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Connected Letters, Connected Thinking: How Cursive Writing Helps Us Learn

Blog Type:  Teaching Date Posted:  Saturday, August 22, 2015

cursive writing on paper

By Judy Packhem, M. Ed.

Cursive writing is an endangered species these days. Left out of the Common Core State Standards, cursive is now seen as inconsequential, and even obsolete, by some in the education community.

This is distressing to me, and it should be to all of you who care about educating our children, especially children with dyslexia.

There is ample reason to justify the teaching of cursive writing, beginning with the scientific evidence.

Your Brain on Cursive Writing

The development of the functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) machine made it possible to see activity in the brain and pinpoint which parts of the brain are being used during critical functions such as thought, speech, and writing, among others.

Brain mapping, as it is called, shows that during cursive writing both the right and left hemispheres of the brain are active. This is something that is not present either while keyboarding or writing in print.

Cursive writing is much more than an obsolete mode of writing. It is connected to our thought processes, to our retention of learning, and to our creative selves.

This right-left brain synergy, when both sides of the brain are used simultaneously, promotes improved language and memory functions. Some brain researchers go further to say the more we integrate the logical (left) and intuitive (right) sides of our brain, the greater our skill at innovation — the ability to analyze problems and solve them with out-of-the-box thinking.

Researchers studying Albert Einstein’s brain found that the right and left hemispheres of his brain were uniquely well connected. I’ll let you connect the dots on that one.

From Essays to Note Taking:  Why Writing by Hand Is More Powerful

There are two compelling studies that prove the superior benefits of handwriting versus keyboarding for learning.

Educational psychologist Virginia Berninger, who studied the writing composition of children in grades two through five, found that the students “consistently did better writing with a pen when they wrote essays.”

Compared to the students that typed on a keyboard, the students who hand wrote their essays were able to compose at a faster rate and they produced longer essays. They also wrote more complete sentences than the keyboarders and their essays expressed more ideas.

Another study by Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer looked at college students taking lecture notes on laptops versus longhand in notepads. Students who took notes on computers produced a lot more notes, but the quality was poor. The typed notes tended to be mindless transcription of the lecture. The handwritten notes, while less lengthy, resulted in deeper learning and longer retention.

A week after viewing the lectures, the college students were given 10 minutes to review their notes and were then given a test. Students with handwritten notes performed significantly better on both factual and conceptual questions.

While computers may make it easier to take lots of notes, they may bypass the deeper thinking that needs to occur for effective note taking and, consequently, learning.

Benefits of Cursive Specific to Dyslexia

The International Dyslexia Association (IDA), in its handbook, recommends the use of cursive handwriting. This “reinforces a multisensory approach to reading and spelling.”

Diana Hanbury King, founding fellow of the Academy of Orton-Gillingham, published books and articles citing the benefit of cursive handwriting for dyslexics.

“In the case of dyslexics, there are several reasons for insisting on cursive. To begin with, in cursive writing, there is no question as to where each letter begins – it begins on the line. The confusion with forms is not merely a left and right reversal as with b/d and p/q; it is also an up down reversal as with m/w and u/n; hence the uncertainty as to whether a letter begins at the top or the bottom. Second, spelling is fixed more firmly in the mind if the word is formed in a continuous movement rather than a series of separate strokes with the pencil lifted off the paper between each one.”1

The connected letters in cursive result in increased writing fluency (speed and smoothness). The flow of cursive means your pen — along with your thoughts — doesn’t stop moving.

This characteristic of cursive writing is shown to be especially beneficial for many struggling learners with processing speed deficits or language difficulties like dyslexia and dysgraphia.

Cursive writing is much more than an obsolete mode of writing. It is connected to our thought processes, to our retention of learning, and to our creative selves.

 

Resources

  1. King, D. (2001). Writing Skills for the Adolescent. Cambridge, MA: Educators Publishing Service.

About the Author

judy peckham headshot

Judy Packhem, M. Ed., of www.shapingreaders.com, is a reading specialist/ consultant and dyslexia therapist with certifications from the International Dyslexia Association and the Academy of Orton-Gillingham. She helps struggling readers of all ages become successful learners. Related:

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Tags:  brain research college cursive dyslexia handwritring research science

Important Things to Do Before Going to College

Blog Type:  College Prep Date Posted:  Friday, July 20, 2018

Read more posts about Navigating the College Admissions Process for Students with Learning Disabilities

girl moving books

Now that you've decided what college you will attend, there are several things you need to do and consider to ensure a smooth transition process.

Learning Disability Support

  • Make sure the Disability Services Office has your current testing and all paperwork is completed.
  • Contact support services faculty and introduce yourself.

Sign Up for Classes

  • Think about taking a reduced course load, at least for the first semester.
  • Balance your course load. Be aware of the amount of reading and writing that will be required.

Think About Money

  • You will need access to cash at school. Make a plan. Is there a local ATM you can use? Will you set up an account at a local bank?
  • Discuss a budget and spending plan with your family.
  • Discuss financial responsibility with family and agree on who will pay for which expenses. (Who pays for weekend entertainment? Who pays for books? Who pays for gas?)

Medical Needs

  • Will you need regular medications at school? Develop a plan of how you will renew and fill any prescriptions.
  • Develop a plan to make sure you will remember to take your medications. Practice the plan over the summer.
  • Will you need medical specialists while at school? Talk to the school Health Center to make sure they have connections to local specialist that you will need.

Counseling Support

  • Will you need counseling support?
  • Discuss this with your current counselor and ask for their help in locating a local counselor.
  • Talk with the school about the counseling services on campus.

Technology

  • Decide which technology you will use and how you will use it.
  • Practice using any new technology.
  • Think about how you will organize your technology and documents.

Set Up a Reference Notebook

Collect key reference and "How To" sheets and templates and organize into a Reference Notebook. This can include:

  • How to write a note card
  • Steps to a research paper
  • Format of a thesis
  • Essay templates
  • Study guide sheets
  • Graphic organizers

Update Your Contacts

  • Make sure you have contact information for important people at home. This can include grandparents, former teachers, employers, and others.
  • Make sure the Guidance Office is on your contact list.
  • A hand-written thank you note still makes an impression. Purchase a pack of notes and stationery and use them often!

Don’t Forget

  • Make a list of key people.
  • Develop a list of important dates, such as parents, grandparents, and sibling birthdays, and get in the habit of sending a card and making a call on those days!
  • Life will get busy. Schedule a weekly time when you and your parents will talk.

More College Prep Posts

Tags:  college college advice college readiness preparing for college support services

Tips to Help You Make Your Final College Decision

Blog Type:  College Prep Date Posted:  Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Read more posts about Navigating the College Admissions Process for Students with Learning Disabilities

college decision making lists

You've been accepted to several schools. The next step is deciding which to attend. Use these tips and suggestions to help you make the final decision. Download this worksheet to keep track of the main features of the schools you are considering.

Compare Support Programs

CollegePrep_Comparison
Download the College Comparison worksheet.
  • Make a list of the supports and accommodations that are essential for your success. Decide which school provides you with the best set of services.
  • Contact the support faculty at your top two or three schools. Evaluate your ability to develop a positive working relationship with the support staff.
  • Talk to students at the schools who currently access the support.

Compare Financial Aid Packages

  • Examine the award packages that you were given from each school.
  • Talk to your parents to discuss which is the best package for your family.

Tap into Alumni

  • Contact alumni you know who have attended schools on your list and ask about their transition.
  • If you need help contacting alumni, ask your Guidance Office to facilitate this process for you.

Attend Accepted Student Days

  • Select your top two or three school and attend accepted students events.
  • Visit classes and talk with students.
  • Try to explore the school “off the beaten path.”
  • Pay attention to the life of the campus…read posters and announcements, go to sporting events, visit on a weekend to get a sense of campus life.
  • Stay overnight and visit classes if at all possible.

Examine Major and Requirements

  • Spend some time getting a detailed look at the requirements for your intended major.
  • Is there a need to seek a foreign language waiver or substitution? Begin that discussion now. (This may not be possible for all majors so find that out prior to enrolling!)
  • Compare courses and opportunities for internships.
  • Compare career placement statistics.

Consider Family and Extra-Curricular Options

  • Think about how frequently you will be able to travel home.
  • Compare the ease of travel to each of the various campus (how close to airports, train stations, etc.).
  • Compare the extra-curricular opportunities at each school.

Seek Input from Teachers

  • While teachers and parents can’t make the decision for you, it is wise to sit with them to seek their opinion.
  • Your academic advisers, guidance counselor, and other teachers can give you some good points to consider as you evaluate your options.

Trust Your Gut

  • If you visit a school and “something” does not feel right…trust that instinct.

Make a Pro/Con List

  • It helps to put your thoughts in writing.
  • Your guidance counselor will help you with this process as well.

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Tags:  college college accommodations college admissions college advice

Academic Support Services at the College Level for Students with Learning Disabilities

Blog Type:  College Prep Date Posted:  Friday, June 29, 2018

Read more posts about Navigating the College Admissions Process for Students with Learning Disabilities

college-services student teacher

Most colleges have a support service office to help students with learning disabilities access the resources they need to succeed. The services are outlined below.

Level of Support

Description

Basic Accommodations and Services

  • Provides accommodations as required under ADA and Section 504.
  • Students must disclose and provide documentation.
  • Accommodations may include:
    • Extended time on tests
    • Note takers
    • Priority registration
    • Assistive technology
    • Reduced course load
  • Access to writing center provided for all students.

Coordinated Services

  • Provides all accommodations as required by law.
  • Students must disclose and provide documentation.
  • Specialized instruction in study skills and organizational skills may be available.
  • Might offer some content tutorial support with a upperclassman or graduate student.
  • Often have a learning center with professional with specific experience teaching students with LD.

Intensive Support Services and Support Programs

  • Students must apply to specific support program as well as to the college (coordinated admissions).
  • Specific support sessions are built into the student’s schedule.
  • May have an summer program to facilitate the transition to college.
  • Students pay tuition for classes and for participate in the program.
  • Program has specific staff specializing in LBLD.

Check out Landmark School’s Transition and Guidance page to learn more about the transition to college and other post-secondary options.

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Tags:  college college accommodations college admissions college advice college essay learning disabilities learning disability transition to college

Tips for a Successful College Interview

Blog Type:  College Prep Date Posted:  Friday, July 6, 2018

Read more posts about Navigating the College Admissions Process for Students with Learning Disabilities

college-interview

An interview is an opportunity for a school to get to know you. It is also an important opportunity for you to understand and learn about the institution you are interviewing with. You should be actively involved in the interview in order to evaluate if the school is a good match.

Before the Interview

  • Do your research. Find out about the institution.
  • Prepare questions. Make sure you have questions that demonstrate you have done your research and ask for clarification or depth.  Don’t ask questions about readily accessible information.
  • Conduct a practice interview with a parent, teacher, or friend.
  • Check to make sure you know the location of the interview and the name of the person who will be conducting the interview.
  • Double check the time to be sure your arrive on time.
  • Dress in neat, appropriate clothing.
  • Be sure to turn off all electronics.

During the Interview

  • Leave parents in waiting room. They will have time to ask questions, but this is your interview.
  • Ask your questions. This is your opportunity to get information.
  • Make good eye contact.
  • Avoid giving one-word responses to questions. Elaborate on your answers. Give examples.
  • Relax and be yourself.
  • Shake hands and thank the person for his/her time.

After the Interview

  • Write a thank you note to the person who interviewed you within one week.
  • Record notes on your impressions of the school/workplace.
  • Update your list of questions to ask and expect.
college interview worksheet
Download the College Interview Questions sheet.

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Tags:  college college admissions college advice interview skills

Navigating the College Admissions Process for Students with Learning Disabilities

Blog Type:  College Prep Date Posted:  Friday, June 22, 2018

books college university

Applying to college can be a stressful, time-consuming journey for students and their families that requires travel, hours of research and essay writing, gathering transcripts, recommendations, and other documentation, and filling out forms and applications—lots of them. Students with learning disabilities (LD) face the added challenge of finding a school that accommodates their needs with appropriate services and supports and fulfills other criteria, such as location, academic programs, and size.

This series offers information on what services are available on campuses for students with LD and how to access them, tips on writing the college essay and interviewing, printable worksheets to organize the schools students are considering, and information about testing.

More College Prep Posts

Tags:  college college accommodations college admissions college advice college essay learning disabilities learning disability transition to college

Tips for a Successful College Interview

Blog Type:  College Prep Date Posted:  Friday, July 6, 2018

An interview is an opportunity for a school to get to know you. It is also an important opportunity for you to understand and learn about the institution you are interviewing with. You should be actively involved in the interview in order to evaluate if the school is a good match.

Before the Interview

  • Do your research. Find out about the institution.
  • Prepare questions. Make sure you have questions that demonstrate you have done your research and ask for clarification or depth.  Don’t ask questions about readily accessible information.
  • Conduct a practice interview with a parent, teacher, or friend.
  • Check to make sure you know the location of the interview and the name of the person who will be conducting the interview.
  • Double check the time to be sure your arrive on time.
  • Dress in neat, appropriate clothing.
  • Be sure to turn off all electronics.

During the Interview

  • Leave parents in waiting room. They will have time to ask questions, but this is your interview.
  • Ask your questions. This is your opportunity to get information.
  • Make good eye contact.
  • Avoid giving one-word responses to questions. Elaborate on your answers. Give examples.
  • Relax and be yourself.
  • Shake hands and thank the person for his/her time.

After the Interview

  • Write a thank you note to the person who interviewed you within one week.
  • Record notes on your impressions of the school/workplace.
  • Update your list of questions to ask and expect.
Tags:  college college admissions
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