The Role of Muscle Memory when Learning to Write

muscle memory helps to develop handwriting skillsmuscle memory helps to develop handwriting skills

There are so many activities we carry out on a daily basis that involve muscle memory. From walking, to talking and eating. But what exactly is the muscle memory?

Muscle memory is simply the repetition of a task, until the brain just remembers how to do it automatically. So you may be thinking, what does muscle memory have to do with handwriting?

The famous saying practice makes perfect applies here. The more you practice handwriting, the faster you will get at writing and your writing will flow better.

However, I like to make the point that this saying should not apply if the child is writing using incorrect letter formation or pencil grip, as in this case practice does not make perfect. Instead, practice results in bad habits becoming embedded and entrenched.


The importance of muscle memory when learning to write

Hands and fine motor skills are exactly the same as the brain in relation to retaining knowledge. The more you use them, the more your brain will retain the movement and move it from the forefront of your brain into your muscle memory.

Therefore, it is vital that a child can spend time developing their fine and gross motor skills and the muscles in their hand before they even begin putting pen to paper. This is because they need these skills and muscles in order to hold a pencil correctly, without experiencing pain. These skills and muscles then enable the child to carry out the complex movements later on, when they are learning to form letters and then join these letters.

There are a number of activities that you can carry out with your child to ensure that they are developing their fine and gross motor skills: Tennis, Badminton, playing with Play-doh and Lego, painting, cutting and sticking.


How the continuous cursive method affects muscle memory

The rush to join that is currently taking place in primary schools is resulting in many schools turning to the continuous cursive method as the solution. However, this method severely affects muscle memory, resulting in detrimental effects to handwriting.

The rush to join and use of cursive is causing teachers to skip the vital fundamental stages of learning to write. The correct method for learning to write should begin by focusing on the development of fine and gross motor skills and a correct pencil grip. Once, and only once the child has had enough time to do this, should they then be moved onto letter formation. After this stage has been mastered, then the joining of letters should be introduced.

The continuous cursive method doesn’t follow this order and doesn’t allow adequate time for the child to master each stage before being moved onto the joining of letters.

I am seeing many primary schools rushing their children through the fundamental stages, to the point where their children are not being given the time to develop their fine and gross motor skills.

It is vital that teachers spend time helping their children develop and build up the muscles which are crucial to gripping a writing tool and the mechanics of writing, as well as developing their fine and gross motor skills and allowing them to move into the muscle memory. It is difficult to hold and steer the pencil/pen across the paper and sit with a good posture, if the writer has poor muscle strength.


Let’s challenge the use of continuous cursive

It is because of the detrimental effect that the rush to join and the continuous cursive method has on handwriting and the muscle memory, that we are challenging the Government. There is a reason why this rush to join has occurred in primary schools and the reason being the increasing pressures that are being put on teachers to tick the boxes of the Primary Assessments.

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