Teaching Handwriting?

Being an elementary teacher, the question of whether or not we should teach handwriting occasionally comes up. Actually, it came up this year for our 3rd and 4th grade teachers, as they were handed a new curriculum that required 80 minutes a week to teach handwriting. To me, that doesn’t make a lot of sense. Especially when they are teaching cursive and using the old fashioned “Big Red” type of sheets. You know, the ones where the lower case letters MUST hit the dotted line in the middle? But, I also know that I must be able to read a student’s work. So, I’m not complaining.

What got me thinking about this was an article I saw linked at Good. The post was titled “Stop Teaching Handwriting”, so I had to read it. The author is a college professor who is dealing with her 3rd grade son learning handwriting. She makes a lot of great points as to why we no longer need to teach the handwriting. Very few of these would be new arguments, but I still agree with her.

However, what really struck me was the comments. Comments are such a hard thing to judge on a site that seems widely read. The comments were made by people that found the article and I’m going to assume many of these people are parents and a few even claim to be educators. Here are a few and I’d like to know what you think about them.

Another Educated Idiot, evidently she has never had to decypher something important, like a password or e-mail addy that someone wrote like crap.

To even suggest that this skill should no longer be taught simply because you don’t seem to feel it is important speaks volumes. I’m sure he’s quite ready to stop trying.. after all, you are. And to make matters worse you are attempting to justify it. Don’t you think our youth has been dumbed down enough?

What a ridiculous article. Maybe you should purchase laptops and printers for every student so they never have to write anything with a pen or a pencil. Oh yeah, don’t forget to provide paper and ink for the printers.

I thought that one was funny.

If he isn’t taught cursive, what will he do when he has to write a letter?

That one’s pretty funny, too.
That’s all I can take of the comments. If you click to the article and dive in on the comments, good luck!



5 Responses

  1. Maybe we out to bring the abacus out as well?

  2. This issue reminds me of something I read recently (?) that people were up-in-arms when students began using ink because they felt they would lose the skill of sharpening pencils with a knife…and that over reliance on paper when it became more readily available would have a negative impact on students’ slate writing abilities. (Actually, I think I read this over at the 21st century literacies discussion on Ben Grey’s blog.)

    This certainly points to the challenge when changing times and change in education move at different speeds! My opinion on the handwriting issue may seem a little old-fashioned though. Teaching children to physically write (manuscript or cursive) with a tool that requires no power supply is still important!

    A couple more observations: kids love to learn cursive handwriting; it’s like a rite of passage in third grade. Also, many children who struggle with printing actually have an easier time with cursive which boosts their confidence. It is also a great activity to reinforce fine motor skills, proper posture, and relaxation! Cursive handwriting connects us to all those dusty old documents from history, and shouldn’t today’s students be given the skills to develop their own John Hancocks?

    I guess, for me, the difficulty is with the regimented 80 minutes a week. Why not 20 minutes a week, used as a filler, with some classical music on in the background?

    • Handwriting does build fine motor coordination, not a bad thing at all. My issue with spending school time on it is, what is the use? When was the last time you wrote more than one paragraph with a pen and paper?

  3. I’m not against teaching handwriting, but something has to give. There are only so many hours in the school day and so many days in a school year. We have too many things to accomplish in that time right now, we have to cut back somewhere. As we prioritize, handwriting seems less important than so many other things we teach. If something has to go, handwriting seems like an obvious choice.

    That said, I do feel that it is important that students are exposed to cursive handwriting. Even if I spent no time teaching my fourth and fifth graders to write in cursive, I did make sure I wrote things in cursive for them to read. I didn’t want them to be at a loss when seeing cursive writing.

  4. Cursive seems a bit pointless, maybe just enough so students can read it if they ever come across it (letter from Grandma?) and so they can create their signature. Handwriting is still relevant, at least so they can make a good impression on their high school teachers (by college they’ll be typing everything). Some of my students (high school) have such horrible handwriting they’ll never be able to get a job that has a non-electronic application form.

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