Monday, July 11, 2011

Handwriting: a tipping point

Apparently Indiana has abolished the teaching of handwriting (cursive, I think, though the articles don't say) in favor of more typing.
There are class considerations here, too: little Sophie and Ethan* in the suburbs will just add another class to their over-scheduled lives between private music lessons and computer camp while those in regular public school will not. As long as students can still handwrite essays on exams, I don't care if they write in cursive or not, but maybe we're at a tipping point in terms of teaching the physical act of writing with a pen.

But I've discovered something disturbing: I don't much like to write by hand any more, and my handwriting is getting worse from disuse. This is almost as disturbing as discovering that I pay better attention to the books I read on the iPad, even though it's not as easy to mark them up as it is with a pencil. This feels like another kind of tipping point, and I'm not sure I like it.

Has that happened to you?

*Names chosen from the most popular names for 2011--no offense meant to any actual Sophies or Ethans.


dance said...

I handwrite as little as possible, yes. Mine was never good, but is now terrible, and I do that thinking-through-as-I-write thing MUCH better while typing.

Fretful Porpentine said...

I just hope this doesn't mean none of the students will be able to READ cursive ten years from now. I can't face the thought of having to grade and comment on papers on the computer, and I also can't bear to print for more than ten words or so, so they had jolly well better be able to read my handwriting.

Miriam said...

I was forbidden to use cursive in fourth grade, which tells you something about what it looked like :) I can still do it, but in practice, I only use it for my signature.

CK said...

My handwriting has gotten worse in recent years, too. I hadn't thought about the keyboard issue, and that's really interesting. (I just blamed it on excessive grading/finger cramping.) Hmmm.

Anonymous said...

My handwriting was always terrible, but I still take longhand notes, and I think it's years of writing at speed in awkward positions that's probably made it now so bad that I avoid using it for anything where people need to be able to read it, like notes to postmen or whatever. I was keyboarding loads throughout that time too but I don't think that's what's to blame.

Jonathan said...

My handwriting, bad from the beginning, deteriorated from years of typewriting and computers, then I took up fountain pens and developed a variation of Italic writing that works fairly well for me. I still wish I did more of it. I am still capable of very bad writing, but also of some half-way decent writing when I put in the effort.

undine said...

dance, I know what you mean: the thinking-through-writing ONLY works for me now with typing.

Fretful Porpentine--that's my worry, too. I used to think that students who couldn't read my handwriting were puzzled by an illegible word now and then, but now I think they just haven't had enough practice in reading handwriting, period.

Miriam, I would have thought your handwriting would be some beautiful Victorian script! I'll bet your signature is, though.

CK--my fingers cramp more easily now, and I think it's partly because of the lack of handwriting practice.

undine said...

Jonathan, that was my solution: fountain pens and a version of italic writing.

LP said...

Unfortunately, handwriting is a good indicator of developmental readiness for various types of learning. It saddens me that we're losing it, and we don't even realize what that implies. My younger brother struggled with writing for a long time, and much of it was because his body was NOT ready to do many of the things required to be able to write (which in turn indicated that there would be struggles in other places). He is bright, motivated, and successful, but had he not had PT from an excellent therapist -- he would have struggled much more than he did in school.

I too like the computer and prefer to type, but I also try to make use of handwriting and still send 'snail mail' thank you notes etc. Those can never be replaced by electronics.

undine said...

LP--I did not know this about handwriting as a developmental indicator. If handwriting isn't taught, what will be the developmental indicators that help students get the appropriate PT?

KateGladstone said...

Handwriting matters ... But does cursive matter?

Research shows: the fastest and most legible handwriters avoid cursive. They join only some letters, not all of them: making the easiest joins, skipping the rest, and using print-like shapes for those letters whose cursive and printed shapes disagree. (Citation on request— and there are actually handwriting programs that teach this way..)

Reading cursive still matters -- this takes just 30 to 60 minutes to learn, and can be taught to a five- or six-year-old if the child knows how to read. The value of reading cursive is therefore no justification for writing it.

Remember, too: whatever your elementary school teacher may have been told by her elementary school teacher, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over signatures written in any other way. (Don't take my word for this: talk to any attorney.)

Yours for better letters,

Kate Gladstone — CEO, Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works
Director, the World Handwriting Contest
Co-Designer, BETTER LETTERS handwriting trainer app for iPhone/iPad