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Ready to Write: Why Handwriting in Early Childhood May Actually Matter Laura Dinehart, Ph.D. August 13, 2014.

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Presentation on theme: "Ready to Write: Why Handwriting in Early Childhood May Actually Matter Laura Dinehart, Ph.D. August 13, 2014."— Presentation transcript:

1 Ready to Write: Why Handwriting in Early Childhood May Actually Matter Laura Dinehart, Ph.D. August 13, 2014

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3 Common Core State Standards Produce writing that is legible, including the conventional formation of some upper and lower case manuscript letters. Kindergarten Produce writing that is legible, including correct formation of manuscript letters. First grade Produce writing that is legible, including the correct formation of cursive letters. Second grade

4 Standardized Testing

5 Technology Once children enter formal schooling, current US education standards propose that teachers consider using digital tools for producing writing as early as first grade (NGA Center & CCSSO, 2012).

6 Handwriting in School Good handwriting is thought to influence academic performance in three major ways. First, from an aesthetic level, research suggests that teachers give higher grades to assignments produced with more attractive writing than those produced with less attractive writing (Briggs, 1980; Graham et al., 2000; Hughes, Keeling, & Tuck, 1983; Klein & Taub, 2005). Second, researchers argue that difficulties in handwriting burden the writer’s attention, requiring them to focus more on the writing and less on the content of their composition. Finally, children with handwriting difficulties are said to develop negative experiences with writing, including frustration, decreased self-efficacy, and poor motivation (Berninger, Mizokawa, & Bragg, 1991; Berninger & Graham, 1998; Graham, 1992; 1999).

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8 The International Society for Technology in Education (2007) suggests that children should acquire a certain technology “readiness” – demonstrating basic skills in technology operations by age 5 and NAEYC (2012) suggests that while technology can afford a source for exploration and mastery, teachers should provide a balance of activities that allow children to engage in authentic interactions in their surrounding environment.

9 Emergent Literacy

10 The wise teacher is reluctant to provide formal instruction in handwriting to groups of preschool and kindergarten children. Instead, she provides paper and marking tools for children to explore writing. Teachers are concerned- with good reason – that if they regularly provide formal and direct instruction to preschool and kindergarten classes, children’s interest in writing may be undermined. - Schickendanz, 1999

11 Classrooms that provide children with regular opportunities to express themselves on paper, without feeling too constrained for correct spelling and proper handwriting, also help children understand that writing has real purpose. (p. 5) - NAEYC, 1998 Learning to Read and Write: Developmentally Appropriate Practices for Young Children

12 Does handwriting really matter?

13 Associations between low-income children’s fine motor skills in preschool and academic performance in second grade Dinehart, L.H., & Manfra, L. (2013). Associations between low-income children’s fine motor skills in preschool and academic performance in second grade. Early Education & Development, 24 (2),

14 Handwriting Handwriting is generally defined as the ability to produce writing with speed and legibility. Visual motor integration Fine motor writing Graphomotor skills Handwriting readiness

15 Fine Motor Skills in the Classroom Once children enter formal schooling, many tasks used to demonstrate achievement, including those submitted for grading require fine motor skill. In preschool, children spend 37% of their day engaged in fine motor tasks, 10% involving paper and pencil. In kindergarten, children spend 46% of their day engaged in fine motor tasks, 42% involving paper and pencil. Second – fourth grade children spend 30-60% of their day engaged in fine motor skill, 85% involved paper and pencil tasks.

16 Fine Motor Skills Require visual perception and discrimination, motoric ability, and the coordination of the two. Researchers have identified an association between fine motor skills and later academic achievement (Carlton & Winsler, 1999; Son & Meisels, 2006). Grissmer, Grimm, Aiyer, Murrah, & Steele (2010). Argued that fine motor skill should be considered a “new” school readiness skill. These studies typically evaluate “fine motor” as a combination of manipulation and copying tasks.

17 Research question: Do fine motor skills in preschool, disentangled as two constructs: (a) fine motor manipulation and (b) fine motor writing, uniquely predict reading and math achievement in second grade?

18 Participants 3,234 children receiving subsidies with preschool data and second grade data three years later. Children were enrolled in one of 613 early learning centers and one of 230 schools in M-DCPS. Children were 62.5 months of age at the time of initial assessment. 57% were Hispanic, 35% Black/African American, 8% White non- Hispanic/Caucasian/other. 80% were assessed in English 77% were enrolled in the Free/Reduced Lunch program in school. Average number of absences from school was 6 days.

19 Measures - Preschool LAP-D assessment was collected at the end of the academic year (March to June). Fine Motor Manipulation Subscale (28 items) designed to capture manual dexterity: Building towers, steps, bridges with blocks, weaving strings through holes, turning the pages of a book, placing pegs in a pegboard, cutting, folding paper, and manipulating play dough. Fine Motor Writing Subscale (31 items) designed to capture early graphomotor skill: Imitating strokes, copying letters, numbers, and shapes, and drawing simple objects.

20 Measures – Second Grade Academic Achievement was collected by the school. Grades were scored on a five-point scale with 4 representing an A and 0 an F. SAT-10 is administered by the classroom teacher in the spring of every school year. VariableRangeM (SD) Math GPA0 – (0.90) Reading GPA0 – (0.98) VariableRangeM (SD) Math SAT10477 – Reading SAT

21 Analyses Four multilevel regressions to examine the effects of fine motor skill on later academic performance. Gender, ethnicity, free/reduced lunch status, and number of absences from school were entered into the regression equation in Model 1. Scores from the cognitive counting, cognitive matching, language naming, and language comprehension subscales of the LAP-D were entered into the regression equation in Model 2. Model 3 examined the unique effect of fine motor manipulation tasks on academic achievement. Model 4 examined the unique effect of fine motor writing tasks on academic achievement.

22 Fixed Effects Model 3 Estimate ES Model 4 Estimate ES Intercept (Constant)0.77**1.31*** Female Black-0.31*** ***0.50 White LAP-D age-0.01* **0.10 Free/Reduced Lunch-0.23*** ***0.26 Absence-0.02*** ***0.35 CC0.04*** ***0.41 CM0.03*** ***0.16 LN LC FM0.03***0.14- FW-0.03*** log likelihood7, , Change in model fit (Χ 2 )-7.22 (1)** (1)*** Math GPA

23 Fixed Effects Model 3 Estimate ES Model 4 Estimate ES Intercept (Constant)481.12***509.51*** Female6.84*** Black-18.94*** ***0.27 White LAP-D age0.71*** **0.08 Free/Reduced Lunch-7.96*** ***0.09 Absence-0.63*** ***0.11 CC1.91*** ***0.22 CM1.58*** ***0.09 LN0.65*** ***0.06 LC1.01** *0.04 FM1.75***0.09- FW-1.20*** log likelihood31, , Change in model fit (Χ 2 ) (1)* (1)*** Math SAT

24 Fixed Effects Model 3 Estimate ES Model 4 Estimate ES Intercept (Constant)1.38***1.31*** Female-0.22*** Black-0.19*** ***0.26 White LAP-D age-0.01** **0.13 Free/Reduced Lunch-0.26*** ***0.26 Absence-0.02*** ***0.31 CC0.04*** ***0.36 CM0.02** LN LC0.05*** FM FW-0.02*** log likelihood8, , Change in model fit (Χ 2 )-7.32 (1)** (1)*** Reading GPA

25 Fixed Effects Model 3 Estimate ES Model 4 Estimate ES Intercept (Constant)556.5**553.1*** Female-6.20*** ***0.16 Black-14.3*** ***0.47 White LAP-D age-0.58** ***0.15 Free/Reduced Lunch-10.0*** ***0.25 Absence-0.46*** ***0.17 CC1.53*** ***0.36 CM LN1.12*** ***0.22 LC1.72*** ***0.16 FM FW-0.75*** log likelihood31, , Change in model fit (Χ 2 )-0.46 (1)-14.7 (1)*** Reading SAT

26 Conclusion Fine motor skills, particularly fine motor writing, in preschool are important predictors of later academic achievement. Children with better fine motor skills in preschool demonstrate better math performance in second grade. Children with better writing skills in preschool demonstrate better reading performance in second grade.

27 Writing provides greater opportunities for creating internal models of symbols needed to succeed in school. Longcamp Zerbato-Poudou, & Velay, 2005

28 Research suggests that better handwriting may be more aesthetically pleasing and results in the production of better content.

29 In its most basic form, early writing is an exercise of fine motor control. Fine motor activities are said to stimulate the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain that houses elements of self- regulation and executive function (EF) Diamond, 2000

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31 Writing, at least in early childhood, may require that children either possess or exercise the components of self-regulation, including attentional flexibility, impulse control, and working memory (McClelland & Cameron, 2011). In one study EF skills, measured by the Head-Toes-Knees- Shoulders (HTKS) assessment of behavioral self-regulation found no link between handwriting and self-regulation.

32 Fine Motor Skill Is Associated With Inhibitory Control in Preschool Children Dinehart, L.H., & Willis, E., Moreno, J. (2014). Fine Motor Skill Is Associated With Inhibitory Control in Preschool Children. Presented at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, August 2014.

33 Disentangling EF We aimed to disentangle the individual skills that characterize EF and its association with fine motor writing skills. working memory - the ability to hold information in mind while performing an operation on it inhibitory control - the inhibition of an automatic response when seeing a task through to completion cognitive flexibility - the ability to shift attention between different, but related aspects of a given task (Willoughby, Wirth, & Blair, 2010).

34 Participants 34 children enrolled in a local childcare center. Children were between 3 and 5 years of age. Pulled out of their classrooms and assessed by a trained assessor. 54.1% of the children were female. 89.2% were identified by their parents as Hispanic.

35 Assessments The Pick the Picture (PTP) game is a self-ordered pointing task requiring children to utilize their working memory. The Silly Sounds Stroop (SSG)task is designed to assess children’s inhibitory control. The Something’s the Same (STSG) game is designed to capture children’s attention shifting abilities. The Beery-Buktenika Developmental Test of Visual Motor Integration (VMI) short form (ages 3 to 8 years) is a test of visual-motor integration.

36 Fixed EffectsModel 1 EstimateModel 2 Estimate Intercept (Constant)88.70***92.92*** Female Age in Months SSG (IC)-24.03** PPG (WM) STSG (CF)-1.42 Overall model significance *

37 Ongoing work Three and five-year-old performance on a visual-motor integration task is significantly associated with performance on an Inhibitory control task (r =.49, p<.05).

38 Conclusions This work is important for two reasons: 1.Early writing difficulties - if associated with impulse control skills - can serve as an early indicator of more global cognitive concerns in young children. 2.More importantly, an association between early writing and impulse control may point to handwriting or "handwriting readiness" as a means by which to enhance skills.

39 Questions?


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