Saturday, April 2, 2016

To cursive or not to cursive? that is the question - a mind wrap

The death of handwriting - Part 3


In the small town where I grew up, population 1,000, in northern Ontario, Canada there was only one elementary school.  A road ran straight through the town and at the the end of it were two buildings.  One very old school probably built in 1920's (my mom went to that school and she and her classmates planted all the trees around it) had an actual school bell that teachers had to pull a rope  to get to ring.  The bell rang loudly across the town calling all the students to their classrooms.  It was located on one side of the road.  That quaint but antiquated building housed grades 1-4.  At that time there was no Kindergarten, you started school in Grade 1.  On the other side of the road was a more modern building inhabited by Grades 5-8. 

It was a milestone in your educational life when you finally passed  out of grade four and got to cross that road and enter the sacred "big kids" building.  Along with that honour came the reward of being able to learn how to write cursive and use a pen!  It truly was a big deal.  You had to buy ink (only blue was allowed) and a fountain pen... ahhh you felt like you finally had arrived. 

The Grade 5 teacher in the school for almost ever was my Aunt Ethel.  She had the most legible and beautiful handwriting I have ever seen.  She took her job of teaching her new rookies the proper way to form their letters very seriously.  Her ultimate goal was to make you proud of your own unique font and she succeeded. She saw to it that each and every student under her watch was going to master this art.  She did so in such a caring and loving way that everybody did. 

To us cursive was a huge deal, just like getting your first bicycle or your first watch.... you had made it.... you could finally write!  All these years later if you ask any of those kids that Aunt Ethel taught they will remember that learning to write cursive was a very positive and fulfilling experience because she knew how to teach it correctly.  

Every Fall season the town held their annual Fall Fair and one of the categories that was set aside for the elementary school was handwriting.  Specific passages from our readers like poems or designated paragraphs from stories were assigned to each grade level and the kids got to pen them and enter their version in handwriting.  It was an exciting event and every kid hoped to receive those coveted money prizes. All the town folk attending the Fair got to see the fruit of the handwriting submissions and they made it their business to seek those winners out and praise and encourage them.  I won first prize twice in the four years that I was eligible to enter.  I guess you could say I truly was old school.

Modern day educators often suggest keyboards as a solution to those who want cursive to be stuffed in a desk drawer and then closed tightly.  Yes kids will struggle with the mastery of good, legible handwriting complaining that typing is much easier... and it is, that's true, BUT isn't something so unique and personal worth holding on to and fighting for?  Can't we find creative and fun ways to teach it and have copias support groups (like my town folks and local merchants who donated the prize money) who are willing to be encouraging to our kids and will cheer them on to success.  If everyone got behind it's awesomeness the kids would be asking, no begging,  to write cursive. 


When the skill of handwriting is mastered it builds our kid's sense of competence.  Writing by hand makes the child the editor, the spell-checker, and the deleter.  Writing by hand requires organization,  clarity and the ability to think ahead and we want to hand that all over to a machine.  To me that seems very sad. Our kids deserve to understand and be able to record their own language in cursive just like all the other previous generations before them.  What do you think?  

Oscar Wilde's handwriting

J.K. Rowling's handwriting

Have a wonderful weekend everyone.  Read lots to each other, write a notes using cursive and  take time to kick-back and relax.  Next week Part 4 of handwriting (and the last) will be here for you to ponder.   Hope you had a wonderful yesterday.  So sorry my computer was on the fritz.  Hopefully it's sorted now and its onward we go into National Poetry Month......... yea!

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It's a wrap.

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