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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Physical activity is the natural end to the fight or flight response (which is where the physical feelings of an anxiety attack come from). Walking will help to burn the adrenalin and neurochemicals that have surged the body to prepare it for flight or fight, and which are causing the physical symptoms (racy heart, feeling sick, sweaty, short breaths, dry mouth, trembly or tense in the limbs etc). As well as this, the rhythm of walking will help to calm their anxious amygdala. Brains love rhythm, and walking is a way to give them this. 
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Try to help your young one access their steady breaths while walking, but it is very likely that they will only be able to do this if they’ve practised outside of an anxiety attack. During anxiety, the brain is too busy to try anything unfamiliar. Practising will help to create neural pathways that will make breathing an easier, more accessible response during anxiety. If they aren't able to access strong steady breaths, you might need to do it for them. This will be just as powerful - in the same way they can catch your anxiety, they will also be able to catch your calm. When you are able to assume a strong, calm, steady presence, this will clear the way for your brave ones to do the same.
The more your young one is able to verbalise what their anxiety feels like, the more capacity they will have to identify it, acknowledge it and act more deliberately in response to it. With this level of self-awareness comes an increased ability to manage the feeling when it happens, and less likelihood that the anxiety will hijack their behaviour. 

Now - let’s give their awareness some muscle. If they are experts at what their anxiety feels like, they are also experts at what it takes to be brave. They’ve felt anxiety and they’ve moved through it, maybe not every time - none of us do it every time - maybe not even most times, but enough times to know what it takes and how it feels when they do. Maybe it was that time they walked into school when everything in them was wanting to walk away. Maybe that time they went in for goal, or down the water slide, or did the presentation in front of the class. Maybe that time they spoke their own order at the restaurant, or did the driving test, or told you there would be alcohol at the party. Those times matter, because they show them they can move through anxiety towards brave. They might also taken for granted by your young one, or written off as not counting as brave - but they do count. They count for everything. They are evidence that they can do hard things, even when those things feel bigger than them. 

So let’s expand those times with them and for them. Let’s expand the wisdom that comes with that, and bring their brave into the light as well. ‘What helped you do that?’ ‘What was it like when you did?’ ‘I know everything in you wanted to walk away, but you didn’t. Being brave isn’t about doing things easily. It’s about doing those hard things even when they feel bigger than us. I see you doing that all the time. It doesn’t matter that you don’t do them every time -none of us are brave every time- but you have so much courage in you my love, even when anxiety is making you feel otherwise.’

Let them also know that you feel like this too sometimes. It will help them see that anxiety happens to all of us, and that even though it tells a deficiency story, it is just a story and one they can change the ending of.
During adolescence, our teens are more likely to pay attention to the positives of a situation over the negatives. This can be a great thing. The courage that comes from this will help them try new things, explore their independence, and learn the things they need to learn to be happy, healthy adults. But it can also land them in bucketloads of trouble. 

Here’s the thing. Our teens don’t want to do the wrong thing and they don’t want to go behind our backs, but they also don’t want to be controlled by us, or have any sense that we might be stifling their way towards independence. The cold truth of it all is that if they want something badly enough, and if they feel as though we are intruding or that we are making arbitrary decisions just because we can, or that we don’t get how important something is to them, they have the will, the smarts and the means to do it with or without or approval. 

So what do we do? Of course we don’t want to say ‘yes’ to everything, so our job becomes one of influence over control. To keep them as safe as we can, rather than saying ‘no’ (which they might ignore anyway) we want to engage their prefrontal cortex (thinking brain) so they can be more considered in their decision making. 

Our teens are very capable of making good decisions, but because the rational, logical, thinking prefrontal cortex won’t be fully online until their 20s (closer to 30 in boys), we need to wake it up and bring it to the decision party whenever we can. 

Do this by first softening the landing:
‘I can see how important this is for you. You really want to be with your friends. I absolutely get that.’
Then, gently bring that thinking brain to the table:
‘It sounds as though there’s so much to love in this for you. I don’t want to get in your way but I need to know you’ve thought about the risks and planned for them. What are some things that could go wrong?’
Then, we really make the prefrontal cortex kick up a gear by engaging its problem solving capacities:
‘What’s the plan if that happens.’
Remember, during adolescence we switch from managers to consultants. Assume a leadership presence, but in a way that is warm, loving, and collaborative.♥️
Big feelings and big behaviour are a call for us to come closer. They won’t always feel like that, but they are. Not ‘closer’ in an intrusive ‘I need you to stop this’ way, but closer in a ‘I’ve got you, I can handle all of you’ kind of way - no judgement, no need for you to be different - I’m just going to make space for this feeling to find its way through. 

Our kids and teens are no different to us. When we have feelings that fill us to overloaded, the last thing we need is someone telling us that it’s not the way to behave, or to calm down, or that we’re unbearable when we’re like this. Nup. What we need, and what they need, is a safe place to find our out breath, to let the energy connected to that feeling move through us and out of us so we can rest. 
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But how? First, don’t take big feelings personally. They aren’t a reflection on you, your parenting, or your child. Big feelings have wisdom contained in them about what’s needed more, or less, or what feels intolerable right now. Sometimes it might be as basic as a sleep or food. Maybe more power, influence, independence, or connection with you. Maybe there’s too much stress and it’s hitting their ceiling and ricocheting off their edges. Like all wisdom, it doesn’t always find a gentle way through. That’s okay, that will come. Our kids can’t learn to manage big feelings, or respect the wisdom embodied in those big feelings if they don’t have experience with big feelings. 
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We also need to make sure we are responding to them in the moment, not a fear or an inherited ‘should’ of our own. These are the messages we swallowed whole at some point - ‘happy kids should never get sad or angry’, ‘kids should always behave,’ ‘I should be able to protect my kids from feeling bad,’ ‘big feelings are bad feelings’, ‘bad behaviour means bad kids, which means bad parents.’ All these shoulds are feisty show ponies that assume more ‘rightness’ than they deserve. They are usually historic, and when we really examine them, they’re also irrelevant.
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Finally, try not to let the symptoms of big feelings disrupt the connection. Then, when calm comes, we will have the influence we need for the conversations that matter.
"Be patient. We don’t know what we want to do or who we want to be. That feels really bad sometimes. Just keep reminding us that it’s okay that we don’t have it all figured out yet, and maybe remind yourself sometimes too."
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