How Handwriting Engages the Brain: When writing by hand (with pen on paper or finger on an ipad), you are using more muscles and more memory pathways than when typing or keyboarding. As I wrote last week, writing involves many different brain activities and brain regions. It involves memory (remembering letters, words, and ideas), attention (making sure you are writing what you want to write, in the right format, spelling and grammar), sequencing (making sure letter, words thoughts are expressed and written in the proper order), cognition (making sure you are addressing what you want to address, and generating and synthesizing original thoughts).
Writing by hand provides additional brain channels and associations that trigger memory and cognition. Picture a file cabinet with a lot of cross-filing! By hand writing, your brain is involving more centers and more skills. There are more ways your brain is recognizing, associating, processing and storing the information.
The good news:
- New software for touch screen devices enables old and young to practice handwriting on the screen. Hence practicing handwriting is a lot more fun.
- Lower Schools still focus on handwriting.
- Upper schools - I never thought I'd say this but there may be a silver lining to the SAT's as they require a handwritten essay. Many high schools and SAT tutoring services address this. Your child is practicing not only handwriting skills (so graders can actually decipher the gist of the essay), they are working on developing and maintaining multiple cognitive and memory pathways.
Boosting the skills, without the traditional drills:
- No matter how old your child is, provide handwriting opportunities. Creating/writing birthday, anniversary, thank you cards, invitations, are easy ways to do this. Your kids can draw, write, create messages, pop-up art while communicating a message.
- For middle and upper school kids - encourage taking/making study notes, summary sheets. The actual re-writing of the essential material is another way to involve and create memory and recall paths.
- Leave notes for each other at home. Have a message center -maybe the refrigerator, a box on the kitchen counter. Leave notes for the Tooth Fairy and Santa. Write chalk messages in your driveway.
- Get in the habit of making checklists. Write checklists for shopping, for remembering how to form an essay, for how to do long division, how to reboot the wireless router... (you get the idea).
- Create and write up favorite recipes.
- "WritePad" - a $3.99 application for the iPhone that accepts handwriting input with a finger or stylus and then converts it to text (for email, documents, or Twitter updates).
- "abc PocketPhonics" - a $1.99 app (again for the iPhone) that instructs kids how to draw letters with their fingers or stylus. Cheering pencils appear with correct movements.
Maybe you have other suggestions. I know we'd all like to read them, so please leave suggestions, further questions or comments!