Healthcare Technology Featured Article

June 01, 2023

How Handwriting Affects the Ability to Learn

Handwriting is a core skill that influences students' reading, writing, and language use skills. Handwriting requires fine motor skills, visual and motor memory skills, spatial awareness, and eye-tracking abilities. Today we will talk about the main aspects of what skills writing helps develop and how these skills affect academic success.

We also want to make a disclaimer and say that in any doing is important to balance and lack overload. Suppose you are a student and, at the moment, you are overloaded or have difficulties completing any written assignments. In that case, you can easily ask for help from various writing services. And now, at Paperhelp, you can get a promo code and order your paper even cheaper. Remember, mental health is always more important.

Visual Perception

The visual perceptual skills needed to understand what is seen are essential for learning. These skills include visual closure, spatial awareness, and orthographic memory (remembering letters and their shapes when written correctly). These skills can be strengthened through handwriting practice.

Visual perception starts in the retina and is processed in areas V1 and the extra-striate cortex. Here, activity patterns are generated by neurons that act as tuned filters for properties such as contour orientation. The result is a representation of the structure of objects and scenes that is stored in specialized temporal lobe regions for recognition.

Studies show that the brain's neural networks engage differently when we write by hand versus typing or nonmotor experiences. We have more contact with different brain parts, which is beneficial for learning.

Motor Skills

Handwriting requires fine motor skills, including hand stability, correct pencil grip, and eye-hand coordination. Poor fine motor skills can make it hard to keep up with classroom writing demands or complete exams resulting in frustration, decreased motivation, and even a dislike of the task.

In addition, fine motor skills can impact a child's orthographic coding abilities, remembering what each letter looks like and how it is formed. This is essential for ensuring that notes are correctly assembled and joined together. Children with poor orthographic coding can forget the shape of a letter or word and write it differently each time, causing letter reversals, misspellings, and legibility issues.

Spatial perceptual skills are also crucial for good handwriting, enabling kids to size and space their work on the page, left to right. Children with poor spatial perceptual skills often have messy-looking handwriting due to haphazard spacing and sizing of letters, words, and shapes. To help develop these skills, encourage kids to play directional games such as 'Twister' or 'Simon Says,' puzzles that require a sense of direction like jigsaws and patterns, or construction activities where they follow instructions, such as building LEGO models or beads.

Research suggests that consistent handwriting practice leads to better learning than non-handwriting practice, with benefits that generalize to untrained tasks. This may result from more attention or greater focus on the task and strengthening of both motor and amodal symbolic letter representations (see figure below).

Language Skill

Oral language skills—sound recognition, phonological awareness, vocabulary, spelling, and grammar—are essential for children's literacy development and impact every area of school life. Children with good oral language skills can communicate ideas and thoughts effectively, follow instructions from educators, write in the classroom, and participate in discussions with peers.

For students to use their handwriting to express themselves on paper, they need a variety of abilities and strengths. They must be able to separate the forefinger and thumb and control their pencil grip (Fine Motor Skills), have good body strength and agility (Gross Motor Skills), understand direction and movement (Spatial Awareness & Motor Memory), and remember letter shapes to join them together correctly (Visual Memory).

Children also need to be able to recognize letters and numbers, and they need to be able to write in cursive. This can be difficult for children who struggle with poor motor memory and those whose letters are not forming correctly and consistently.

Research shows that students who practice handwriting develop stronger and more durable neuronal patterns in the brain than those who do not, and this holds across all subject areas—even in science, math, reading, and social studies. So, it's important to balance keyboarding and handwriting in today's classrooms and for teachers to continue providing handwriting activities throughout childhood so that children can build these essential learning skills.


In addition to the physical skills involved in handwriting, children need a good working memory to understand letter formations and other aspects of writing. This differs from motor memory, which is the process of skill acquisition through practice. Examples include riding a bike, playing piano, tying shoes, typing, and writing letters and numbers. The benefit of motor memory is that once a child masters the skill, they don't have to think about it much.

Working memory is needed to remember things while focusing on other tasks, such as writing or solving a problem. It's also essential for interpreting and analyzing written language, such as poems and novels. Children with poor working memory may have trouble reading, writing, or communicating their thoughts to others.

Several strategies for improving working memory include spacing and interleaving (practicing different types of tasks simultaneously). Cognitive psychologists Robert and Elizabeth Bjork have called them "desirable difficulties" because they make learning more efficient in the long run.

The right balance of digital instruction and handwriting in school is vital for students' success. Research suggests that cursive writing helps establish the neuronal patterns beneficial for learning, so it's essential to include this activity in the classroom.

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