Handwriting: cover the page or colour it?

This blog is an edited version of an article that first appeared as an industry expert article on the Innovate My School  website (www.innovatemyschool.com)

The state of Indiana is the latest in a succession of US states which will not require its schoolchildren to learn joined-up, or cursive, writing. The move is part of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, which aims to ensure consistency in US education and makes no mention of handwriting.

Some critics say writing well is a vital skill for life and builds character, and that there is a link between kinaesthetic memory and spelling. Supporters of the move say that typing skills are more useful in the modern digital world, and that keyboarding develops kinaesthetic memory as well as cursive writing. But whatever is propounded by theorists, the fact is that handwriting remains an important medium for learning and communication, and is still going to be with us for quite a while.

I remember teaching a child in year 9 (we’ll call him Sammy) who was so ashamed of his handwriting that he covered everything he wrote (which, to be fair, was very little) with his left hand as he wrote it. He hated what he saw in his exercise books – so he put nothing into them, or, if he really couldn’t avoid having to do something, he made sure he could see as little as possible of what he wrote. His behaviour, not surprisingly, was a constant problem, and the last I heard of him, he had become yet another exclusion statistic.

An earlier blog  looked briefly at Visual Stress in the context of reading. The same applies to writing: a person with Visual Stress writing on white paper may well see the letters moving around as they write. The result can be seen in the example (below) on the left. When they come to read what they have written, it is moving around again…

Now look at the example on the right, which was written on yellow tinted paper. The image hasn’t uploaded very clearly, but the difference is still visible. I’ll see if I can improve it over the next couple of weeks. It’s the same child, the same words, the same lesson. All that has changed is the paper background.  And the presentation, and the legibility, and the spelling of six words, and the child’s self- esteem…

handwriting VS

A child at one school that uses our tinted exercise books said  “I love your green books. They stop the swirly things!”.  I wonder what would have become of Sammy’s life if he’d had tinted exercise books to work in? Maybe he too would have “loved” working on the pages, instead of covering up his scrawl.  Tinted exercise books cost more than plain white ones, but exclusion, and in many cases prison, costs a lot more still.

( The differences in spelling are as follows:

Line 2 (target word: years)  untinted: yers;    tinted: years
Line 3 (target word: Blackburn)   untinted: Blakbun;    tinted: Blackburn
Line 4 (target words: used  to)   untinted: yuo to ;    tinted: yousto
Line 5 + 6 (target word: called)   untinted: cold;    tinted: called
Line 6 + 7 (target word: brother’s)   untinted: burther;    tinted: bruthers
Line 7 (target word: kickboxing)   untinted: kicboxin;    tinted: kickboxing )

4 thoughts on “Handwriting: cover the page or colour it?

  1. What you posted made a great deal of sense.

    However, think on this, suppose you wrote a catchier title?
    I mean, I don’t wish to tell you how to run your website, but what if you added a post title that makes people desire more? I mean Handwriting: cover the page or colour it? | Crossbow Education’s Blog is a little
    vanilla. You could glance at Yahoo’s home page and note how they create post titles to grab viewers interested. You might try adding a video or a pic or two to grab people interested about what you’ve got to say.
    In my opinion, it could make your blog a little bit more interesting.

    • Thanks for your comment, Priscilla. I’l check out that Yahoo page – it’s usually just a question of time. Once I’ve got the content out there I tend to move onto the next thing! But maybe I should make more effort.

  2. Pingback: Handwriting and the electric window. | Crossbow Education's Blog

  3. Pingback: Is that what you mean by a word? Why we must assess weak readers for Visual Stress. | Crossbow Education's Blog

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