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Curious about writing

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Do some kids just need to type their work instead of writing it out by hand? Last week my son had a short assignment and when he turned it in, I had him repeat it. It was extremely sloppy and had capitals where they were not supposed to be. His 2nd, and typed attempt was much better.


He just handed in a poor attempt of a story. Handwritten, and not looking like he is trying to be neat at all. He looks like my writing does when I'm making a grocery list for myself. I could have him type his papers, but will that hurt him in the future? In public school or college, are papers ever hand written anymore? I'm trying to figure out how much this should matter:).



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I'm having dd12 type about half and hand write about half of what she writes. She needs to get more comfortable with a keyboard while at the same time keeping her handwriting skills active.


At my son's high school all writing completed outside of class time had to be typed as it was first submitted through a plagiarism-detection software called TurnItIn.


My daughter's high school doesn't use software like that but all writing is typed, MLA format. She began learning MLA in seventh grade (as did ds), so that's what I'm starting with dd12 this year. Proper citations in a research-type paper are extremely important.

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I would guess (from experience with our own 2 DSs -- one lazy/sloppy about handwriting, and one with some LDs with writing and handwriting) there are several things going on:



1. Sounds like pretty typical boy behavior/attitude; they don't tend to care to take the time. ;)



2. A first attempt at writing is called a "sloppy copy" for a reason -- the student should be focused on thinking of what to write and getting down on paper -- NOT distracted by simultaneously having to think of how to spell, when to punctuate/capitalize, what the handwriting looks like, etc. That's one reason why typing first drafts is much more helpful to students in getting the writing thought flow out of their heads and onto paper.



3. To neaten handwriting, practice that skill specifically at a separate time, as copywork or perhaps dictation. Also consider using something like Callirobics to improve fine motor skills and hand coordination in writing.



4. Formal papers, essays, and writing assignments in all high schools and colleges/universities must be typed, and usually in a specified format. So learning how to touch type and practice typing in the middle school years is a good and practical skill to learn.


Starting in 7th grade or so, for a writing assignment, we may have started with handwriting, but only for brainstorming and planning out keyword outlines. Once the writing process started, we went with typing rather than handwriting the writing assignments because: 1) DSs could simultaneously think/write easier/faster through typing, and 2.) DSs had more teachable attitude via typing; it made it much easier for DSs to accept that writing is always a *process* with multiple steps; they didn't feel "all that hard work of handwriting!" their first "sloppy copy" was wasted if, instead, they typed the first draft and could then just go back for the revision stage and type changes -- compared to handwriting the first draft, and then having to handwrite in changes, AND then re-write by hand the whole assignment -- maybe several times, depending on how many revisions were needed



5. Handwriting at the high school and college level only occurs in a student's personal note-taking and for timed essay tests, such as the ACT or SAT, and college mid-term and final exams.



6. For note-taking, there are options to learn actual shorthand; or to learn note-taking skills such as writing only key words, etc. If the student is a visual learner, try substituting drawing picture notes or doing mind-mapping/concept mapping for note-taking. Or, many students use electronic devices with apps or laptops for typing notes, especially if the student has very poor handwriting or the handwriting becomes hard to read when the student tries to do it fast. Practice note-taking during the high school years by using a videotape lecture series for a few classes; that gives the student time to figure out how to take notes in the way that is most helpful for them, and to practice neatening up the handwriting to be legible to study from later.



7. For essay writing, if the student has a disability, document it with testing/diagnoses and the student can apply in advance to type their test essays instead.


If the student is just lazy/sloppy, then it's important to get the student to neaten up enough for the test to be legible: have the student slow down; print instead of cursive if printing is more legible; practice writing timed essays in the "blue book" -- have the student write on every other line, and then be sure to leave a few minutes at the end to go back and make corrections in the blank in-between lines, using proof-reading marks. Do NOT erase and re-write on top, as on the ACT/SAT tests the whole thing comes out as a black smudge. Practice regularly (say, 2-4x/month) through the high school years by actually doing an essay in 25 minutes from a past SAT prompt (scroll down). It worked very well for the 3 of us to ALL do it simultaneously, and then (gently) critique one another's essays.



BEST of luck in figuring out how much this needs to matter for your family! Warmest regards, Lori D.

Edited by Lori D.
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I don't think many students in high school are handing in handwritten papers. If a student doesn't have access to a computer the teacher might accept handwritten, but might instruct the student to go to the library or computer lab to write papers. I would not be at all surprised if a high school teacher did not accept handwritten papers as policy and only accepts them with an exception.


When I was in college (a loooong time ago) no one accepted a handwritten assignment. I am old enough that we all had typewriters, and whiteout. Some of the kids had computers, but it was a novelty. In my senior year of college, some teachers were accepting papers on disc. I live in a college town and the students aren't even using paper anymore. Papers only exist in the digital realm.


So, no, typing his assignments won't hurt him academically. But, not knowing how to keyboard might. And, as mentioned by a PP, at first it is a good idea to separate typing from the process of composition. Once typing becomes somewhat fluent then it can be part of the writing process.

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I think you're not asking the important questions. The important questions are: *why* is there such a difference and is forcing him to handwrite *holding him back*?


Typing is a known, recognized accommodation, and you can see a huge difference in out put quality in a kid with working memory or other problems if you remove the motor control as an issue and just let the content come out. At some point you have to break things up and make handwriting time handwriting time and essay time essay time and not confuse the two.


For us, I have dd handwriting the daily exercises (super short, things like outlining with 5-6 phrases) in WWE with the only requirement that it be legible, but I have her typing the longer works (paragraphs and essays, the day 4 exercises). Basically anything longer than a dab, she types. Anything where I want to see her ABILITY and the point is not handwriting, she types. The only thing I ask for in her daily work is that it be legible. She tends to get less legible as she goes faster. It's an impulsivity thing. However if you tell her to slow down, she's gonna lose her train of thought due to the working memory. So it really doesn't work to combine handwriting and output, not for her.


If you know *why* the handwriting is bad, that can clue you in to what to do about it. There are some things I want to try with her this year. We're working up to them though. There are things like the Barchowsky exercises and Callirobics, but she can't handle the distraction of the Callirobics music on top of the motor control work. So right now we're working on distractions with some metronome work. There have been some good threads on handwriting on the SN board too.


Well whatever, that probably seems nuts. Not even sure the age of the child you're talking about. Just suggesting you find out why he's having the problem. My dd's got worse over the years and worse over the length of a page. For her it was a combo of things: low muscle tone (leading to fatiguing really easily) and motor control not being automatic and working memory that was making it hard to focus on writing AND hold the thoughts of what she was writing at the same time. When you know the causes, then you can figure out the best way to work on it. No matter what, typing is good. It has made a huge difference for us.

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I typed most of my final exam answers 20+ years ago in college. Waaaay back then, I didn't have a computer of my own and the computer lab was always crowded during finals time. So I actually paid a woman in the local community to take my handwritten materials and type them for me! I had terrible handwriting* and wouldn't have been able to turn in my handwritten materials.


* I was a lefty back when they just told lefties to "do the opposite" for handwriting instruction. :glare:


ETA: I let my oldest type or write, but he does work faster (as do I) when typing. He's still in "hunt and peck" mode, but it is still more comfortable for him.

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