There are neural connections
between the brain areas that process the visual shapes of
objects (this includes letter shapes) and word sounds. These
'fuzzy' connections also extend into two nearby motor areas of the brain:
those that control the sequence of muscle movements required
for hand gestures and those for the muscles of the mouth,
lips and tongue. Synkinesia (to move together) is the term used for the effects
caused by this neural cross-activation. Professor Ramachandran
talked about these connections in the Reith lecture he
gave in 2003: www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/reith2003/lecturer.shtml
N.B.Don't confuse synkinesia with synesthesia, which is where two or more bodily senses are neurally coupled, for example, in grapheme-colour synesthesia, letters or numbers are perceived as inherently colored (Wiki)
Charles Darwin, himself, pointed out that when we cut paper
with scissors, our jaws may clench and unclench unconsciously
as if to echo the hand movements.' (Scientific
American). Synkinesia also explains the tongue-out
position that many children adopt whilst they are drawing
and writing and why babies who are born deaf, 'babble' using
gesture and hand movements (D. McGuinness
2004 p41) The hand movements we tend to use during conversation
reveal the gestural origins of language.
Now that is known that our vision, hearing, mouth and hand
muscles are all linked and cross-activated in the brain, it becomes obvious
why it is so important to use a multi-sensory
method which includes sounding out and HANDwriting activities when teaching reading and spelling. '(C)hildren find it easier to remember
spellings if they can remember the movement of the hand in
forming the word; hence the reason most people, when asked
to spell a difficult word, prefer to write it down. Janet
Townend, past head of training at Dyslexia Action, says
this kind of multi-sensory approach is particularly helpful
for dyslexic children. "Fluency of writing helps with
fluency of spelling," she says. "If children can
see words on the page, feel them in their mouth and experience
the movement of writing as well, that helps enormously with
spelling." (TES Friday 12/11/04
Forming invisible letter shapes in the air, on a textured board or on a person's
back/forearm, is not a useful activity. Memory for letter shapes can be greatly
improved by creating cross modal connections, but two or more
sensory modes must be connected at the same time; real writing
is movement made visible. (McGuinness.
Debbie Hepplewhite, a synthetic phonics teacher, programme writer and trainer, gives the following advice on teaching reluctant
children to write: ''If children are not writing then something is preventing
it. Can they segment orally? Can they write all their letter/s-sound
correspondences independently (give them a dictation test)?
Can they write at word level? Can they talk in simple sentences
which they can then write? Don't expect writing to 'emerge' - TEACH THEM!' We now know that we cannot just expect children's writing skills 'to emerge' with maturity or 'readiness' and we understand, or should, the many basic sub-skills involved with the technical side of the writing process - and that we need to teach these very explicitly before we should ask, or expect, children to 'write' their ideas'' (Hepplewhite.TES)
Don't expect creative/independent writing too early.
Debbie Hepplewhite discusses nonsense words, invented spelling
and independent writing.
Modern youngsters have poorer speech skills, right? Wrong!
Doing dictation doesn't make you a dictator.
Definition of writing: 'A system of more or less permanent marks used to represent an utterance in such a way that it can be recovered more or less exactly without the intervention of the utterer.' P Daniels. The World’s Writing Systems p21
Link to Handwriting | Spelling