I have always been a fan of putting pen to paper, despite the smudges of ink it creates and extra time it takes. Whether writing notes, sketching out drafts for essays, or simply capturing my thoughts from the day, I take the time to write these out by hand, even though typing would be more efficient.
Typing gets things down faster—that’s undeniable. However, recent studies have shown what many have long suspected: handwriting notes can actually help us learn better.
Key Benefits of Handwriting Notes
Increases learning comprehension.
Builds greater retention of concepts.
Better prepares students for handwriting timed essays.
Why is this the case? Research has revealed that handwriting notes engages more parts of your brain than simply typing up notes. Specifically, physically writing involves senses (sight, smell, touch, sound, maybe even taste) more heavily than typing does. By including more senses in the process, handwriting opens up more channels for remembering what we are writing.
Additionally, when typing notes, we often try to capture word-for-word what a teacher is saying or we copy and paste text from books or lecture notes without really delving into what they mean. When handwriting notes, we are forced to paraphrase and summarize material, contemplating and prioritizing the concepts we are learning. In other words, handwriting causes us to think more deeply about the information we are consuming.
Whether writing on a lined or blank page, in a notebook or on scratch paper, handwriting also challenges us to stay engaged and allows space for creativity in the organization of our notes, in the doodles, in the way we write, and even in the color ink we choose. One added plus of handwriting is unintentional preparation for the ACT writing section, SAT essay, and AP Exam Free Response Questions, which usually require students to handwrite essays in a timed setting.
As so many students (from elementary to high school and college) participate in online learning and remote classes, there is even more of a need for effective note-taking to supplement virtual lectures and online schooling. Next time you have the opportunity to take notes or jot down your thoughts, try handwriting them instead.