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Handwriting in the Middle Years: A Strategy for Academic & Professional Success

The Latest Research in Handwriting for Middle Childhood and Adolescence

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Producing Agile Writers

In the course of a day, an elementary or adolescent student may take notes on a lecture, complete written examinations, text on a smartphone, and write their papers and homework at home. By providing handwriting practice and instruction, we produce students whose ideas flow from their hands freely.

Intuitively, teachers understand that handwriting practice reflects not only their students’ motor skills but also their cognitive development. Who hasn’t witnessed a student’s frustration that his pencil can’t keep up with his story ideas? Or a student whose writing skills are undermined by illegible handwriting?

Thanks to recent, sophisticated research, we now know that learning to form letters by hand is a critical foundation for students’ literacy and academic success. Yet in the Common Core State Standard for English Language Arts, handwriting standards do not appear after Grade 1 and cursive does not appear as a subject of instruction at all. The decision to ignore this foundational literacy skill isn’t evidence based. Research results support handwriting instruction starting in the early grades with printing, transitioning to cursive in the second or third grade, and continuing checkups and practice through the middle school years.

The goal of handwriting instruction is not rote practice or busywork for students. Its goal is to produce agile writers: students who can fluently compose in manuscript and cursive for their schoolwork and beyond.

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