Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Perfect handwriting? Not me!

I once worked for an administrator whose handwriting looked  like this - all the time  - not just when he was really trying to make it look super neat!  I know because he wrote personalize notes (Dear Anita,) in ink, on paper thanking us for what we did!  He also wrote notes by hand and scanned them to be read via computers for holiday greetings and other important large group messages! Back in the day when MY grandmother was a teacher (early 20th Century), this would be NO big deal; however, in the 21st Century, it was something we talked about!

My handwriting used to be pretty neat, but now is not.  I dread the thought of writing anything longer than a note on paper.  I do most lesson plans on the computer and Ever note is one of the best things since instant oatmeal! In the early days of computers, I drafted on paper and then "typed" the final draft on the computer.  Now, I always write with computer or tablet "keyboards."  I am not even sure that a handwriting expert would consider me to be the same person I was way back in the old days!  I sign my name in an almost unrecognizable manner mostly in little boxes with plastic pens when I use a charge card. Which leads me to my dilemma. How should we teach handwriting now?  What should be our focus?

I know that there are diverse opinions on this.  Of course, Zaner Bloser still advocate for handwriting teaching and pools the research for its continued focus.  Hanover Research summarized some diverse viewpoints a few months ago at after the state of Indiana dropped cursive writing from its public schools last year calling it a waste of time.

My opinion? 

I think handwriting still needs to be taught in a direct and systematic manner. There is some published research and I have my own action research suggesting that the physical act of writing letters in a predictable manner (making an "a" by thinking magic c, up, and down) supports remembering their form for reading and writing. Print and cursive writing both still serve roles in our society as tools for note taking and sharing messages and for those days when the power is out or for whatever reason, technology fails us! 

However, while I still value handwriting, "perfect" handwriting is a lost art that should be replaced with adequate handwriting.  The flowery kind of handwriting above is not really used except when addressing wedding envelopes and then we go for even fancier calligraphy, or literally the drawing of letters.  Handwriting in the 21st century can be print or cursive and appears a way to share messages and notes.  At this point, students need to write out their written responses on standardized and other tests.  However, I suspect that will not be true in a few years, so I would not harp on that argument!

It is also very important to for kids to manipulate the keyboard in an efficient manner!  All kids need to have daily access to keyboards as well as to paper and pencils. It's not fair to force kids to do what we no longer do; however, if we deny them access to the strategies of print or cursive writing because it takes too much time, then we are not being fair either.

Neither my Grandmother nor that administrator could have envisioned the handwriting dilemma facing us today! 


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