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Etude de l'automatisation des mouvements d'écriture chez l'enfant de 6 à 10 ans

Abstract : Written production is an automated motor activity for adults. Writing is smooth and fast because letter production relies on the prior activation of a procedural memory known as “motor program” or “sensori-motor map”. Our investigation focused on how motor programs develop during writing acquisition. We examined how writing evolved from stroke-to-stroke programming to letter-to-letter programming. In all our studies we recorded the children's writing movements with a digitizer. In the first experiment, 98 children aged 6 to 9 had to write letters of varying numbers of strokes. The results indicated that at ages 6-7, movement duration, dysfluency and trajectory increased with the letter’s number of strokes. The letters were produced by the activation of the first stroke, then the second stroke, and so on until the completion of the whole letter. The number of strokes affected much less the productions of the older children. They assembled the strokes into chunks, which gradually increased in size, until they could write, at the end of the automation process, with a letter-to-letter programming strategy. The analysis revealed that the first automatisms stabilized at age 8. However, some letters remained represented in chunks even among the older children. Specific types of strokes affected the stabilization of letter automation. We thus carried out another experiment to examine the impact of the rotation strokes that are necessary for the production of curved lines (e.g., to produce letter o) and the pointing movements that position the pen after a lift (e.g., to produce the dot on letter i). In the experiment, 108 children aged 6 to 10 wrote sequences of upper-case letters varying in pointing and rotation movements. The results indicated that the production of rotation movements required a speed trade-off to decrease differences between maximum and minimum velocities. Pointing movements required a duration trade-off between the movements executed on the sheet and in the air. There seems to be a sort of tempo for letter production that modulates letter production. This requires compensatory strategies that are cognitively demanding. At the developmental level, the kinematic data suggests that most of the learning process takes place between ages 6 to 8. Then there is stabilization phase that marks the beginning of writing automation. It evolves between ages 9 and 10. Our work thus revealed that as the child practices writing, the motor programs code increasingly bigger information chunks. This quantitative increase in procedural memory is also accompanied by qualitative information for certain types of strokes that require specific processing. Therefore, the content of motor programs is not limited to information about letter shape, stroke order and direction. Motor programs also code information on compensatory kinematic strategies for rotation and pointing movements. These motor programs are elaborated during the learning process between ages 6 to 7. At around age 8, with practice and the increase of cognitive, attentional and memory skills, they start to stabilize and become automated. At ages 9-10, writing is automated for most letters and becomes a linguistic communicational tool. The implications of these results are directly applicable in schools for the improvement of pedagogical tools in teaching writing.
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Laurence Seraphin-Thibon. Etude de l'automatisation des mouvements d'écriture chez l'enfant de 6 à 10 ans. Psychologie. Université Grenoble Alpes, 2018. Français. ⟨NNT : 2018GREAS040⟩. ⟨tel-02408944⟩

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