The importance of handwriting and spelling by @TeacherToolkit

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Handwriting and spelling go hand in hand. 

This post answers the 37th question from my TeacherToolkit Thinking page of Thunks.

Thunk 37: The importance of handwriting and spelling by Julie P.

Background:

In May 2014, I wrote about The Importance of Handwriting. As a result, I co-created PenATweet day which was a massive success. These articles have received an over-whelming response from all over the world. Subsequently, the author of this particular blog, a teacher with over thirty years’ teaching experience has developed a handwriting system and has asked me to share her story.

The body:

The body needs to feel a movement of spelling and of writing at the same time. The body needs to understand the left-to-right movement of writing in English. The body needs to feel direction from left-to-right to understand spelling and handwriting – dyslexic and children with developmental co-ordination disorder (formerly dyspraxia) – need to feel the direction of movement even more.

 Photo Credit: Peter Van Lancker via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Peter Van Lancker via Compfight cc

Learning a letter sound such as e (as in hen) then to learn that ee (as in tree) makes a different sound, is a valuable spelling skill for the majority of children; so why not learn to write it too? In Spain there is a national handwriting scheme. In France there is a national handwriting scheme. In the USA, and in Argentina, they have a national handwriting scheme.  All teachers and all schools use the same style. Parents can obtain the books for extra practice.

Handwriting Style:

So, why do we have over 20 different handwriting styles in this country?

Many UK schools don’t even have one way of writing between the teachers who work in schools. In Spain, France, USA and Argentina, reading books are often in the same font so the children learn to read, write and spell in the same style until they have over-learned the muscle movement and motor-planning, so that it becomes automatic for writing anything you put in front of a student.

Do you expect your students to write something every day? Then what have you done to help them master handwriting?… or do you think you do not have time to give them that skill? Would you give them a sharp blade and not teach them how to use it correctly? Why give them a pen or pencil and not show them how to use it properly?

Cognition:

The average Year 6 child should be able to write 450 words in one hour. In order to achieve that, they really need to join up! Recent research shows that if something is handwritten, the brain will remember it more efficiently than if typed. GCSEs are still 2-hour papers which are handwritten by the majority! A-Levels are still 3-hour papers which are handwritten by the majority!

 Photo Credit: SiSter PhotograPher via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: SiSter PhotograPher via Compfight cc

Right-handed writers go from left to right and away from their body. Left-handed writers have to go from left to right by coming across their body and this leads to spelling reversals and mirror writing. Left–handed children are disadvantaged by milliseconds if a worksheet or exam paper is set out for a right-handed pupil. If you put words or numbers on the left-hand side of a column then a left-hander cannot see what to answer or copy. (SATs papers are guilty of this.)

When a child comes to school, between Year 2 to Year 6, with printed handwriting, I would expect that they would be shown how to write in a joined-up script. When a pupil comes in to Year 7 or Year 8, I would expect that the writing is neat and well-formed. If it is untidy or illegible, I would hope that you would ask for advice. If a child comes in to the school and has beautifully joined-up, legible writing, I would not expect to tamper with it in any way, particularly if they have come from overseas.

At no point in a student’s life at school, should there be distress about handwriting. If you have a child who is really struggling to write, then please talk about it with someone who knows, really knows, about handwriting. It may be that the child you are thinking about has co-ordination problems.

In June 2013, I met with two representatives for the Department of Education (the author of the new Literacy strategy and the Head of English) who felt it would be doctrination to set one style of writing in the UK. I have emailed an MP about his hot topic of left-handed issues; he replied that he will be ‘pursuing ministers ruthlessly on this and will keep [your] very kind offer in mind to take it up if ever the opportunity presents itself.’

Our students across the land are not being helped unless there is an expert near you who can advise on how to give them the tools to perform.

Longevity:

I know that adults say they use capitals more easily. I know there are technological people who ask what the problem is, as handwriting will be phased out one day. Yes, I have no doubt about either, but this is not going to happen for at least another ten or twenty years at the earliest, so let’s help the children we have, before we give up on future generations who won’t ever have the benefit of anything handwritten, nor of the entwined learning.

What do you think?

Written by Julie P. and edited and posted by @TeacherToolkit.

Biography:

The author, Julie P, is a teacher with over thirty years’ teaching experience. She works with 4 -18 year-olds, dyslexic and gifted pupils amongst her various classes, with a great passion for developing written work both in content and appearance. She has developed a handwriting system using her sense of humour, artistic and practical nature, but above all her keen empathy for how children and young people think, feel and remember! She has shared her knowledge and findings with many other teachers, schools and parents.

Get in touch, via the comments feed below.

PenATweet:

Take a look at these great samples of handwriting from teachers for PenATweet day on 1st July 2014.

Pen A Tweet

Related:

 

 

@TeacherToolkit

In 2010, Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit from a simple Twitter account through which he rapidly became the 'most followed teacher on social media in the UK'. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of being most influential in the field of education. He remains the only classroom teacher to feature to this day ... Sharing resources and ideas online as @TeacherToolkit, he has built this website (c2008) which has been described as one of the 'most influential blogs on education in the UK', winning the UK Blog Awards (2018). Read more...

10 thoughts on “The importance of handwriting and spelling by @TeacherToolkit

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  • 6th July 2014 at 12:28 pm
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    Where do I find out more about your handwriting system? I am an early years teacher and I am very keen to improve handwriting with my students as I am the one to introduce it as they learn phonics.

    Reply
  • 6th July 2014 at 3:32 pm
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    Holding a pen/pencil and forming letters and words on paper will also encourage creativity. Computers are amazing and fascinating machines but they certainly have a lot to answer for. Long live the pencil!

    Reply
  • 8th July 2014 at 9:06 pm
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    I think the link between physical activity, fine and gross motor control development and physical practice until automaticity is achieved is rather neglected – then when sustained writing is required, in an exam or test perhaps, the child is disadvantaged.

    Reply
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  • 19th July 2014 at 6:19 am
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    My handwriting is horrible. Very messy. No rhythm. Spacing problems.
    Not able to write a sentence on unlined paper without diagonal slant.

    I am 45 years old and right handed.

    I decided to do a little research on the subject. And then experimented with different letter formation directions.

    I discovered that when I form letters from the bottom up or right to left or clockwise depending on letter. My words come out perfect. Without even thinking about it. Words are evenly and correctly space. Same slant going on. Perfectly round O circles.

    I couldn’t believe it. Writing this way felt natural. Effortless.

    Also. If I start with last letter of word and go from right to left across paper. Even better. Don’t even have to think about keeping up a consistent writing style. I just naturally have one.

    I love to write on paper now. No longer feels like a chore.

    Thank you

    Reply
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  • 20th June 2015 at 7:48 am
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    Handwriting is an issue I need to address at my school. What schemes, styles do you suggest? I heard cursive helps SEND children as one doesn’t have to remember where to start each letter. Would love to hear from you. Rachel

    Reply

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