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Is Handwriting Instruction Still Relevant?

Is Handwriting Instruction Still Relevant?

By Dr. Kenneth Shore

The handwriting is on the wall – or perhaps it is not. With the advent of technology, handwriting instruction has become a less important part of the school curriculum. Simply put, many students have traded in their pencils for keyboards.

A majority of states have accepted the Common Core Standards for English, which omits cursive writing as a required part of the curriculum. As a result, many school districts are debating whether to spend valuable instructional time on teaching penmanship.

Proponents of cursive writing instruction contend that while many students have learned how to use the keyboard, there are still many occasions when they will need to write down information, both in school and out. Taking notes in class and writing classroom exams are just two examples. In addition, poor handwriting mechanics can interfere with written expression. A student who finds handwriting difficult and tedious may resist written tasks.

Those who argue for significantly reducing handwriting instruction maintain that students are better served by learning keyboarding skills and using the time previously spend on penmanship focusing on math and reading.

Whichever side prevails in this debate, the reality is that the days of spending 30 minutes a day practicing cursive are gone. Nonetheless is still a part of the school curriculum.

While your child won’t begin formal handwriting instruction until first grade, he should be able to at least write his name as well as some letters and numbers by the end of kindergarten. Starting in second or third grade, he will start learning cursive writing. For many children, learning to write with the fluid lines of script is a sign that they are growing up. As a result, many children look forward to learning cursive.

At the same time handwriting frustrates many students, especially boys. Students may have problems forming letters, staying on the line, spacing properly between words, or writing at an appropriate speed.

If your child is finding handwriting a struggle, contact the teacher. She may be able to adapt her instruction or use special materials (for example, a pencil grip or special paper). Or she may reassure you that what you are seeing with your child is not unexpected. Reversals, for example, are not uncommon with first and second graders.

If you find that your child’s homework is sloppy, it is fine to encourage him to work more slowly and carefully but keep in mind that the substance of what he writes is more important than the form. Avoid giving him handwriting exercises at home unless he is eager to do them. Not only do you risk turning him off to writing but you may confuse him if your approach differs from that of the teacher.

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