kitchen table math, the sequel: handwriting, part 2

Sunday, March 21, 2010

handwriting, part 2

Vicky S:
Here's another side of it: kids who can't write cursive can't read it either. Ask a student who has never learned cursive to read a handwritten paragraph. You'll see what I mean.

When my older son (who writes in cursive) did spelling tests at his new school in 4th grade, and they exchanged papers to grade them, not one person in the class could read his words (and his cursive is quite good).

Susan S:
Another problem, along with lack of practice, is the fact that some schools allow keyboarding papers as early as 4th grade. Thats what happened to my son. They gave him a choice so he chose the computer.

I finally realized in middle school that he couldn't write a legible paragraph. He was dependent on the computer and spellcheck. I had to spend a year forcing him to handwrite summaries for me and he complained mightily because his hand hurt after a sentence or two. It took a few weeks for him to relax with the pen or pencil and pop off a paragraph. This is ridiculous for kids about to go into high school English followed by the ACTs.

I also had to re-teach him certain letters in upper and lower case. No teacher corrected his mess when he was doing extended response in class, something they do a lot to prepare for state tests.

Oh yeah, and rarely did he come home with lined paper. He had idea how to use it.

Most of the practice that he did receive in grade school was in the form of journaling. His own thoughts of "I love to play with my ball" are more critical at that time than learning to shape letters properly, apparently.

Cursive is important because they can't read it, like Vicki said. They can't read their parent's love letters or the Declaration of Independence. Cursive gives them more practice which helps to strengthen those small muscles in the hand. At some point, I agree that allowing them to choose is fine, but I would push it to high school. They have to be forced to write until it's fluid, something we of another age took for granted.

I could go on and on, but you get the point. It's another thing you must do at home and early or you'll have to remediate later.

I know a lot of kids who write a '4' the same way they would print a lowercase 'u', except with a longer tail. A '5' is written the same way as an 's', and a '9' is written starting from the bottom, then up, and a counterclockwise circle at the top.

I think they "discovered" this because no one showed them how to pick up the pencil to finish the 4, or to put the "little flag" on top of the 5, or to change direction when writing the 9.

And they hold their pencils the way little crabs would hold them! By the time they get to middle school it would need Total War to fix, and I would lose.


It is dreadful. My friend who teaches at college level can't read their stuff... and as mentioned above.. ironically the typing is as bad or worse. They are never taught how to write a sentence... just told to write, from kindergarten on. I admit my grammar isn't the greatest... but atleast I know it isn't... they don't.

Last year (Gr4) my son's teacher taught them cursive. He told me they'll never see it again - he's taught 30yrs or so - BUT, he was going to give them a crash course in it. Now, my son had already had some cursive b/c OT sent some home. He can now read (ok) and write (messy but no worse than his printing) in it - gr 5.

Chem Prof gave me an idea, this summer when he's doing spelling words I'm going to add "write in cursive" to the instructions.

Thanks for the reminder.


Jean said...

Here's another thought: ergonomics is important when you're using a keyboard all the time. How many kids who type everything are using a keyboard designed for smaller hands? How many of them sit with proper posture, with their arms held at a good angle? The number approaches zero, right?

If a child spends hours a day, for years, typing in bad positions with ill-fitting equipment, he's being set up for repetitive stress injuries that will not go away.

I speak from experience, since my husband is a software engineer. He started programming when he was 10, and of course never heard the word ergonomics. By the time he was 23, he had severe tendinitis in both arms, which he's now had for over 10 years (though it's improved with attention to ergonomics and physical therapy).

I'd bet that schools that require students to type everything or use laptops all the time don't give a second's thought to the physical consequences of constant keyboard and mouse use.

concernedCTparent said...

When my 12 year old took the ACT recently, she was surprised to see the high school students moaning and complaining about writing the identity statement at the beginning of the test in cursive as they are required to do. She said they looked completely confused and that it took them forever to finish.

Lisa said...

I'm teaching my 3rd grader cursive. I was told I was wasting my time.

Catherine Johnson said...

"You're wasting your time" should taken as a clue that you are not wasting your time.

ChemProf said...

It's funny -- I've been thinking about this because we just finished kinetics. I always have to talk about handwriting then because some expressions have upper case and lower case letter k/K. I know from experience that their notes get bad because they can't tell their k's apart!

VickyS said...

Rocky, wow that is exactly how my younger son (the one who never had handwriting instruction) writes. Exactly. So much for discovery learning.

Anonymous said...

"When my 12 year old took the ACT recently, she was surprised to see the high school students moaning and complaining about writing the identity statement at the beginning of the test in cursive as they are required to do."

Yeah, that was a complete disaster when I took the GRE at age 30. I learned cursive 23 years before, but hadn't actually used cursive, outside of signing my name, in roughly 10 years. I know how to form a few letters, but I had completely forgotten many letters, as well as how to flow from one letter to the next. At he time, I felt really sorry for whoever had to read my mashed up paragraph, but in hindsight, I doubt I am all that uncommon these days. Bottom line is this - if I have to write a letter, I print.

I personally think that cursive is important, but far from critical in the era of computers (either Internet or word processors) for the vast majority of written communication.