I remember back to my old primary school days when we used to receive pen licences that motivated us to maintain our beautiful handwriting. Today, handwriting is redundant amongst our 21st century learners. Keyboards and touch screens are replacing our fine motor skills.
My Grade 2s submitted their first writing task today on their fresh new writing journals with the good old dotted third. After observing the quality of their handwriting, majority of them were unfamiliar with the function of the dotted third. I had one or two kids who knew how to use them and they were coincidentally my stronger kids in reading and writing.
In our school, students have access to one-on-one iPad and learning apps are predominantly used. Comparing Grade 2s in my current class to those from two years ago in my old placement school, my current munchkins’ handwriting are less developed. Grade 2s in my first placement school were exposed to dedicated 30 minute handwriting sessions once or twice a week where they practiced cursives with quiet meditation music in the background. We are discouraged from holding explicit handwriting sessions in my current school.
Article in The Age recently published a piece about Finland phasing out handwriting classes in favour of keyboard skills: “A recognition that this generation will never write a letter, a birthday card or love letter.” Finland justified their decision by acknowledging the rise of digital age transforming our mode of communication.
Here are the two sides to the debate as always:
- One side argues handwriting is no longer valued in the job market because it currently favours efficiency: easier, faster and instantaneous.
- Handwriting conservationists, on the other hand, proved its neurological and psychological benefits.
In fact, handwriting enhances brain activation which helps stimulate the learning process. Research encourages cursives in particular to improve students’ “motor and visual skills, eye-to-hand co-ordination, spatial awareness, hand and finger dexterity, cognitive function and brain development… the physical act of handwriting also facilitates the retention of information and the flow of ideas”. Times magazine also mentioned a research in their article showing that “kids who learn cursive rather than simply manuscript writing score better on reading and spelling tests,” as “linked up cursive forces writers to think of words as wholes instead of parts”.
Handwriting taught me patience and care. It poured sincerity and soul into my messages conveyed. I still find handwritten cards and letters much more endearing: full of personality and human touch. Despite my boyfriend and I being one Watsapp away, we made a choice to exchange handwritten letters to preserve our sweet unrest from The Austenian period.
A leading teacher from Melbourne expressed, “I think it teaches mindfulness. It helps people connect to their bodies, it helps people pay attention and it helps people concentrate”.
Could handwriting become our new mindfulness colouring books?