The Write Way – the importance of handwriting in a digital age

Children still have to write in exams so their handwriting must be legible and fast
Children still have to write in exams so their handwriting must be legible and fast

In the Digital Age of computers, keyboards, tablets and smartphones there is still a daily need to write by hand with a pen or pencil and that includes children.

In schools all over the country, right now, children still have to write things down, to take notes in class or answer questions in exams which means every child must be able to write well.  Take secondary school pupil Adam, he was struggling to read his own handwriting and so was his maths teacher. How can teachers or examiners mark a child’s work if they cannot read it?  How can a child correct work they can’t read?  How can Adam achieve his maths potential if his teacher can’t make out that a ‘9’ is indeed a ‘9’?

School children who can write well are able to access the entire education curriculum more efficiently than those who cannot.  Here’s why: handwriting is a movement skill which, like reading and spelling, affects written communication across the curriculum. When handwriting becomes an automatic process it frees pupils to focus on the content of the writing and not the act.

Whilst computers are barred from the exam room, children need to be able to write fluently and quickly if they are to pass those exams AND achieve their potential in life[1].  Researchers have shown that children are able to write more words, faster and express more ideas when writing essays by hand versus by typing on a keyboard[2] and that cursive writing helps boost brain development in the same way as learning to play a musical instrument.  Increasing numbers of study papers keep telling us how important handwriting is to a child’s personal and academic development which could explain why the Department of Education’s expectations for handwriting standards and abilities in school have increased this academic year.

Handwriting is a learned skill that is most effectively taught directly by demonstration, explanation and practice.  The most effective way of teaching handwriting in schools is using the right method in combination with the right tools which is why my company, Start-Bee has joined forces with stationery manufacturer BiC.

If you’re not familiar with Start-Bee, Start-Bee is a proven method for teaching handwriting that bridges the gap between a how-to-handwrite book and a teacher trained in handwriting.  By combining the right tools for handwriting with e-learning videos and practical exercises, my Start-Bee handwriting scheme for schools can take a complete handwriting beginner from making marks to writing their name (to UK’s Ofsted standard for Foundation Stage learners) within seven weeks; that’s every child – including dyslexic and SEN learners.  You’ll be more familiar with BiC UK.  As a world leading stationery manufacturer, BiC UK has spent 60 years producing high-quality, affordable writing tools which, when used correctly, make handwriting effortless and enjoyable to do.  Put us together and the right method and the right tools makes handwriting easy, effortless and enjoyable to learn.

A Write Good Gift – Primary school’s handwriting lessons are getting a boost from BiC and Start-Bee
A Write Good Gift – Primary school’s handwriting lessons are getting a boost from BiC and Start-Bee

This year, I have created a product specifically aimed at teaching classroom beginners how to write.  This includes a method for assessing an individual, class and year groups handwriting capability.  Developed primarily for Year 1 pupils, the Basics Bootcamp handwriting intervention programme can teach any primary school pupil who is struggling with handwriting how to correct old habits and write legibly, fluently and with ease.  However, before I launch it into the market place at this year’s Education Show, I’m currently refining the product by trialling it in two schools – The Leys Primary & Nursery School, Stevenage and Downhall Primary in Rayleigh, Essex.  These trials have been sponsored by BiC UK and over the next few weeks I’ll be working closely with each school to ensure the Year 1 product works seamlessly and effectively within a school’s existing environment.

If you want to hear how the trials got on, come and say hello to me and the teachers involved at the Birmingham NEC’s Education Show.  We’ll be at BiC’s stand F28 (opposite the entrance) on 17th, 18th and 19th March.  Do let me know if you’re planning on coming.  Type or to write – which is better?  Watch this video

BiC School Banner 1

[1] James, Karin H. an Atwood, Thea P. (2009).The role of sensorimotor learning in the perception of letter-like forms: Tracking the causes of neural specialization for letters. Cognitive Neuropsychology.26 (1), 91-100.

[2] Berninger, V. “Evidence-Based, Developmentally Appropriate Writing Skills K–5: Teaching the Orthographic Loop of Working Memory to Write Letters So Developing Writers Can Spell Words and Express Ideas.” Presented at Handwriting in the 21st Century?: An Educational Summit, Washington, D.C., January 23, 2012.