Do Kids Learn More By Writing Instead of Typing?

I taught my kids to print and to write in cursive, but I also encouraged them to compose on a keyboard.

When I was a teen, I learned to compose my work on the typewriter at a journalism camp, and I found it to be much more efficient. So having kids in the computer age, it seemed like a no-brainer to teach them to type so they could type their essays on the computer. Besides, writing things out in cursive seemed so time-consuming and old-school.

Now I’m rethinking my stance. A recent scientific study showed that kids learned more by reading and writing by hand than by reading and then composing on a keyboard. Apparently the extra time it takes to write something by hand instead of typing it gives the brain a chance to absorb everything better. This makes sense to me.

I”m curious: what do you think?

15 thoughts on “Do Kids Learn More By Writing Instead of Typing?

  1. In the Bible, the scribes’ job was to copy the scriptures. They weren’t trained in the same way the priests or the pharisees were, but they knew the scriptures because they wrote it.

    Also interesting to note is that God’s instructions to the king of Israel included that each one was to hand-write a copy of the scriptures. (I assume the Torah; I can’t remember the details or where it’s recorded in the Old Testament that they were to do this.)

    I’m not sure if this is pertinent to your question about teaching our kids today when we have keyboards available, but I’m guessing there is some amount of relevance.

  2. Well, they had no other option but writing, and I’m guessing additional scrolls were always needed, but surely they did absorb more of what was in the Scriptures by writing them out, Susan…..thanks for weighing in 🙂

  3. I completely agree. When my oldest son, now 22, wanted to learn something, he CHOSE to hand write it in a notebook. He tells me that I didn’t require his younger siblings to hand-write enough. He swears by that simple learning technique, and so do I from my school days. It may take more time to write it out vs. type it, but this gives your brain a longer exposure, thus, more time “studying” it.

    I choose to journal by hand instead of putting it on the computer–it gives me more time to form my thoughts about events instead of typing unnecessary stuff fast.

  4. I am torn. Yes I teach writing by hand and cursive practice, but it is much easier for my daughter to get her thoughts down on paper if I let her type it. For written narration I let her type it on the word processor. Answering all other questions is written by hand. Time will tell which serves her better.

  5. This research was the subject of a recent post, “The Art of Reading and Writing”, at the Reading Horizons blog. “When children learn to write in cursive, other things happen in the brain. The translation of the sequences of symbols (letters) into lines on paper affects the cognitive ability of the brain — it presents the brain with a challenge because each letter connects slightly different to every other letter each time that it is written. Neuroscientists say that as children learn to write cursive (not block printing), they become better speakers and readers.

    But it’s not just the act of writing that affects the brain. Reading cursive handwriting — our own or anyone else’s — uses the same part of the brain that recognizes faces — and we can have an emotional response to handwriting, just as we can to a face. Looking at handwriting activates in the brain a process called a ‘memory trace’ – fascinating! Memory trace is a biochemical change that causes a domino effect throughout the rest of the brain, setting off other memories.”

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  7. I know I have to write things down and I type for a living! My own personal notes and when I was trying to write a book had to be written down. I thought it was just cause I’m old!

  8. That would be my thought, too… memory is not what it used to be either 🙂

    Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Very interesting. I can believe this to be true. It is easier to slow down and focus when you write something out. Copy/paste and other conveniences make typing a very different sort of activity as well in some ways, and additional distractions are perhaps also more numerous in typing than in dealing with pen and paper. Maybe it’s a bit like viewing a landscape while walking versus even driving slowly in a car? I also prefer writing to typing for thinking, personally, but that old convenience factor sure is nice at times too!

  10. Agreed. Nice to hear about the study; I think it helps memory as well. I remember things better when I’ve written them, sometimes over and over.

  11. Good point, Lily. I guess we need to encourage a mix of longhand and keyboard skills instead of sticking to only one….

  12. I think there is a mysterious, primal physiological/brain/heart/hand thing that goes on when you write your thoughts out longhand. Maybe it’s true; it gives your brain a little more time to absorb or think about something. You’re also ‘crafting’ it by the act of putting pen to paper. I write mostly longhand first when I’m writing something for publication. It seems to give me more time to muse on things.

  13. That makes sense, Maureen. I was taught back in journalism camp (at Northwestern, by you!) to compose as I typed. That has become my pattern, although I often start with handwritten notes. After all these years of typing, however, my handwriting is very hard to read at times! :0

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