Learning About Letters Through Handwriting Practice

Deborah Y Zemlock

Abstract


The influence of visual-motor experiences with written symbols on pre-reading abilities, such as letter knowledge, have been shown to be facilitatory in both correlational studies on very young children and in experimental studies on older children.  However, it is not known whether any fine-motor practice will create this benefit, whether it is specific to writing letters, or whether certain ages would benefit most from handwriting practice. Here, we hypothesized that immature fine-motor skill that produces variable forms may be crucial to the beneficial effects of handwriting training – predicting the younger children would benefit more from the training than older children. Preschool-aged children, ages three to five years, were divided into two experimental groups (letter-writing, digit-writing) in a 2x2x2 design: TIME (pre, post), AGE (younger, older), and CONDITION (letter-writing, digit-writing). Each group received six weeks of training. The letter-writing and digit-writing groups practiced writing letters (A-Z) or single digits (0-9), respectively, four times per week. Before and after the training period, each group received assessments targeting letter knowledge directly. We predicted that the younger age group, compared to the older age group, in the letter-writing condition would score significantly higher on the letter knowledge tasks at post-test than at pre-test and that this effect would not occur in the digit-writing group. Results demonstrated that the younger children did show a significantly greater improvement in letter recognition skills than the older age group, but this effect held for both the letter-and digit- writing groups.  These results suggest, therefore, that any fine-motor practice at a young age can facilitate letter knowledge.

 

Keywords


handwriting, variable exemplars, letters, symbols, perception, motor development

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