Home Written work Writing letters by hand is the best way to learn to read

Writing letters by hand is the best way to learn to read


Although handwriting is increasingly overshadowed by the ease of computers, a new study reveals that we shouldn’t be so quick to throw away pencils and paper: Handwriting helps people learn certain skills. surprisingly faster and much better skills than learning the same material by typing or watching videos.

“The question for parents and educators is why our children should spend time writing by hand,” says lead author Brenda Rapp, professor of cognitive science at Johns Hopkins University. “Obviously, you will become a better writer if you practice it. But since people write less by hand, then maybe we care? The real question is, are there other benefits of handwriting related to reading and comprehension? We find that there certainly are. “

The work appears in the newspaper Psychological sciences.

Rapp and lead author Robert wiley, a former Johns Hopkins University doctoral student who is now a professor at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, conducted an experiment in which 42 people learned the Arabic alphabet, divided into three groups of learners: writers, typists and video watchers.


Everyone learned the letters one at a time by watching videos of their writing and hearing names and sounds. After being introduced to each letter, the three groups tried to learn what they had just seen and heard in different ways. The video group had a flash of a letter on the screen and had to say if it was the same letter they had just seen. Typists should find the letter on the keyboard. The writers had to copy the letter with pen and paper.

In the end, after no less than six sessions, everyone could recognize the letters and made few mistakes in the tests. But the writing group reached this skill level faster than the other groups, a few of them in just two sessions.

Next, the researchers wanted to determine to what extent, if at all, the groups could generalize this new knowledge. In other words, they could all recognize letters, but could someone really use them like a pro, writing with them, using them to spell new words, and using them to read unfamiliar words?

The writing group was better — decisively — at all of these things.

“The main lesson was that while they were all good at recognizing letters, the writing training was the best at all other measures. And it took them less time to get there,” Wiley said.

The writing group ended up with more skills needed for expert adult level reading and spelling. Wiley and Rapp say it’s because handwriting reinforces visual and auditory lessons. The advantage has nothing to do with calligraphy – is that the simple act of writing by hand provides a perceptual-motor experience that unifies what is learned about letters (their shapes, sounds and patterns. engines), which in turn creates richer knowledge and more comprehensive and genuine learning, the team says.

“With writing, you get a stronger representation in your mind that allows you to scaffold yourself towards those other types of tasks that don’t involve handwriting in any way,” Wiley said.

Although the study participants are adults, Wiley and Rapp expect to see the same results in children. The findings have implications for classrooms, where pencils and notebooks have been replaced in recent years by tablets and laptops, and the teaching of cursive writing is all but extinct.

The results also suggest that adults trying to learn a language with a different alphabet should supplement what they learn through apps or tapes with good old-fashioned paperwork.

Wiley, for her part, makes sure the kids in her life are supplied with writing supplies.

“I have three nieces and a nephew right now and my siblings are asking me if we should buy them pencils and pens? I say yes, just let them play with the letters and start writing and writing them. write all the time. I bought them all by finger. paint for Christmas and told them to make letters. “

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