How to Involve Children in Writing to Boost Creativity and Memory

Digital technologies have helped children to develop writing skills in multiple ways. According to the results of a survey from Pew Research Center, 96% of the surveyed teachers agreed that digital technologies allowed students to share their work with a wider audience. In addition, the majority of teachers (76%) agreed that digital tools promoted greater collaboration among students.

However, there is a problem: the use of technology has minimized the need for handwriting. Teachers require typed assignments, so the students are being encouraged to use the computer when completing projects. They are using their tablets and smartphones to take notes during class, so handwriting is brought to a minimum.

Research Proves It: Handwriting Comes with Great Benefits

Psychological scientists from Princeton and the University of California, Los Angeles, tested and analyzed the students’ learning abilities linked to typing or handwriting notes. During the first stage of the study, the participants of were relying on their usual note-taking strategy during the lectures (all of them were listening to the same lectures). Half an hour after the lectures, the students were tested on the material.

The findings were quite interesting: both laptop users and hand-writers memorized the same number of facts from the lectures. The users of laptops showed an ability to take more detailed notes. However, they were also inclined to transcribe the words they listened to, without involving their reasoning in the process. The students were tested again after one week. This time, the students who took notes by hand showed significantly better results. The results of this study are clear: taking notes with a pen and paper is a superior method to typing when it comes to boosting memory.      

Another study, performed at the University of Indiana, focussed on discovering the effects of handwriting on young children who didn’t know how to read and write. Each child was given an index card with a shape or letter. They were asked to draw it by hand, type it on a computer, or trace it on a dotted line. The results showed that the children who drew the shapes or letters by hand had greater activity in specific areas of the brain that are activated when adults write and read. These brain functions were not active in the children who used the two other methods to replicate the shape or letter.

Why Should Children Write More?

  • The quality of handwriting is related to children’s ability to learn and write.
  • Handwriting gives students enough time to think and focus while writing. The typing process, on the other hand, is more mechanical.
  • The simplicity of the pen-and-paper method keeps the student focused on the task at hand.
  • Through handwriting, students express their personality.

How to Inspire Children to Write Longhand

It’s not too hard to inspire primary-school students to write by hand. The process of writing something on paper is quite attractive to them.

From high school on, however, students start relying on technologies more and more. They bring their tablets and laptops to class, and the teachers have no other choice but to let them use technology for learning. Many students from this age group find handwriting boring and tiring. At that point, we have to find ways to engage them in the process.

Here are some ideas to help you encourage children to write:

  1. Give them reasons to write – a letter, a shopping list, a wish list. If there are a group of children, ask each one to write an anonymous letter. Then, hand out the letters in a random order, and see if they can recognize the the handwriting.
  2. Create a positive writing atmosphere. Play an educational video and compare the notes that everyone took.
  3. Ask them to describe events or landscapes through writing. Then, check their work and give them credit.
  4. Make a project, such as a journal. If they use different colors and pencils, the final result will be not only educational, but creative, too.
  5. Ask them to write poems, stories, essays, and other creative assignments by hand. The main idea is to make them focus through the process of writing.

Emily Waldman, a grammar tutor from Essays On Time explains:

‘Handwriting supports the brain’s creative functions, which are extremely important for creative writing. For a change, ask your students for a handwritten essay instead of a typed one. Turn it into a fun activity that allows them to show how creative they can get when the time is limited. Don’t set any expectations; there won’t be grades for this assignment. You just want them to practice.’

  1. If they have assignments or exams to study for, invite them to create mind maps by hand. Handwriting will encourage them to consider their ideas more deeply. They can use color pencils to make the maps more appealing.
  2. Assign writing projects. Think of a topic and ask someone to write an introductory sentence. Another person then writes the next sentence, making sure to keep a logical flow. Continue until you get an entire paper, and then read it.
  3. Encourage them to take notes during lectures or lessons. Emphasize the important parts and tell them to write them down in their own words. You can teach children the Cornell Note Taking System for that purpose.

Handwriting has an important connection with creativity and memory which is why it’s such an important part of their development. Anything that will encourage them towards handwriting will help to strengthen their creativity and memory, which will in turn nurture them towards success.


About the Author: Sophia Anderson

Sophia AndersonSophia Anderson is an associate educator, tutor and freelance writer. She is passionate about covering topics on learning, writing, careers, self-improvement, motivation and others. She believes in the driving force of positive attitude and constant development. Talk to her on Facebook or LinkedIn.

 

4 Comments

Christa

This article makes me want to cry because my son struggles with dysgraphia and we have recently decided at age 9 that his handwriting skills are holding him back from other types of learning. Trying to help someone with an invisible disability is not easy. Most of the help is for kids who are obviously not neurotypical. High functioning kids with challenges are a real struggle.

Thanks for your information. I’m sure it is helpful for many people.

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Karen - Hey Sigmund

Christa handwriting is just one way to develop these skills – there are plenty more. I understand how difficult it is to help kids who are quietly struggling. Keep searching and fighting for him to receive the support he needs. There will be a way through this.

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The temptation to fix their big feelings can be seismic. Often this is connected to needing to ease our own discomfort at their discomfort, which is so very normal.

Big feelings in them are meant to raise (sometimes big) feelings in us. This is all a healthy part of the attachment system. It happens to mobilise us to respond to their distress, or to protect them if their distress is in response to danger.

Emotion is energy in motion. We don’t want to bury it, stop it, smother it, and we don’t need to fix it. What we need to do is make a safe passage for it to move through them. 

Think of emotion like a river. Our job is to hold the ground strong and steady at the banks so the river can move safely, without bursting the banks.

However hard that river is racing, they need to know we can be with the river (the emotion), be with them, and handle it. This might feel or look like you aren’t doing anything, but actually it’s everything.

The safety that comes from you being the strong, steady presence that can lovingly contain their big feelings will let the emotional energy move through them and bring the brain back to calm.

Eventually, when they have lots of experience of us doing this with them, they will learn to do it for themselves, but that will take time and experience. The experience happens every time you hold them steady through their feelings. 

This doesn’t mean ignoring big behaviour. For them, this can feel too much like bursting through the banks, which won’t feel safe. Sometimes you might need to recall the boundary and let them know where the edges are, while at the same time letting them see that you can handle the big of the feeling. Its about loving and leading all at once. ‘It’s okay to be angry. It’s not okay to use those words at me.’

Ultimately, big feelings are a call for support. Sometimes support looks like breathing and being with. Sometimes it looks like showing them you can hold the boundary, even when they feel like they’re about to burst through it. And if they’re using spicy words to get us to back off, it might look like respecting their need for space but staying in reaching distance, ‘Ok, I’m right here whenever you need.’♥️
We all need certain things to feel safe enough to put ourselves into the world. Kids with anxiety have magic in them, every one of them, but until they have a felt sense of safety, it will often stay hidden.

‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what they feel. At school, they might have the safest, most loving teacher in the safest, most loving school. This doesn’t mean they will feel enough relational safety straight away that will make it easier for them to do hard things. They can still do those hard things, but those things are going to feel bigger for a while. This is where they’ll need us and their other anchor adult to be patient, gentle, and persistent.

Children aren’t meant to feel safe with and take the lead from every adult. It’s not the adult’s role that makes the difference, but their relationship with the child.

Children are no different to us. Just because an adult tells them they’ll be okay, it doesn’t mean they’ll feel it or believe it. What they need is to be given time to actually experience the person as being safe, supportive and ready to catch them.

Relationship is key. The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains in our way. When we feel someone really caring about us, we’re more likely to open up to their influence
and learn from them.

But we have to be patient. Even for teachers with big hearts and who undertand the importance of attachment relationships, it can take time.

Any adult at school can play an important part in helping a child feel safe – as long as that adult is loving, warm, and willing to do the work to connect with that child. It might be the librarian, the counsellor, the office person, a teacher aide. It doesn’t matter who, as long as it is someone who can be available for that child at dropoff or when feelings get big during the day and do little check-ins along the way.

A teacher, or any important adult can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, and I know you can do this.’♥️
There is a beautiful ‘everythingness’ in all of us. The key to living well is being able to live flexibly and more deliberately between our edges.

So often though, the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ we inhale in childhood and as we grow, lead us to abandon some of those precious, needed parts of us. ‘Don’t be angry/ selfish/ shy/ rude. She’s not a maths person.’ ‘Don’t argue.’ Ugh.

Let’s make sure our children don’t cancel parts of themselves. They are everything, but not always all at once. They can be anxious and brave. Strong and soft. Angry and calm. Big and small. Generous and self-ish. Some things they will find hard, and they can do hard things. None of these are wrong ways to be. What trips us up is rigidity, and only ever responding from one side of who we can be.

We all have extremes or parts we favour. This is what makes up the beautiful, complex, individuality of us. We don’t need to change this, but the more we can open our children to the possibility in them, the more options they will have in responding to challenges, the everyday, people, and the world. 

We can do this by validating their ‘is’ without needing them to be different for a while in the moment, and also speaking to the other parts of them when we can. 

‘Yes maths is hard, and I know you can do hard things. How can I help?’

‘I can see how anxious you feel. That’s so okay. I also know you have brave in you.’

‘I love your ‘big’ and the way you make us laugh. You light up the room.’ And then at other times: ‘It can be hard being in a room with new people can’t it. It’s okay to be quiet. I could see you taking it all in.’

‘It’s okay to want space from people. Sometimes you just want your things and yourself for yourself, hey. I feel like that sometimes too. I love the way you know when you need this.’ And then at other times, ‘You looked like you loved being with your friends today. I loved watching you share.’

The are everything, but not all at once. Our job is to help them live flexibly and more deliberately between the full range of who they are and who they can be: anxious/brave; kind/self-ish; focussed inward/outward; angry/calm. This will take time, and there is no hurry.♥️
For our kids and teens, the new year will bring new adults into their orbit. With this, comes new opportunities to be brave and grow their courage - but it will also bring anxiety. For some kiddos, this anxiety will feel so big, but we can help them feel bigger.

The antidote to a felt sense of threat is a felt sense of safety. As long as they are actually safe, we can facilitate this by nurturing their relationship with the important adults who will be caring for them, whether that’s a co-parent, a stepparent, a teacher, a coach. 

There are a number of ways we can facilitate this:

- Use the name of their other adult (such as a teacher) regularly, and let it sound loving and playful on your voice.
- Let them see that you have an open, willing heart in relation to the other adult.
- Show them you trust the other adult to care for them (‘I know Mrs Smith is going to take such good care of you.’)
- Facilitate familiarity. As much as you can, hand your child to the same person when you drop them off.

It’s about helping expand their village of loving adults. The wider this village, the bigger their world in which they can feel brave enough. 

For centuries before us, it was the village that raised children. Parenting was never meant to be done by one or two adults on their own, yet our modern world means that this is how it is for so many of us. 

We can bring the village back though - and we must - by helping our kiddos feel safe, known, and held by the adults around them. We need this for each other too.

The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains that block our way.♥️

That power of felt safety matters for all relationships - parent and child; other adult and child; parent and other adult. It all matters. 

A teacher, or any important adult in the life of a child, can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child (and their parent) so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, I care about you, and I know you can do this.’♥️
Approval, independence, autonomy, are valid needs for all of us. When a need is hungry enough we will be driven to meet it however we can. For our children, this might look like turning away from us and towards others who might be more ready to meet the need, or just taking.

If they don’t feel they can rest in our love, leadership, approval, they will seek this more from peers. There is no problem with this, but we don’t want them solely reliant on peers for these. It can make them vulnerable to making bad decisions, so as not to lose the approval or ‘everythingness’ of those peers.

If we don’t give enough freedom, they might take that freedom through defiance, secrecy, the forbidden. If we control them, they might seek more to control others, or to let others make the decisions that should be theirs.

All kids will mess up, take risks, keep secrets, and do things that baffle us sometimes. What’s important is, ‘Do they turn to us when they need to, enough?’ The ‘turning to’ starts with trusting that we are interested in supporting all their needs, not just the ones that suit us. Of course this doesn’t mean we will meet every need. It means we’ve shown them that their needs are important to us too, even though sometimes ours will be bigger (such as our need to keep them safe).

They will learn safe and healthy ways to meet their needs, by first having them met by us. This doesn’t mean granting full independence, full freedom, and full approval. What it means is holding them safely while also letting them feel enough of our approval, our willingness to support their independence, freedom, autonomy, and be heard on things that matter to them.

There’s no clear line with this. Some days they’ll want independence. Some days they won’t. Some days they’ll seek our approval. Some days they won’t care for it at all, especially if it means compromising the approval of peers. The challenge for us is knowing when to hold them closer and when to give space, when to hold the boundary and when to release it a little, when to collide and when to step out of the way. If we watch and listen, they will show us. And just like them, we won’t need to get it right all the time.♥️

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