by Anniel 6/16/14
Recent studies on brain development and learning show a strong correlation between writing by hand, first by printing and then in cursive, to order the brain for learning. This new knowledge shows how the Common Core approach is harmful to children, and reveals the willful adherence to that harm by Common Core proponents.
In the Common Core Curriculum rudimentary writing skills are taught only in kindergarten and first grades, sometimes only two hours a week are spent on writing. Thereafter the program calls for teaching proficiency in keyboard skills, with added reliance on spell check instead of spelling itself.
Some neuroscientists and psychologists say that there are strong links between handwriting and broader educational goals in brain development. If children are taught to write by pencil or pen on paper they learn to read and spell more fluently, they are better able to generate ideas and to retain information. Certain neural circuits are automatically activated by the motions required in writing, and learning is made easier.
When even The New York Times Science Section writes on the subject you know something big is happening.
New imaging studies show that there are three areas of the brain involved in processing writing. One area seems to deal mainly with printing, another with cursive and a third area generates ideas and memory between the two writing centers. Children who are taught how to read and write using tactile and freehand writing techniques not only learn efficiently, but can more easily overcome conditions like dyslexia. They also have more ordered and broader based thinking. Tests of sixth graders who have used multi sensory reading and writing show that hand writers are more imaginative, work more quickly, spell better and use better grammar. They also have larger vocabularies.
Keyboarding and tracing printed letters by hand don’t show the same effect on brain development as handwriting, which seems to strengthen the learning process in all areas tested. When writing by hand, tactile sensations and motor actions make brains work harder. We learn by doing. Some researchers believe that the very messiness and struggle of learning to write by hand helps speed brain development.
Neurologists check handwriting to diagnose various brain and central nervous system disorders. Some stroke victims may lose all of their hand writing abilities, or they may retain the ability to print but not use cursive, or vice versa. Occupational therapists can begin treatment by relying on what skills the patient has left and then working to restore more function.
Many years ago I had a teacher friend who worked with dyslexic students by using the Slingerland Handwriting method. I looked at their little promotional video online yesterday and saw that they still have groups of students following the teacher’s actions by writing in the air using large arm and hand movements. Slingerland, as I recall, relies on hand/body movement and tactile tracing of letters. The method also stresses forming strokes of the letters correctly. I once spent an entire afternoon and evening helping my friend cut out sandpaper letters and gluing them to poster board for her students to trace. We also labeled the correct order of the strokes. I hope there are durable preformed letters and other helps now, and the site does show an on-line store. This program is one source for homeschoolers.
In checking on-line I found there are several low cost apps available that mimic writing by hand. Most use a stylus while others use the index finger. One app for very young children sounded fun. When the child correctly traces a shape or letter he is rewarded when several brightly colored pencils, complete with eraser heads, come running out to cheer him on. He may think he has won a video game.
There are, surprise, school administrators and other experts who are highly critical of the new studies, especially among Common Core advocates. Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, and many governors are big proponents of Common Core. Their stand on this issue is only one reason I would not want Bush or Huckabee as a candidate for president. In their world the political always trumps what is really good for children.
Politics has no place in the education of our children.
What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades – NYTimes. nytimes.com
How Handwriting Boosts the Brain – WSJ. online.wsj.com
Better learning through handwriting – sciencedaily.com
Slingerland Institute of Literacy – slingerland.org
An excellent book on writing is Writing to Learn: How to Write and Think
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