s research supports the developmental theory of writing in which handwriting is a foundational skill for effective writing development.

“While further validation is necessary, these findings help provide additional evidence to understand writing development in the context of early education. And why we shouldn’t get rid of it entirely and replaced by digital devices.”
Posted on:

3 Mar 2020

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