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What does it mean to learn to write?
A child learns to wield a pencil or pen, to trace letters, to spell words, to join them in a sentence. But what does this really mean in terms of their development, their future academic success?
I left the Symposium on January 26th with my head buzzing. I’m sure this was the case for the others with whom I shared the pleasure of hearing Professor Marie-France Morin of Sherbrooke University speak on the importance of teaching and learning the writing process in primary school.
The process of writing is something she described in both mechanical and cognitive terms. Young children need to develop their fine motor skills in order to write with ease because the assimilation and automatisation of this skill ultimately frees attention that can then be focused on higher order thinking, on the creative processes that are necessary for the production of a text. There is also significant evidence that the process of writing by hand encourages reflection and promotes more effective processing of information than typing on a keyboard.
As I continue to ponder Professor Morin’s talk, there are two important ideas that I will reflect upon. The first is the tremendous importance of what takes place in primary school to the future academic success of any child. The second is the necessity of being thoughtful and deliberate in the integration of technology into the classroom. I do not mean that we should become Luddites. Technology is here, it is part of our children’s and our lives. It can provide us with powerful learning tools. But it cannot replace what is essential, which is to promote a deep assimilation and processing of knowledge. Whether it is with a pencil or a stylus in hand, let us not forget our ultimate goals.
Director of Education
International School of Geneva