Why handwriting training is worth the time & effort

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Digital writing continues to replace handwriting. For many children and adults, using a keyboard is less demanding and frustrating – and much quicker – than handwriting. But handwriting training appears to have many advantages for learning. 

Handwriting practice:

  1. results in better letter recognition and understanding, free letter and word writing, spelling accuracy, and word reading in preschoolers (compared with preschoolers trained to type);
  2. improves university students’ conceptual understanding of lectures (perhaps because typing often involves verbatim transcription, while handwriting notes requires the processing and rephrasing of information); and
  3. improves adults’ recall of new words.

Handwriting forces students to pay attention to what they are doing; and requires fine motor control.

Behavioural studies suggest that the learning advantage of handwriting over typing is due to motor-perception integration that occurs during handwriting. 

Brain imaging studies reveal that, compared with typing tasks, more of the brain is stimulated whenever handwriting movements are included, suggesting that:

  1. different underlying cognitive processes are involved in the two writing tasks; and
  2. handwriting movements benefit brain patterns related to learning and remembering.

As a matter of course:

  1. young school-age children should receive handwriting training at school; and
  2. older students should be encouraged to handwrite notes, e.g. for exams. 

There is some evidence that writing with a digital pen provides an advantage over typing for older students who know how to use a digital pen. 

None of this means that children shouldn’t also learn to type and use other digital technologies from a young age. Children with motor impairments that affect handwriting may still benefit from typing on digital devices. 

Principal source:

Van der Wheel, F.R. (Ruud) & Van der Meer, A.L.H. (2024). Handwriting but not typewriting leads to widespread brain connectivity: a high-density EEG study with implications for the classroom. Frontiers in Psychology, via Frontiers

Related reading:

Learning to handwrite fluently gives your child a big advantage

Apologies to Mrs Dixon: taking notes by hand is more effective than by laptop

Dysgraphia: significant difficulties with handwriting, spelling, and/or written expression. FAQs on signs, assessment, diagnosis, and support (including resources to help)

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Hi there, I’m David Kinnane.

Principal Speech Pathologist, Banter Speech & Language

Our talented team of certified practising speech pathologists provide unhurried, personalised and evidence-based speech pathology care to children and adults in the Inner West of Sydney and beyond, both in our clinic and via telehealth.

David Kinnane
Speech-Language Pathologist. Lawyer. Father. Reader. Writer. Speaker.

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