If you’re anything like us, your handwriting resembles hieroglyphs and is illegible to anyone but yourself (and even you sometimes struggle to decipher your scribbles). For many, the use of mobile phones and computers has relegated our concern for good handwriting to the cursory grocery list, but not so for teachers at The Kindergarten Starters, where they are determined to prove to young learners that the pen is still mighty. Rana Sabohi, Educational Supervisor and Year Head – KG2, shares how she helped create a cursive culture at KGS.
When kids are increasingly spending more time on computers typing and submitting their homework by email, why does handwriting matter?
While it is true that we have more or less moved to digital media to express our thoughts, writing is still an important skill that we need to develop in children, particularly in the formative years. Studies indicate that writing improves memory and helps students better retain what they are learning. It is also to be noted that handwriting is not just about writing. It involves more complex motor and cognitive skills. Good handwriting contributes to reading. Students who write clearly, read fluently.
What did you set out to achieve with this initiative?
We often see young students showing disinterest in writing. They might be impeccable orators but shy away when it comes to writing. With our Handwriting Assessment and Analysis programme, we took a pledge to bring about a radical change in the way children learn to write. We wanted handwriting without tears, and wanted to create in our children a love for writing. We set ourselves a goal to become the first Certified Handwriting Specialist Teachers in the UAE and Middle East.
So, how did you go about it and what training did you have to do?
Melanie Harwood, founder of Start-Bee Handwriting and co-founder of Harwood Education, trained me first-hand. Melanie has a strong belief that handwriting is an essential tool for communication. Through her Start-Bee Handwriting Match Fit Assessment course, I discovered how important it is for students to sit in the right posture, the various tools that are used to improve handwriting, the connection that handwriting creates between the brain and the hands, letter-size consistency, legibility, strength, entry and exit strokes, etc. This workshop helped me bring about a revolution in the lives of all the kindergarteners under my care, as handwriting is a core life skill even in the digital age.
What challenges did you have encouraging teachers to back the initiative?
None! Our teachers are very driven and always eager to learn, therefore they were intrinsically motivated to participate.
Does improving handwriting impact performance in other subjects?
Writing definitely improves memory and helps students retain their knowledge better. Students take pride in submitting well-written work and hence show interest in writing instead of giving up on writing.
What did you learn about handwriting or teaching handwriting that surprised you? The detailing of handwriting, such as entry/exit strokes, the banana grip, the thumb cross over, the tri-pod grip and the hypermobility, completely left me amazed. Until the first assessment was conducted with students, I believed that all our students already had an ideal pencil grip and could write well. When I learnt about such minute details and how and why posture and position of the supporting hand is important in the process of handwriting, I was left speechless.
What feedback have you had from students and parents?
We have now completed the assessments and will soon be sharing a personal handwriting strategy for each child with their parents. Once the interventions are implemented, we will be able to share feedback. Some of our teacher-parents, who have been a part of this training and have tried it with their children, find it to be very successful.
You mentioned that the school plans for teachers to become certified handwriting specialists – have you achieved that goal?
Yes, we have! On 20 January 2021, The Kindergarten Starters was announced as the first school in the Middle East with 105 Handwriting Specialists.
What advice do you have for other teachers that may be thinking about introducing the same programme at their school?
Handwriting is a vital skill where examinations are handwritten. Having been in this field for nine years, I have seen students struggling with handwriting and would love to share this strategy with everyone so that more children benefit. The day we choose to make the change, is the right time. This revolution needs to happen now!
What’s next for the ‘handwriting revolution’?
We will soon have fully equipped and specialised Handwriting Stations in our school, coupled with unique digital handwriting resources such as Mini-Bee and Mini Yoga to enhance our students’ handwriting skills. These handwriting stations and resources will now become a regular part of our learning environment, allowing all students to get equal opportunities to improve their fine motor skills and posture, and thereby develop a love for writing.