The importance of the skill of handwriting in the school curriculum

24 Jan

Linda Shaw reported in the Seattle Times about cursive writing. In Roosevelt High School Teacher Gives Her Students a Review in Cursive

Sure, they learned cursive when they were in elementary school, but they use it so rarely that they’ve forgotten a lot of it.

Even for these students — high achievers taking advanced-placement Latin at Seattle’s Roosevelt High School — cursive is quaint.

“I never write in cursive,” said Annika Kounts, who struggled when she had to write a few cursive sentences as part of the SAT college-entrance exam.

“I gave up and printed,” classmate Kevin Tang said. “I started writing it in cursive, but it took me too long.”

Cursive is encouraged but no longer required in Seattle Public Schools, and Washington state’s education department doesn’t insist it be taught, either. That doesn’t mean early elementary-school teachers don’t teach it — the vast majority still do in Seattle and elsewhere. But as students use computers more and academic demands increase, many schools no longer devote as much time to cursive as they once did.

Roosevelt Latin teacher Nora MacDonald says it was about 10 years ago when she first noticed that fewer of her students used cursive for homework assignments. For the past five years, she said, almost all of them used block printing.

MacDonald last year became so annoyed with the state of her students’ handwriting that she asked her seniors if they wanted a short refresher in cursive. In some cases, their printing was so messy that she feared their grades on the advanced-placement Latin exam would suffer because graders wouldn’t be able to decipher their answers.

The students thought a day of cursive would be fun, so for the past two years, MacDonald has invited friend and retired third-grade teacher JoAnne Jugum to give a one-hour review.

According to Shaw, the teachers report that students who take pride in their writing take pride in their school work. Teachers are beginning to discover that cursive writing has education value.

Jaclyn Zubrzycki reports in the Education Week article, Summit to Make a Case for Teaching Handwriting

Doubt about the continued worth of handwriting skill is “similar to what happened with math as calculators and computers came into vogue,” said Daniel A. Domenech, the executive director of the American Association of School Administrators, which co-sponsored the gathering with Zaner-Bloser, a Columbus, Ohio, company that produces a handwriting curriculum. “People wondered whether students needed to learn how to do math. The answer in both cases is absolutely yes. Writing is not obsolete.”

Proponents of teaching—in some cases, reintroducing—handwriting in the school curriculum say their concern over the fading importance of handwriting became more urgent with the advent of the Common Core State Standards. The standards, which were released in 2010 and have been adopted by all but four states, mention keyboarding but not handwriting.

“The conversation about handwriting instruction has been growing,” said Kathleen Wright, the coordinator of this week’s event and the national product coordinator at Zaner-Bloser.

The company advocates that states supplement the common core with handwriting standards, as Massachusetts and California have already done. Ms. Wright said the conference, called the “Handwriting in the 21st Century?: An Educational Summit,” was timed so policymakers could address any lack of attention to handwriting while their states are still rolling out their own versions of the common core.

“As I talked to researchers, they were all saying the same thing in different ways,” Ms. Wright said. “Handwriting instruction needs to be done.”

Cognitive and Motor Skills

Virginia Berninger, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington, in Seattle, and a scheduled presenter at the conference, said that learning handwriting has both cognitive and motor benefits, and that letter formation is a skill that needs to be taught and practiced. http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/01/25/18handwriting_ep.h31.html?tkn=PRXFj%2FubPksj%2FGLUvp%2BYvyDm7ttFD1Wz8zVq&cmp=clp-edweek

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that the skill of handwriting helps in cognitive learning.

Gwendolyn Bounds reports in the WSJ article, How Handwriting Trains the Brain:

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.

Adults may benefit similarly when learning a new graphically different language, such as Mandarin, or symbol systems for mathematics, music and chemistry, Dr. James says. For instance, in a 2008 study in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, adults were asked to distinguish between new characters and a mirror image of them after producing the characters using pen-and-paper writing and a computer keyboard. The result: For those writing by hand, there was stronger and longer-lasting recognition of the characters’ proper orientation, suggesting that the specific movements memorized when learning how to write aided the visual identification of graphic shapes.

Other research highlights the hand’s unique relationship with the brain when it comes to composing thoughts and ideas. Virginia Berninger, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington, says handwriting differs from typing because it requires executing sequential strokes to form a letter, whereas keyboarding involves selecting a whole letter by touching a key. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704631504575531932754922518.html

See, The Importance of Cursive Writing http://www.enterpriseefficiency.com/author.asp?section_id=1077&doc_id=236382

Perhaps, it is wishful thinking. One cannot stop “progress.” Sometimes, everything old is new again.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

17 Responses to “The importance of the skill of handwriting in the school curriculum”

  1. lagosbooksclub August 11, 2012 at 6:36 am #

    nice work u are doing here…i am really impressed…u have made some of my ideas clearer and definitely added to my chest..will use them and quote u…many thanks…

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