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Who needs handwriting?

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Who needs handwriting?

Writing Time 9/3/17


Students live in a digital world. When everything from texting friends to writing essays can be done using a touchscreen or keyboard, the relevance of handwriting is in question. There’s no doubt that being able to jot down a legible To Do list at the start of the school day is handy, but research also suggests that there is a strong link between handwriting and the learning process.

Here are three ways handwriting can benefit students’ learning, with tips for incorporating handwriting practice into your weekly routine.

Develop motor control

Proficiency in fine motor skills in early childhood is fundamental to the development of students’ literacy and numeracy skills at school.1 Physical, mental and cognitive development are closely linked to fine motor development. Students who can perform everyday tasks – like forming letters – gain confidence and competency, making it easier to learn new skills. Conversely, students with poor fine motor skills struggle to put words on paper, making it difficult to process the information. Students can become frustrated, lose confidence, and be less likely to attempt to learn new skills.

Along with play-based activities such as using building blocks and playing ball games, handwriting is a great way to develop motor control. Perfecting a pencil grip and forming letters require precise hand–eye coordination and small muscle control in the hand and arm.

Try including these activities for developing fine motor skills into your handwriting lessons:

  • For the lower years, encourage finger tracing or sweeping movements in the air. Take advantage of the interactive See & Trace tool available at Writing Time Online and have students log in and practise tracing letters on their iPads.

  • For the upper years, students can use art to perfect their fine motor skills. The full page artwork activities in the Writing Time Student Practice Books include the slants, slopes and loops needed for letter formation. Students won’t even realise they’re practising handwriting as they create an art masterpiece.

Improve reading ability

One of the first steps to reading is recognising the letters and letter combinations that form words. Studies2 suggest that the act of handwriting (rather than typing) creates an imprint of each letter in a part of the brain that is related to visual recognition. This indicates that there is a strong link between handwriting and learning to read.

A great way to boost your students’ reading skills is to pair handwriting practice with spelling practice. Choose a handwriting program that allows students to practise writing sight words in isolation and in sentences. Why not check out the handwriting activities in the early years Writing Time Student Practice Books?

Boost memory and understanding

A study by psychological scientists Pam Mueller of Princeton University and Daniel Oppenheimer of UCLA33 looked at the effect on memory of taking notes by hand compared with typing notes. The results found that students who wrote notes with a pen and paper were much better at recalling facts and understanding the concepts than students who used a keyboard.

The link between handwriting, memory and understanding makes a strong case for giving students meaningful handwriting activities rather than the simple practice and drill of letter formation.

Australian Curriculum-themed activities in the upper years Writing Time Student Practice Books target history, maths, English or science and are a great way to engage students in handwriting practice. Ask students to label their life cycle diagram, complete the missing words in a poem or write key facts from a passage about tsunamis. To see which curriculum-themed activities are included in the Writing Time Student Practice Books, view the Year 4, Year 5 or Year 6 Australian Curriculum Links documents.

Tell us why you think students still need handwriting in a digital world. Share your ideas on social media and tag us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


  1. Australian Government 2008, Extract from Putting Children First, National Childcare Accreditation Council (NCAC), viewed 7 February 2017,’s_development_fine_motor_skills.pdf.
  2. Toft, T E, Sivertsen A (translation) 2012, ‘Better learning through handwriting’, University of Stavanger, viewed 7 February 2017,
  3. Herbert, W 2014, ‘Ink on Paper: Some Notes on Note Taking’, Association for Psychological Science, viewed 7 February 2017,
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