Is the Pen Mightier Than the Keyboard?


Is the pen really mightier than the keyboard?  According to current research the answer is a resounding yes! Technology is now an integral and necessary part of our society, and for many individuals it is becoming “second nature.” With the rise of technology in our society and the global modes of communication, writing with pen and paper is taking a backseat in many schools.

Do you know that the MClass reading assessment has a writing component that is linked to reading?  Your child is tested on their ability to read AND write on grade level.  According to a survey by the State Board of Education 62% of North Carolina’s elementary schools say they’re providing cursive instruction at least on a monthly basis.  Even assuming a rate of 100%, is it enough?  Would you be impressed if 100% of students received reading instruction just once a month? When learning a new skill whether it’s riding a bike, or learning how to write, consistency and daily practice is not only important, but essential.  

For many students, cursive is becoming as foreign as ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. Since 2010, 45 states — including Maryland — and the District have adopted the Common Core standards, which do not require cursive instruction. (Washington Post)

Many experts argue that it is no longer necessary to teach cursive in the classroom. Why put pen to paper when we can simply click letters on a keyboard to write, reports, essays and documents?  While many states support this philosophy, educators are taking a step back as they realize the importance of writing and the essential role it plays in learning.  Researchers studying this connection have found ample evidence that supports the essential role cursive plays in academic performance.  For example, did you know that writing helps you to remember what you are learning?  Unlike typing, writing requires us to focus to a greater degree, and this in turn helps us learn at a “deeper” level.

The physical act of writing, stimulates cells in the base of our brain known as the Reticular Activating System (RAS).  The RAS filters information and brings our attention to the forefront, helping us to focus on what we are doing.  This part of the brain is not activated to the same degree when we type. Put another way, writing changes the way our brain processes information!

For young children learning to read, this is significant. There is a direct link between reading and writing.  Writing “works” a part of the brain that typing does not.  Think of your brain as a muscle. If you lift weights your muscle grows.  Writing is a “weight” that can increase a student’s memory, understanding and application of new material!

In a 2012 study at Indiana University, psychologist Karin James tested five-year-old children who did not yet know how to read or write by asking them to reproduce a letter or shape in one of three ways: typed onto a computer, drawn onto a blank sheet, or traced over a dotted outline. When the children were drawing freehand, an MRI scan during the test showed activation across areas of the brain associated in adults with reading and writing. The other two methods showed no such activation. (

With the demands placed on teachers, finding time to make this a part of the curriculum is easier said than done.  Give your child a head start by teaching this skill at home.  If you’re not sure where to begin, teach your child how to write their name.  Keep writing lessons short, and use lots of positive reinforcement.  If your child has zero interest in learning how to write there is an easy fix to this common problem. READ MORE……

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