Does Tracing Sight Words Help Children Learn?

Does tracing words help kids learn to read and spell them?  Teachers have been asking children to trace letters, words, and numbers as a way to help them learn probably since... well, forever!  But is there any research to back up this practice?  This question was asked of me recently via email, and I researched the answer in order to reply.  I thought that this might be useful information to post here on my blog as well, just in case anyone ever needed to know.  Hope it helps!


I was being observed by my principal this week.  We were singing one of your Sight Word Songs and then doing one of your sight word workbook pages. Later she asked me if had any research on tracing letters and words. I'm not sure what she meant by this, but do you know of any research about the pros and cons of tracing?

This is an example of one of our sight word worksheets that includes tracing.  We have these worksheets to accompany all six of our Sing and Spell the Sight Words DVD's.  To find them, click on the sight word volume that you want, and then scroll through the products and find the Sing & Spell Workbook, worksheets & mini-songbooks product.


This is what I think, and what I have experienced after 25 years of teaching Kindergarten and first grade.  Young children learn best when they are actively involved.  Tracing words is one way that to reinforce their learning, but I would never use tracing alone to teach them!  I include it as a way to reinforce what I have taught through music, movement, and through meaningful opportunities to practice reading and writing those words in context.


Here is one article on tracing words. It was shown to be effective with preschoolers that have learning disabilities.  The article is called, "THE EFFECTS OF USING VISUAL PROMPTS, TRACING, AND CONSEQUENCES TO TEACH TWO PRESCHOOL STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES TO WRITE THEIR NAMES."

This is another page from our Sight Word Worksheet Books.

This article also has a little bit of information on using tracing to help children with dyslexia learn to discriminate between letters that look alike, such as the lower case b and d.  Look all the way at the bottom of the page under the heading of Helping Children with Reversals. The article is called, "About Dyslexia and Reading Problems."

I think that this article is the best one of all!  It's called, "How Handwriting Trains the Brain."  Best quotes from the article:

This article was published by the Wall Street Journal on Oct. 5, 2010.

"Recent research illustrates how writing by hand engages the brain in learning. During one study at Indiana University published this year, researchers invited children to man a "spaceship," actually an MRI machine using a specialized scan called "functional" MRI that spots neural activity in the brain. The kids were shown letters before and after receiving different letter-learning instruction. In children who had practiced printing by hand, the neural activity was far more enhanced and "adult-like" than in those who had simply looked at letters."

"It seems there is something really important about manually manipulating and drawing out two-dimensional things we see all the time," says Karin Harman James, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Indiana University who led the study."

(Farther down the page there was this, too:)

She says pictures of the brain have illustrated that sequential finger movements activated massive regions involved in thinking, language and working memory—the system for temporarily storing and managing information."

If any of you are unfamiliar with our Sing and Spell the Sight Word song, here is a sample of what they look like.  They are lots of fun!  Remember, active learning is the best!

Want some more ideas on teaching sight words?  My Pinterest Sight Words Ideas Pin Board is absolutely FILLED with awesome, HANDS-ON ideas!  Check it out!  And follow HeidiSongs on Pinterest to make sure that you don't miss any of these great ideas!   Follow HeidiSongs's board Sight Words Ideas on Pinterest.


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