There are neural connections
between the brain areas that process the visual shapes of
objects (this includes letter shapes) and word sounds. These
'fuzzy' connections also extend into two nearby motor areas of the brain:
those that control the sequence of muscle movements required
for hand gestures and those for the muscles of the mouth,
lips and tongue. Synkinesia (to move together) is the term used for the effects
caused by this neural cross-activation. Professor Ramachandran
talked about these connections in the Reith lecture he
gave in 2003: www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/reith2003/lecturer.shtml
N.B.Don't confuse synkinesia with synesthesia, which is where two or more bodily senses are neurally coupled, for example, in grapheme-colour synesthesia, letters or numbers are perceived as inherently colored (Wiki)
Charles Darwin, himself, pointed out that when we cut paper
with scissors, our jaws may clench and unclench unconsciously as
if to echo the hand movements (Scientific
American). Synkinesia also explains the tongue-out
position that many children adopt whilst they are drawing
and writing and why babies who are born deaf, 'babble' using
gesture and hand movements (D. McGuinness
2004 p41) The hand movements we use during conversation
reveal the gestural origins of language.
Diane McGuinness explains multi-sensory learning:
''The cognitive systems of the brain rely on cross-modal processing to form what are known as "routines" or "subroutines" -- which are carried out in the dendrites in "neural circuits." In a complex act, various subroutines/circuits are linked up in the brain (via neural pathways), because each one of them occurs in a different region. Thus, if you teach phonemes linked to letters, and reinforce this via writing, you have connected up the auditory cortex language areas of the medial left hemisphere, (phonemic analysis and synthesis already in place because of language), with something NEW - i.e. visual symbols (not ordinarily part of language processing) which engage the posterior occipital regions of the brain responsible for visual pattern analysis, and then link both to a kinesthetic response by writing what you hear and see, which engages the fine motor processing systems governed by the motor cortex (usually left hemisphere superior motor gyrus). When you link all three as you process text (or generate text via writing), these three systems of the brain "cooperate" and reinforce one another, and this doubles the speed of learning. You have three different parts of the brain (plus their subsidiary regions) acting in tandem''
Now that is known that our vision, hearing, mouth
and hand muscles are all linked and cross-activated in the
brain, it becomes obvious
why it is so important to use a multi-sensory
method which includes audibly sounding out whilst
HANDwriting the spellings when teaching early reading and
writing. ''(C)hildren find it easier to remember
spellings if they can remember the movement of the hand in
forming the word; hence the reason most people, when asked
to spell a difficult word, prefer to write it down. Janet
Townend, past head of training at Dyslexia Action, says
this kind of multi-sensory approach is particularly helpful
for dyslexic children. "Fluency of writing helps with
fluency of spelling," she says. "If children can
see words on the page, feel them in their mouth and experience
the movement of writing as well, that helps enormously with
spelling" (TES Friday 12/11/04
Forming invisible letter shapes in the air, on a textured board or on a person's
back/forearm, is not a useful activity. Memory for letter shapes can be greatly
improved by creating cross modal connections, but two or more
sensory modes must be connected at the same time; real writing
is movement made visible. (McGuinness.
What to do about the boy who hates writing
''Aside from a tiny percentage (2%?) of children with very
special needs, the reason why kids struggle with getting stuff
down on paper is that the process of linking sounds to
spellings has not been automatised in the early years and
that’s the fault of poor pedagogy''
Don't expect creative/independent writing too early.
Tom Burkard bemoans invented spelling and creative writing in
the early years. ''Making children write
before they can spell makes no more sense than giving them
books before they can decode''
Doing dictation doesn't make you a dictator.
Definition of writing: 'A system of more or less permanent marks used to represent an utterance in such a way that it can be recovered more or less exactly without the intervention of the utterer.' P Daniels. The World’s Writing Systems p21
Link to Handwriting | Spelling