What’s the Verdict? Handwriting versus Tracing or Typing?

Recognising individual letters of the alphabet is obviously an unquestionable skill for reading. But the BIG question is:

‘Does handwriting help acquisition of letters better than tracing or typing them?

The answer is an indisputable YES it does!! The research has been accumulating for years but sadly many curriculums are simply NOT kept updated with these evidence-informed practices!

In my own clinical practice, as a paediatric occupational therapist, for nearly 20 years, I can attest to the power of developing automated handwriting and its impact on helping improve a child’s overall literacy skills ie. spelling, grammar, punctuation etc. This of course, boosts their confidence too!

I have now packaged this wisdom and experience into a short online course, ‘Handwriting Automaticity Matters’, (check it out on my Courses page) where I teach educators how to easily incorporate handwriting practices into their daily classwork, with minimal prep and NOT hundreds of worksheets!!

In short, you are your student’s best resource and once you are equipped with the understanding of what, why and how handwriting and developing automaticity is so powerful – you and your students will never look back!

In support of this evidence-to-practice, here is one such study by James and Engelhardt (2012) which was designed to test and compare the effects of different motor experiences -handwriting (ie. free-form printing of letters), tracing and typing – during letter learning on a child’s brain activation and development of letter knowledge.

Overall, the results of this study support the hypothesis that after self-generated printing experience, letter perception in the young child recruits components of the reading systems in the brain more than other forms of sensori-motor practice.‘ (ie. tracing or typing.)

James KH, Engelhardt L. The effects of handwriting experience on functional brain development in pre-literate children. Trends Neurosci Educ. 2012 Dec;1(1):32-42. doi: 10.1016/j.tine.2012.08.001. PMID: 25541600; PMCID: PMC4274624.

Keen to learn more? Join my upcoming FREE handwriting webinars: What’s all the fuss with handwriting in the digital age – why bother?

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