Tag Archives: Reading Ability

Maybe The Handwriting Isn’t On The Wall After All

Our brain must understand that each possible iteration of, say, an “a” is the same, no matter how we see it written. Being able to decipher the messiness of each “a” may be more helpful in establishing that eventual representation than seeing the same result repeatedly.

The same research also notes that there could be a difference in the brains of young learners between those who only know how to print block letters (Hello! I’m mostly one of those. Long story.) and those who learn how to write in cursive.

In dysgraphia, a condition where the ability to write is impaired, sometimes after brain injury, the deficit can take on a curious form: In some people, cursive writing remains relatively unimpaired, while in others, printing does.

In alexia, or impaired reading ability, some individuals who are unable to process print can still read cursive, and vice versa — suggesting that the two writing modes activate separate brain networks and engage more cognitive resources than would be the case with a single approach.

That might not be all that much of a big deal, if it weren’t for the fact that cursive writing is disappearing as a subject being taught to the little dudes and dudettes in school. My youngest, Hyper Lad, really only had cursive for about a single year.

He had to learn the letters, try to put them together, and then was forced to write his spelling sentences in cursive each week for the rest of the year. And, really, that was it.

Now it’s years later and, because he didn’t get cursive reinforced in school and because his dad didn’t get a chance to really learn cursive his ownself, I now have to do the reading for him when it comes to cursive notes written by his oldest relatives. Annoying, but also, apparently, only the smallest of problems relating to not knowing cursive.

It turns out, the benefits of learning both handwriting and cursive will last through childhood and into adulthood. Most adults know how to type and consider it an efficient method for taking notes, certainly above using a messy handwriting. However, the very efficiency of typing could be working against adults trying to assimilate new information.

Two psychologists, Pam A. Mueller of Princeton and Daniel M. Oppenheimer of the University of California, Los Angeles, have reported that in both laboratory settings and real-world classrooms, students learn better when they take notes by hand than when they type on a keyboard. Contrary to earlier studies attributing the difference to the distracting effects of computers, the new research suggests that writing by hand allows the student to process a lecture’s contents and reframe it — a process of reflection and manipulation that can lead to better understanding and memory encoding.

All of which means . . . what?

I’m not going to say that you must emphasize handwriting in the young dudes and dudettes, but it’s looking like it might be a good idea.

Heck, even just having them handwrite the really important bits from their notes might offer a significant improvement in their ability to assimilate new information. Definitely something to think about as you sit down for your . . . erm. . . their homework come fall.

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Txtng Gud 4 Kdz?

Yes I am old. You can tell that by the way that, when I’m texting someone, I actualy spell out all the words and even use punctuation. Well, either old or extremely anal retentive. Who knows? Maybe both. I’ve always rather looked a bit askance at those who start dropping vowels and using those silly texting abbreviations. I mean, it’s not all that hard to spell things out and, I think, it even enhances the readability of your message. Which, after all, is the goal of good communication.

There are those out there worried that the constant texting, using all those strange abbreviations, is actually harming the ability of our younger little dudes and teen dudes to read and comprehend standard written text. Well, according to those wacky dudes at New Scientist, that turns out not to be the case. Seems a couple of eggheads over in the UK (to be distinguished from the normal type of egghead you find in the UK, these were actual research scientists), did a study with a group of little dudes from ages 10 to 12.

The kids were asked to text a description of 10 different scenarios. Then they were given separate tests of their reading ability. Turns out that the kids with the higher number of textisms (CUL8R and the like) had better scores in reading ability. Okay, fine. But the question remained, do kids with better reading ability use more textisms or does the use of more textisms promote better reading? Obviously, I’m not the first to ask that question because those aforementioned eggheads have been doing follow-up studies and it looks like the use of textisms actually does promote a better reading ability.

They think there could be two reasons texting helps promote better reading ability. Firstly, most textisms are based on phonics, that is, they are spelled like they sound. And phonological awareness has been previously shown to help improve reading ability. Secondly, these kids are actually writing on their own and they’re enjoying it. Anything you do for fun is normally something you get better at.

I, however, will stick to my old man ways. LOL. I mean, it’s not like there’s nothing wrong wit speling stiff out or nothing.


— Richard

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