PixabaySome terms explained: writing motor skills and graphomotor skills

Both terms refer to the processes that are needed to put graphic characters to paper by hand. But what does “writing motor skills” mean? How is it different to the more common term “graphomotor skills”?


The term graphomotor skills describes the more technical motor processes that are necessary for writing, colouring or drawing (cf. e.g. Loose et al., 1997), but the term is also stretched to include the interactive environmental factors of writing (cf. e.g. Dehn, 1994). However, the systematic difference between copying or drawing letters and actually producing quick writing is not considered in the different definitions. The significant aspects of writing with efficiency of movement and the critical role of visual monitoring when writing (cf. Quenzel, 1994) are afforded just as little explanation.

This is where the term writing motor skills comes into play: the focus here is on efficient sequences of movements when writing. The study of writing motor skills describes and researches how graphic characters can be written by hand with efficiency of movement and the best way to learn this type of economic writing (cf. Diaz Meyer et al., 2017). The long term objective of writing lessons is the acquisition of legible, efficient, fluid, fatigue-free and individual penmanship. Within this framework, the development of an even writing rhythm, quick writing speed and adequately low writing pressure, as well as the necessary transfer of these skills to writing letters, words and whole sentences, plays a central role (cf. ibid.).

Research into writing motor skills includes an interdisciplinary approach that links findings from motor skills, brain research, neuropsychology, the psychology of learning, pedagogy, and writing ergonomics. The criteria for writing with efficiency of movement, e.g. using efficient movements to link letters, effectively lifting the pen when writing and simplifying letters, are derived from the kinematic analysis of experienced, automated handwriting (cf. ibid.). Experienced writers carry out automated writing movements, i.e. they can subconsciously recall their memorised motor processes and as such can concentrate predominantly on the content of their writing.

In this context, the conscious control of movements typical of those learning to write plays a critical, even counter-productive role (cf. Quenzel/Mai, 2000). Subconscious automated writing is performed at a very high speed that cannot be monitored visually. As such, even the direction of attention to a detail of the letter is in itself sufficient to disturb automated execution considerably (cf. Marquardt et al., 1996, Quenzel, 1994).


Further reading

DIAZ MEYER, M.; SCHNEIDER, M.; MARQUARDT, M.; KNOPF, J.; LUPTOWICZ, C.: Schreibmotorische Förderung bei Erstklässlern: Ergebnisse einer Interventionsstudie. In: Didaktik Deutsch (2017) 43, S. 33-56.

LOOSE, A. C.; PIEKERT, N., DIENER, G.: Grahphomotorisches Arbeitsbuch für Eltern, ErzieherInnen, TherapeutIinnen, PädagogInnen. München: Pflaum, 1997.

MARQUARDT, C.; GENTZ, W.; MAI, N.: On the role of vision in skilled handwriting. In: Simner, ML, Leedham G,. Thomassen AJWM (Eds.) Handwriting and drawing research. Amsterdam: IOS Press, 1996.

QUENZEL, I.: Kinematische Analysen einfacher Schreibbewegungen bei Kindern und Erwachsenen. Unveröffentlichte Diplomarbeit, Fachbereich Psychologie, Frankfurt a. M, 1994.

DEHN, M.: Schlüsselszenen zum Schrifterwerb. Weinheim, Basel: Beltz, 1994.

QUENZEL, I.; MAI, N.: Kinematische Analyse von Schreibbewegungen im Erstschreibunterricht. In: Unterrichtswissenschaft (2000) 28, Nr. 4, S. 290-303.

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