Thursday, October 13, 2011

A "cursive" look at haptic anchoring

With the coming of the digital age, some public schools have begun to eliminate training children in cursive handwriting. Research such as this nice piece by Mangen of University of Stavanger, Norway and Velay of the Université de la Méditerranée, Marseille, France which explores the potential impact on early reading development and general literacy that removing that visual/haptic "nexus" may have for at least some types of learners.

Clip art: Clker
There is substantial research on the kind of encoding and memory trace created by keyboard input with adults. In essence, the pattern of action of our fingers on the keys in most seems to be not as bound up holistically with the word being inputted. In other words, although we may be a very fast inputter, as we type a new word, or even a long one, the brain is still creating a more linear string that is for the most part temporary. Our fingers may not be of much help later in recalling the pronunciation of most words "digitally," what only the hands and not the full body (including the eyes) were involved in anchoring in the first place.

Not so with cursive encoding the argument goes, especially with early literacy development, requiring full arm, rhythmic movement. Having worked with many pronunciation students over the years who report that their best strategy was writing a word over and over in cursive as they said it out loud, I'm sure there is something to this. With those who know and are "fluid" in cursive--and that is not many younger nonnative speakers now--I still sometimes use that technique, even adding some additional anchoring on the stressed syllable and possibly a special "anchoring" rolling ball pen. Try it. Write (in cursive--sorry no appropriate font available here) if it works.

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