Understanding Handwriting’s History
Handwriting has a long and rich history. The privilege of learning the skill was once limited to the rich and was considered to be a refined personal quality that labelled one as genteel. By 1917, handwriting was being taught to the general public with debates over the best style of handwriting to teach, as well the proper positioning of the person and the paper. During the development of formal methods of handwriting instruction, the debate continued over the benefits of “a synthetic method [of] teaching” versus a “muscular-movement” method (Doughtery, 1917, p. 281). In turn, this led to the debate over the importance of learning the individual strokes that formed a letter (synthetic) versus understanding the influence of the arms, hands, and fingers in the process of writing (muscular-movement). And today, we continue to debate over these same matters.
Letter recognition, efficient fine motor writing skills, and the hand’s role as a visual-motor-perceptual tool have been found to impact on the process of reading and writing. Handwriting “is being recognized as an essential part of the writing process.” (Collmer, 2016, p. 14). And research studies have found that “Learning to write by hand (also) plays a key role in literacy development.” (Collmer, 2016, p. 14) (For further information relative to research that links handwriting to literacy, please refer to Collmer, 2016.) As professionals who work with students during their initial instruction in handwriting and during any necessary remediation of those skills, it is important for us to understand the history that marks the roles that handwriting has played in our societies and the process that defined how it was taught.
The article below shares a synopsis of handwriting’s history, as well a list of questions that can be introduced as conversation starters when you are working with schools to emphasize the importance of the development of their handwriting program. The article shares much information. Please feel free to share it as well! Click on the picture below to read the article.
As always, thanks for reading!
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Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills. In her current book, Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation: A Practice Model for Occupational Therapists, she shares a comprehensive guide and consistent tool for addressing handwriting development needs. She can be contacted via her website, Handwriting With Katherine.
- Collmer, K. Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation: A Practice Model for Occupational Therapists. 2016 ed. Waymart, PA: Universal Publishing, 2016. Print.
- Dougherty, M. L. (1917). History of the Teaching of Handwriting in America. The Elementary School Journal, 18(4), 280-286. doi:10.1086/454610
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