Saturday, March 26, 2016

To Cursive or not to Cursive? That is the question - a mindwrap

Handwriting quotes...

The death of Handwriting

Part 2

   There are many reasons that cursive is disappearing.  Many teachers have not been trained to teach it properly for one.  Few students get the time to practice or reinforce the movement to make their cursive automatic.  When asked for "written work" the kids balk.  "You don't mean we have to actually "write" it out do you?"  Groan. Sigh.

The Roots of cursive:

Cursive goes back to the ancient Greeks and Romans.  The practice of connecting letters evolved for many reasons:  it was faster for scribes, it prevented smudges caused by lifting a quill or fountain pen,  and it changed according to stylistic preferences and education.

Cursive has trumped the invention of the printing press and the typewriter.  Today there are still public schools (mostly private) who still insist students write fluently.

When I was head teacher in a private school, cursive writing was a mandatory subject.  I taught it in Grade 2 and I must admit the time spent on it was one of the most favourite times of the day for my students.  

I first modelled the letter on the blackboard, we recorded words with that letter in it and ended with a complete sentence trying to include as many of our day's letter in it as possible.  Then my students took out their personal writing workbooks.  I put on classical music and unleashed them to discover first-hand and practice our letter of the day.  I always circulated the room and made sure everyone understood the execution of each letter. If someone was struggling I'd spend time with that student until they got the hang of it.  The group was so happy, energetic and positive when it came to their writing class time and the results of their labor of love were superb.  I was truly amazed how these little guys, in grade 2, could write so legibly and beautifully.  Their books were true works of art, full of positive comments from me and stickers galore!  When taught correctly handwriting can be a joyous event. 

Jan Olsen, created the workbook, "Handwriting Without Tears" many years ago when her son struggled to write properly.  

Meet Jan Olsen

Jan Z. Olsen, OTR

Occupational therapist Jan Z. Olsen is the founder and developer of the Handwriting Without Tears® program. The curriculum is the culmination of successes over the past 30 years, plus many new ideas from collaborations with teachers, occupational therapists, and administrators across the country. Understanding the challenges in the classroom and the gaps in educational offerings, Jan and her staff work to create materials and books that meet educators’ needs in a way that is fun and engaging, while developmentally appropriate and effective for all students.
Jan co-created the Get Set for School® Pre-K program in 2003, with Emily Knapton, Occupational Therapist, M.Ed. in Elementary Education with a dual endorsement in SPED and Early Childhood Education and a Graduate Certificate in autism. Get Set for School is an award-winning complete school readiness program that prepares young children for kindergarten using play-based, developmentally appropriate activities and materials. It won two of the most prestigious national education awards: The Children’s Curriculum Winner from the Association for Educational Publishers and The Teacher’s Choice Award from Learning Magazine.
Each year, Jan leads a team of certified presenters that deliver over 500 Get Set for School and Handwriting Without Tears workshops to train teachers, therapists, administrators, and parents to teach handwriting and school readiness skills. These dynamic presentations are widely regarded as the most inspiring and relevant professional development opportunities available to educators.
National media, including Newsweek, “CBS Evening News”, National Public Radio, the Washington Post, the Philadelphia Enquirer, the Boston Globe, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Miami Herald, the Los Angeles TimesParents, and Parenting have tapped Jan’s expertise. She has been featured in trade magazines, such as OT Practice and OT Advance. Jan has presented at numerous conferences, including the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), International Dyslexia Association (IDA), and the National Autism Association. Many homeschooling resources have named Handwriting Without Tears the best handwriting curriculum for their families.
Jan Olsen resides in Bethesda, Maryland.

There are other quality books on the market too that can be a great aid to get kids interested, engaged and accomplishing great handwriting.  Not only can the skill be aced but kids can also have a lot of fun too.  

They need to be taught how to formulate letters correctly and be taught the importance of keeping handwriting alive in our culture.  If it is not taught properly kids just make it up, develop bad habits, and their handwriting never becomes fluid or routine and is not enjoyable.  It becomes a barrier to their written expression.

One of my activity centres I set up in my classroom was devoted entirely to handwriting practice.  I had multiple little slate chalkboards with a variety of coloured chalk, flat boxes with lids full of sand (and cornmeal)  so kids could trace the letters then erase them, copies of poems and ditties that they could reproduce,  magic slates with a stylus and fancy notepaper and cool coloured pens to write notes to each other in cursive.  It was a very popular centre. On rainy days we would often use fingerpainting paper and paint or in I would spray shaving cream on their desks and have them make letters in the "snow" on their desk.  They loved it and kept asking for more. One day I actually used chocolate pudding on paper to make letters and what a fun experience that was.... enough said!  :)

Parents can have kids write words with sticks on sandy beaches on a hot summer's day or give their child a spray bottle of water and have them create words on the sidewalk with the spray.  Even in winter you can put food colouring in a water bottle and have the kids spray words on the white snow surface.  The sky is the limit,  just use your imagination.  We need to be creative and enthusiastic and encourage our kids that writing is an amazing thing because it is.  No other species is capable of it on earth and we can so let's do it! 

To be continued next week....

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