Linda Spencer, MS, CGA

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Research Indicates Why It Is Important For Kids To Learn How To Write In Cursive

Posted on June 13, 2014 at 11:21 AM Comments comments (59)
Thanks to the discovery of neuroplasticity we now know that groups of neurons in the brain create new connections and pathways among themselves every time we acquire a new skill. Before we discard cursive handwriting as no longer necessary we need to examine what research is indicating regarding cursive and the affect it has on the brain. 

Dr. Frank R. Wilson, a leading neurologist, published a remarkable book which was nominated for a Pulitzer prize, The Hand: How its Use Shapes the Brain, Language and Human Culture (New York: Pantheon Books, 1998) He describes in detail the pivotal role of hand movements in particular in the development of thinking and language capacities, and in developing deep feelings of confidence and interest in the world-all-together, “the essential prerequisites for the emergence of the capable and caring individual.”  He explains that although the repetitive drills that are necessary for cursive handwriting lessons seem outdated, such physical instruction will help students to succeed. He says you can’t separate what’s in the mind from what’s in the body and that teachers should not try to “educate the mind by itself or much of the knowledge will be poorly processed and inadequately learned.”          

  Karen Harman-James,  assistant professor psychology and neuroscience at Indiana University conducted research using handwriting and keyboarding and MRI scans of children’s brains.  Her research which was conducted in 2012 revealed that in  the children who had practiced  printing by hand, the neural activity was far more enhanced and “adult like” than in those who had simply looked at the letter. She said that, “It seems that there is something really important about manually manipulating and drawing out two dimensional things we see all the time.”  

Virginia Berninger, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle asserts that handwriting has a value beyond its basic utilitarian one. She says the physical process of making letters by hand more powerfully embeds written-language- making skills in children’s brains than pressing keys does. 

R. Shadmehr and H. Holcomb or John Hopkins University published a study in Science Magazine showing that their subject’s brains actually changed in reaction to physical instruction such as cursive handwriting lessons.  The researchers provided PET scans as evidence of these changes in brain structure.  Further, they also demonstrated that these changes resulted in “an almost immediate improvement in fluency”, which led to later development of neural pathways.  As a result of practicing motor skills, the researchers found that knowledge becomes more stable.    

I have not found any research on how keyboarding affects the brain but it is equally important to understand it's affect on the brain and the learning process. Especially if it is to be the basic form of future writing.

If anyone knows of such research please provide the information to this post.

An interesting observation about writing in longhand

Posted on July 12, 2013 at 12:18 PM Comments comments (57)
This is an interesting article about writing in longhand posted by a professional writer.

Why is Printing Replacing Cursive Writing?

Posted on June 17, 2013 at 11:48 AM Comments comments (33)
There are many people who can not write in cursive today as well as many who can not read cursive.  There are a myriad of reasons why this is so. Perhaps the biggest reason is because very little time is spent teaching cursive handwriting anymore.  Some teachers do not know how to write in cursive because it is not taught as a part of the schooling for elementary educators.  Does it matter?There is a lot of controversy about the importance of learning to write in cursive.  Some people think it is outdated and unnecessary.  Others think it is still relevant and important to education.  For certain it should not be dropped from elementary curriculum without knowing what, if any, impact it has on the learner. To know how learning to write in cursive and learning to only print or text effects the brain and thus the learning process we turn to the experts, in neuroscience.  There are many neuroscience research studies demonstrating how the act of learning to write in cursive enhances the learning process itself.  You can find a wealth of information on this subject by simply entering learning to write in cursive and what neuroscience studies have to say about how it effects the brain.
A couple of places to start are:

What Learning Cursive Does for Your Brain, published on March 14, 2013 by William . Kiemm a professor of Neuroscience at Texas A&M University, published in Memory Medic

Printing, cursive, keyboarding: What's the difference when it comes to learning?
a study by Indiana University neuroscientist Karin Harman James written by Tracy James and published in IU Home pages

Handwriting in the 21st Century/ an Educational Summit 

I look forward to your questions and comments on the value of learning to write in cursive.