Suggestion handwriting should not be taught “horrifies” expert

A literacy specialist says she has been “horrified” to hear that some school teachers have been told by advisers that children no longer need to be taught handwriting.

Ros Lugg, a remedial literacy specialist and assessor, says any claims that handwriting is less important in the digital era than earlier times are simply wrong.

“Quite apart from the fact that it’s still handy to be able to write your shopping list on a piece of paper when your battery goes flat, there’s loads of research about the developmental importance of handwriting.”

Ms Lugg says that international research findings highlight a very strong link between handwriting skills and the ability to express ideas. There is also growing evidence that comprehension is better when notes are hand-written rather than digitally produced.

As the developer of the StepsWeb online literacy programme, she is well aware of the potential of technology, but believes there has to be balance and that teachers should not be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

She says a recurring theme from teachers attending her courses, particularly the older, more experienced teachers, is that children are not taught the basics any more.

“When I heard that an advisor had told teachers they should not teach handwriting as it is no longer needed, I was horrified. You can teach a dyslexic learner how to spell a word on a screen and then find they can’t write it on a piece of paper.

 “There seems to be quite a lot of concern that we’re moving away from teaching core skills, in favour of the more flashy, modern approach, which seems to focus almost exclusively on using technology and the creative aspects.

“While I think that most of these teachers recognise that modern approaches and technology offer some exciting possibilities, they are concerned that children don’t get taught basic skills any more. They are seeing children who are doing wonderful things on Minecraft and other programmes, but can’t write a sentence on a piece of paper.”

Ms Lugg says with children using computer devices from a younger age, they can easily become accustomed to not using handwriting. She says parents, not just school teachers, need to be aware that handwriting is still a key element of a child’s development.

Anna Clements

Anna Clements is the print and digital editor for School News, New Zealand. She has a background in newspapers, magazines and television, and spent six years working as an editorial advisor to a group ECE centres.

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