October 24, 2006

Cursive nearly a lost art

Buried deep in this Delawareonline article on the death of penmenship, which basically serves as a platform for whacking NCLB, is the actual reason why learning penmanship is still a critical skill for children to learn.

But more important, he said, penmanship proficiency affects the fluency of writing, which can make a big difference for young writers who may forget what they want to say while they concentrate on remembering how to make the letters.

"Sometimes we are in the flow when we are writing, ideas are coming superquick to us," Graham said. "Think about a kid in first grade who writes 10 words a minute and is trying to hold in memory this whole sentence. The chances of losing ideas are much greater the slower your handwriting is."

The fluency, rather than the form of handwriting, is what matters most, Graham said.

"The issue, whether it is typing or cursive or manuscript or a combination ... is how fast you can do this," he said. "You don't want things such as handwriting and spelling taking up a lot of your cognitive resources."

Neatness is nice, but the ability to write fluently, using up few of the precious cognitive resources of your working memory, is critical to writing well.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Plus, the kids will now need someone to translate the Declaration of Independence and their grandparents letters to them.

Because a generation of educators has now decided that cursive takes up too much time, the only ones learning it will be the "elites." Everyone else will have to wait for such people to translate original source materials to them.

This is a touchy subject with me because I have a special ed kid who has a severe writing disability. I understood why they didn't teach him in the third grade, he was having plenty of trouble just writing block print. But by the time he reached 5th grade I realized that it was yet another literacy deficit that would make him different, yet again. He couldn't read cursive, so if a teacher wrote that way on the board or in a note, he couldn't read it.

I decided that even if he never used it he was going to go through the motions. I got a cursive book at a store and we practiced page after page for a few months. Afterwards, I wrote him a long note in cursive and asked him to read it to me. He immediately said, "I can't read this Mom, it's in cursive." I told him to take a look at it,and he did. He stared at it for a couple of seconds and then read it perfectly. I'll never forget the big smile that came over his face.

SusanS

Sherman Dorn said...

I'm of two minds about that. On the one hand, I absolutely agree that being able to get your ideas down before they evaporate is critical. (Number one and two reasons why I hate laptops in classrooms and PowerPoint activities: the laptops usually come with the touch-click activated, leading to plenty of distracting and unnerving cursor hops, and who needs to focus on whiz-bang effects before writing down your thoughts?)

But on the other hand, I'm not sure schools ever have focused on effective methods of teaching cursive. I know there's a little research on the topic, but not that much, and I doubt there ever were a significant number of teachers who knew of let alone knew how to teach the half-cursive writing (what is it called?) that appears to be the fastest (and most legible) form of writing available.