LEFT-HANDEDNESS IN EDUCATION: THE ISSUES

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Thankfully, Australian educators no longer force left-handed students to only use their right hand as was the case in our grandparent’s day.  But there is still only passive support for left-handed children in their learning. 

Children identify their preferred hand early and develop their fine motor skills from 2-8 years of age, skills they will use through the rest of their lives: drawing, cutting, writing and more.  A left-handed child will perform each of these tasks differently to a right-handed child and must be taught using a left-handed technique. 

– “Left-handed children need to be taught to perform skills in a left-handed fashion, just as right-handed children are taught how to do things right-handedly. Anyone who thinks it does not matter which hand a child uses should try going through just one day performing all manual tasks with the non-preferred hand.”
Dr M K Holder PhD, The Handedness Research Institute, USA

 

Despite the overwhelming use of technology and screens today, there is still a vital role for learning handwriting in the early years.  Studies have shown that good writing supports learning, improves reading ability and provides superior memory and recollection to keyboards or screens.  

Handwriting is one of the most complex life skills that a child will learn in their early years.  Writing on paper will not be totally replaced by technology in the foreseeable future.  Yet left-handed children continue to be only passively supported in learning this skill: they are generally allowed to use their left hand but are left to discover their own technique in holding the pencil and forming the letters and with little instruction.  This generally leads to poor quality writing while expending greater effort to do so.  A child that is instructed clearly and early will learn to write comfortably and legibly.  Who knows, they might even enjoy writing!

Remember, a left-hander uses the same muscles but in a different order or direction than does a right-hander and they push the pencil across the page.  To learn more about left-handed writing CLICK HERE.

Studies have shown that a child’s learning is enhanced when their natural hand is used for skills development and is supported in their learning:

– The natural hand creates better results which builds self-esteem and confidence
– Comfortable and legible writing makes for clearer communication
– Writing letters and words assists in sound recognition and reading development
– Comfortable writing means the writer is more focused on the content and not on the action of forming the letters and words
– Information retention and recollection is better when study notes are handwritten than when keyed (computers and tablets) or listened to (lectures and podcasts).

And it’s not just writing that is a concern.  Left-handed children need to sit to the left of a right-handed student so that their elbows don’t bump while writing and doing other activities.  They need the correct tools to be available in the classroom, like scissors and pencil sharpeners.  Supporting them properly will see real achievement in ability and self-confidence for these children.

So why aren’t we teaching our left-handed children correctly? 

Our research has found that universities are not preparing educators in the area of handedness which means that teachers are entering the classrooms without the knowledge and skills to properly teach 12% of their students.  They can’t use knowledge and skills that they simply haven’t learned themselves.

Our new teachers need to learn about these issues when they are at university.  That way they can bring this knowledge and practice into the classroom and support their left-handed students.  Each classroom is going to have an average of 3 left-handed students so the issue can’t be ignored any longer!

And our existing teachers need to be given the opportunity to learn this information in their staff development programs.  They missed out when they were at university so they need to be given that opportunity now.