Graphemes as motor units in the acquisition of writing skills

Sonia Kandel, Olga Soler, Sylviane Valdois, Céline Gros

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    48 Citations (Scopus)


    This study examined whether the graphemic structure of words modulates the timing of handwriting production during the acquisition of writing skills. This is particularly important during the acquisition period because phonological recoding skills are determinant in the elaboration of orthographic representations. First graders wrote seven-letter bi-syllabic words on a digitiser. We measured movement duration and fluency and evaluated reading performance. In Experiment 1, the words varied in number of graphemes and grapheme structure. In Experiment 2, the words varied in graphemic structure but the number of graphemes was held constant. The results revealed that the children wrote the first syllable of the words grapheme-by-grapheme, irrespective of the number of letters that composed them. They prepared the movement to produce the first grapheme before starting to write. The following graphemes were processed on-line. They then prepared the movement to write the second syllable. The progressive decrease of duration and dysfluency values towards the end of the word indicates that the children prepared the entire syllable in advance. Movement time and dysfluency measures presented very similar patterns in the two experiments. Furthermore, there was a significant correlation between reading performance and handwriting measures. The grapheme and syllable structure of the words therefore modulates the timing of motor production during handwriting acquisition. Once the children have learned the phonological recoding rules, they apply them systematically, irrespectively of the size of the graphemes they have to write. © Springer 2006.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)313-337
    JournalReading and Writing
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2006


    • Children
    • Duration
    • Dysfluency
    • French
    • Graphemes


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