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Writing and Memory Retention - How Writing Things Down Helps with Memory

Writing and Memory Retention - How Writing Things Down Helps with Memory

With so much technology at your students' fingertips, they may have begun to rely on typing up their class notes instead of writing them by hand. While note-taking is a crucial skill to develop, regardless of the method, some research suggests handwriting notes offers a wealth of benefits that typing notes does not. 

Let's take a further look at those advantages, why taking notes helps retain information and how students can incorporate handwriting into their day-to-day activities. 

Does Writing Help Memory Retention? 

Yes, writing things down is still the absolute best way to absorb and retain any new information you want to remember. Writing is more efficient for memory than electronic notetaking because the movements are much more one-of-a-kind than typing. Writing on paper was also 25% faster than taking notes with digital tools like phones or tablets. 

Benefits of Handwriting for Memory

Even in an increasingly digital world, there are various benefits of handwriting inside and outside the classroom. Let's explore how handwriting can help students learn their letters, increase students' brain activity and help students with disabilities learn. 

Learning Letters

For young children, learning their letters is crucial in writing and reading. When handwriting, they get the chance to hone their fine motor skills while tracing the shapes of letters. When students understand their letters, they can communicate their unique ideas better, which ultimately leads to a more effective educational experience. Though technology is user-friendly and can be excellent for ease of application, what could students miss out on if they didn't practice handwriting?

Increased Brain Activity from Writing by Hand

Because handwriting involves motor function and visual perception, it's critical in teaching students how to write. Studies based on brain scans have shown that more brain regions light up during handwriting instead of typing, indicating they are active and functioning. For example, one recent study of children and young adults demonstrated that handwriting and drawing engage the brain much more than typing on a keyboard. 

Based on an EEG analysis, the researchers found writing by hand activated more regions of the brain, creating the optimal conditions for learning. Because of the cognitive benefits of writing, some experts have even suggested that it's not a good idea to teach children how to type until they've fully developed their handwriting abilities. 

Learning With Disabilities 

Some argue computers are ideal assistive tools for helping children with learning disabilities retain information more effectively. These students may struggle to master the physical and mental skills necessary for learning to write and express ideas. However, children with learning differences who learn to write by hand can develop their reading abilities sooner, memorize what they have learned and generate ideas more effectively. 

Though many teachers no longer emphasize penmanship, some students with disabilities may prefer writing by hand to typing on a keyboard, unless their disabilities physically prevent them from holding a pen or pencil. 

Does Writing Help Memory and Memory Retention?

Some students claim that they are more productive note-takers when they type because this method allows them to take notes faster. At Washington University, psychology professors even found that those who take notes via their computer instead of writing them out by hand have better recall immediately afterward. 

However, they found this advantage fades away after 24 hours. After taking a test covering the material, students who typed their notes performed worse. Therefore, if students want to cement details from lessons and lectures into their long-term memory, it is effective to take notes by hand as a memory aid, or at least write them out longhand after they've typed them up. 

This study found participants who took notes by hand did better because they were actively synthesizing and summarizing valuable takeaways, while those who typed were taking notes verbatim from the lecture. In other words, those who took notes by hand had to not only process the material, but also had to organize it on the fly. Meanwhile, students who typed their notes were only retaining information superficially.

Ultimately, writing things down helps you remember more by forcing people to slow down and be more intentional, so students who want to retain relevant information should take class notes by hand. The practice will pay off in better grades, too.  

How Students Can Incorporate Handwriting in Their Day-to-Day Lives

Writing in a planner is a fantastic way for students to incorporate handwriting into their daily lives. Though they will likely be writing schedule details down in their planners for the most part, they will also get into the habit of handwriting and start associating note-taking with organization and helpfulness. When completing homework assignments like writing essays and papers, starting with a handwritten list of ideas or an outline to organize thoughts is an excellent strategic practice.

Encouraging your students to take notes will allow them to reap all the benefits of handwriting we've reviewed in this article and more. It's an excellent idea to format your lectures in a way that allows students to summarize the material in their handwriting. They will not only retain the material better, but their brains will also be working extra hard and getting stronger!

Writing can also be an effective study tool. Because writing can help with memorization, students can benefit from handwriting activities that go beyond note-taking. For example, students can write and rewrite information that they struggle with, which will ultimately help them remember it better. If the subject is particularly challenging for the student, encourage them to do this rewriting early in the day when their minds are fresh. 

If they prefer, students can also use mind maps rather than a simple note format. These tools will allow them to connect different points while also allowing them to reap the benefits of writing down information they want to remember. 

Inspire Your Students to Write and Improve Memory With Success by Design

At Success by Design, we have been developing educational planners since 1988. We make high-quality planners with a purpose for students in various grade levels. With these planners, you can even order a custom-designed cover to add some fun to the writing process. These eye-catching and effective planners will encourage your students to not only organize their school and homework schedules but to practice their handwriting skills as well. 

The 2022-2023 school year will mark Success by Design's 34th year of helping students and teachers stay organized. We invite you to learn more about the benefits of printed planners or browse our catalog to find the planner that fits your educational needs. To learn more about us and our products, use our online contact form or give us a call at 844-263-0872. For a limited time, shop our online-only sale for discounted student planners.

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