The Great Handwriting Debate popped up again recently in the paper and I wondered what kids thought about it. Then, I thought, what a great way to get kids thinking and writing. Let them develop their own arguments for or against cursive writing. How do they feel about writing? Would they rather hold a pencil or tap a keyboard. Do they need to learn cursive? Do they use it? While the physical act of writing may or may not make you a better thinker, debating about it can.
A small survey sample
I had the opportunity to discuss this with a couple of students and found their perspectives to be very interesting and age dependent. The two 7th graders that I talked to said that they NEVER (and yes they were shouting) use cursive. In the beginning of their writing careers they were asked to hand in final copies in cursive, but now it is done on the computer. Since they never use cursive, they never practice it and they don’t like their own handwriting. On the other hand, I talked with a precocious 2nd grader who is right now being taught to write a different letter in cursive every day…..she was thrilled and uses cursive for everything! I guess once you make it through the “write of passage” of learning script if no one values it, it becomes a useless skill. (I so wanted my son to have better handwriting, after all it was bringing down his 2nd grade GPA, but alas, I am glad he did not waste his time! J) Actually, I can remember when I started my handwriting was not great, but my friend Cynthia developed beautiful words with circles over her I’s and it was so cool I practiced so I could do the same. Sure enough, I developed nice handwriting…but fast forward to old age….I still have good handwriting…but I don’t have the stamina to write a full page and don’t often use it! But I digress.
The writing is on the wall
So, do we need to take the time to teach kids how to write in cursive or could that time be better spent on other things? Now that the common core does not address it…do we need to? Will students be able to complete high stakes tests without cursive? Is reading and writing in cursive an important skill that develops better literacy in students? Do we need cursive to be able to read historical documents to understand our past? Do second graders need the visible milestone?
Why not ask the kids? (to answer in writing)
Once again, Room for Debate, a NYT’s editorial page has asked four experts whether they think schools should require children to learn cursive. Have your students visit the site for some interesting perspectives.
Hanover Research has also published a report “ The Importance of Teaching Handwriting in the 21st Century” which give some research based facts. (Note: Published by Zane-Bloser – a company that publishes handwriting materials-do your students think that could influence the research? Could this be a lesson in media literacy?)
You can have your student’s read these resources to:
1. Determine what is opinion and what is fact
2. Examine and appreciate the issues that are nvolved from different perspectives
3. Research and develop their own arguments for or against being taught cursive writing
Integrate some technology
Want them to develop their arguments in an online discussion that has them write arguments for one of four perspectives? Check out the SCAN lesson “Should students still be taught cursive?”
Current and timely topic, relevant, and great exercise for critical thinking!