Reading & Literacy

Penmanship Problems Hurt Quality Of Student Writing, Study Suggests

By Debra Viadero — February 28, 2001 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A recent study suggests that a little handwriting instruction can go a long way in staving off writing problems.

The report, by researchers at the University of Maryland College Park is based on a study of 38 Washington-area 1st graders who were identified as having handwriting problems. Half the children in the group received regular, 15- minute handwriting lessons on top of their normal classwork. The other half got similar doses of phonics instruction.

After 27 such lessons, all of the children were evaluated on the fluency and quality of their writing. While both groups produced stories of similar quality, the researchers found, the pupils given handwriting lessons produced grammatical sentences much more fluidly than their counterparts in the control group. And the gains occurred among youngsters with disabilities, as well as those without them.

All of the children in the handwriting group maintained their edge—and even widened it— when the researchers tested them again six months later.

“That’s often the real rub—that what you get initially will wash out,” said Steve Graham, the primary author on the study, which was published in the December issue of Educational Psychology. His research partners were Karen R. Harris and Barbara Fink.

The findings are among a small but growing number of studies suggesting that handwriting may play a bigger role in the writing process than is commonly believed. “If you have to stop and think about how to form a particular letter, that increases the likelihood that you’re going to lose something you might hold in your working memory,” said Mr. Graham, a professor of education. “What you might lose are the ideas in your working memory about what you’re going to say next.”

Yet, Mr. Graham pointed out, current classroom trends work against giving students explicit, systematic lessons in letter formation. Instead, teachers tend to reserve those lessons for small groups of children having trouble with specific letters. “We need to take a more proactive approach,” Mr. Graham said.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the February 28, 2001 edition of Education Week as Penmanship Problems Hurt Quality Of Student Writing, Study Suggests

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Infrastructure Webinar
A New Era In Connected Learning: Security, Accessibility and Affordability for a Future-Ready Classroom
Learn about Windows 11 SE and Surface Laptop SE. Enable students to unlock learning and develop new skills.
Content provided by Microsoft Surface
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum Making Technology Work Better in Schools
Join experts for a look at the steps schools are taking (or should take) to improve the use of technology in schools.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Budget & Finance Webinar
The ABCs of ESSER: How to Make the Most of Relief Funds Before They Expire
Join a diverse group of K-12 experts to learn how to leverage federal funds before they expire and improve student learning environments.
Content provided by Johnson Controls

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Reading & Literacy Students Write Their Way to Hope, Courage: Read Their Poems
Five poems from students in Los Angeles and Miami, written to make sense of difficult times.
2 min read
Conceptual image of poetry.
Laura Baker/Education Week (Images: Digital VisionVectors, E+, Pateresca/iStock)
Reading & Literacy ‘It Can Save Lives’: Students Testify to the Power of Poetry
For National Poetry Month, see how teachers and students are exploring the art form.
5 min read
In a Wednesday, April 19, 2017 photo, Eric Charles, left, smiles after performing his poem, "Goodbye to High School Football," for classmates at Sharpstown High School in Houston. Charles compared the rush of performing to the emotions he felt during a football game. Charles had played football since young age, and he planned to play at an elite level in college. However, after injuring his left knee a second time, he found he enjoyed poetry and writing. "That's the glory in me getting hurt," he said.
Eric Charles, left, smiles after performing his poem, "Goodbye to High School Football" for classmates at Sharpstown High School in Houston in 2017. For some students and their teachers, studying and writing poetry has been transformative amid the losses of the pandemic and the wrenching national dialogue about racial justice.
Jon Shapley/Houston Chronicle via AP
Reading & Literacy What the 'Science of Reading' Should Look Like for English-Learners. It's Not Settled
ELLs need additional supports for, and bring different strengths to, early reading instruction, experts say.
10 min read
Sarah Mireles kneels down to work on reading skills with students at Maplewood Elementary in Greeley, Colo., in January of 2018.
Sarah Mireles kneels down to work with Abdigani Hussein, 10, left, and Muhammod Amanullah, 10, during class on at Maplewood Elementary in Greeley, Colo., on Jan. 30, 2018. (Joshua Polson/The Daily Tribune via AP)
Joshua Polson/The Daily Tribune via AP