I love this article on FastCompany, which discusses how writing by hand can differ from tapping away at a keyboard or smartphone. I know I love my iPhone, and couldn’t get by without it, but there’s really something about how the brain works when you write something down.
I remember a parent of a student once coming to talk to me about how her son, in Grade 7, was unable to read or write cursive, and explaining to her that in Grade 7, our curriculum focuses more on the ideas and language of writing, rather than the physical writing process. While this emphasis still remains, on the ideas and creativity, the physical writing process may also have a lot to do with the idea process.
“Berninger told the Wall Street Journal in Oct. 2010 that as your hand executes each stroke of each letter, it activates a much larger portion of the brain’s thinking, language, and “working memory” regions than typing, which whisks your attention along at a more letters-and-words pace.”
Maybe it’s not so important the attainment of perfect handwriting, but the stimulation of the brain as you form the letters and think about the space your letters and words are taking up.
Sometimes my most active students, the students whose minds seem to have a hard time focusing on one thing doodle or draw while I’m teaching or when they’re stuck on a tough problem. Their doodling may only be very, very tangentially related, but sometimes enough of their brain may be stimulated, and they just might figure something out.
All my 12- and 13- year old students need to fill out their agendas at the end of the day, listing homework and reminders, and while many of them may never even glance at it at home, maybe the simple act of having written it down at the end of a long day is enough to get them to finish their math questions. Sometimes.