Whether your school uses Dolch, Fry, or another list of words, your students will spend part of their day studying sight words. Sight word knowledge impacts students’ reading achievement.
Recent research has shown the importance of handwriting. The process of writing engages parts of the brain which enhances memorization. This is true for all ages which is why college students are encouraged to take notes by hand rather than typing them on their laptop.
Tracing vs. Writing
Should students trace letters? Tracing letters provides some benefit such as providing a correct model for letter formation. Tracing is good activity when handwriting is the goal. It does not maximize students’ learning potential when reading. Students need to write the letters in order to stimulate the different parts of the brain.
Is Handwriting Important?
When I began teaching, handwriting was taught as a teacher directed lesson each day. This was back in the days of the ball and stick method. We did not have a longer school day. To utilize our time effectively, we incorporated other skills with our handwriting lesson. We integrated sight words and facts from our current science or social studies unit into the sentences students were copying.
Why was so much time devoted to handwriting if students already know how to write letters? Conservatively speaking, a 15 minute per day was 75 minutes per week spent on handwriting instruction is a statement of the importance our school placed on this topic. We noticed that students as a whole scored lower in the written part of the standardized test. The test scores of bright, capable students did not reflected their knowledge. Over the course of the school year, teachers became familiar with their students’ handwriting. This familiarity with students’ handwriting became like a shorthand. Teachers and parents could read the students’ handwriting, but it was difficult for an outsider to read some of the letters.
The person grading the written portion of the standardized test had a limited time to grade each test. The grader default was NOT to “assume the best” when he or she could not read the students’ handwriting.
Once parents understood that handwriting could impact test scores, they were supportive, which meant neater homework.
Keep in mind this was in the early 1990’s when children spent more time writing. Ironically, many schools quit teaching handwriting at the time when children began spending more time on technology and less on writing.
You can read more about how writing enhances learning at the following links:
- Handwriting in the Early Childhood
- A Learning Secret: Don’t Take Notes on a Laptop
- Should Kids Learn Handwriting? An IU Scientist Thinks So
Integration is key to this! You can easily set up a handwriting center which also includes writing with a simple activity like the picture above or the picture at the top of the post. Students practice tracing letters which is important for learning correct letter formation. Plus, students will write the sight words and sentences.
Make your center more engaging by letting your students use a variety of school supplies such as colored pencil, thin markers, or gel pens.