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Is handwriting falling off a cliff with the use of laptops and tablets?

Updated: Aug 8, 2022

I remember being asked by one parent why we bother to teach handwriting. His point being: won't we all be using laptops and computers at some point, so isn't handwriting really redundant?

It's a definite yes and no. The one big advantage of teaching handwriting is the muscle memory it creates to support spelling. So with this in mind, it's not about insisting on "beautiful handwriting" (what's the point?) - it's about using handwriiting to support spelling to teach literacy in a wider sense.

But not all learners have excellent motor skills, especially if they are on the dyspraxia spectrum. Then it's well worth considering accommodations based on how the individual learner can most successfully show what they know. Recording audio files and completeley missing out the handwriting and typing might be the best way for them to express themselves in the most effective way.

The literacy lessons that come as part of our Tutor Like a Pro! membership for private tutors to tutor online or face-to-face have a focus on handwriting. Exactly for the reason that if children have the motorskills, automatic letter formation supports spelling.

Here's a sample of how two of the slides for online tutoring will look.

The handwriting slide is deliberately off-white to avoid the glare that some students with literacy challenges report when they have to work on bright white paper.

Online tutoring students will watch their tutor model letter formation and they will copy. And the paper version will be available as a free download in the homework hub (coming soon at point of writing this!) for extra practice at home or in face-to-face tutoring sessions.

There will also be a complete spelling routine as part of the tutoring lessons.

This means letter formation gets revised to support spelling.

And because it is never meaningful to learn spelling words without knowing what the word really means, the spelling routines are always supported by a visual. This is especially valuable for EAL/ESOL/ESL leaners - those learners who speak English as a second or foreign language.

That off-white colour is again deliberate to reduce any potential visual strain.

Here's a look at just one part of the free homework that will be available for extra practice for each of the sounds.

Moving from left to write, there's a clear distinction betwen the name of the letter and its sound. It's important that children learn the difference between the name of the letter and its sound because they need to know letter names for spelling out "tricky" words that can't be phonetically sounded out.

There's a lot of multisensory learning going on here. There's finger tracing, writing and - importantly - saying/speaking out the sound - one of the easist and most valuable ways of making phonics and literacy learning multisensory. It's also very valuable for children to be able to "track" a letter in early literacy learning, and that's what's the last part does. The child has to hold the letter shape in their visual memory and identify it from all the other letters. And because the keywords in literacy learning are structured and cumulative, they aren't meeting any letters the don't already know in that last section so they get some vaulable incidental reading practice as well.

Here's the article that sparked this blog.

If you have any questions or comments, drop them in the box below. And if you like the idea of structured, cumulative phonics and literacy lessons for private tutoring to either tutor online or face to face - including free homework - you can get on the waitilist here to join the Tutor Like a Pro! membership with 90 ready-to-teach lessons included.

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