Monday, July 30, 2012

Handwriting Skill takes time to develop

We are hardwired to learn how to speak.  Babies discover that they can make a sound and begin to consciously make more sounds beginning around five months. They then continue on to form individual words such as Mama or Dada, then put two words together, then more words are put together and finally around the age of three years old full sentences are being spoken. We  accept that oral language takes time to develop.  Not acquiring verbal language in a reasonably appropriate time can be an indicator of further developmental delays.
We are not hardwired to write by hand. This is a skill that needs to be acquired, that is, taught by someone who has mastered the skill and learned by the student. For thousands of years young children have been able to acquire this skill. One factor remains a constant: it takes practice.
Cursive writing was quietly eliminated in a very gradual process. The subject remained in the official curriculum. Once it was taught for a short period of time, schools did not give any attention to the practice component. In other words, they were not required/expected to write in cursive after they were taught how to form the letters. This was a fundamental step in the decline of cursive. Teaching cursive only requires part of one year's curriculum, after that it's simply a matter of getting enough practice for the writing to become automatic. Speed of writing also increases through practice.
One educator told me that he was requested to type all tests and homework assignments because the students who were having difficulty with writing cursive would not be able to read the tests and this would put them at a disadvantage.
Educators today will tell parents that children will be fine if they are able to print. Many teachers are led to believe that cursive handwriting is simply too difficult for children to master nowadays. Today's children are able to master cursive writing, private schools, tutoring centres and most home schooled children prove that they are still able to write in cursive.
More children's activities:
Take a medium size wicker bread basket and put 20 or so large buttons or large tubular pasta in the basket.  Another child (or adult) hits the bottom of the basket firmly so the items in the basket "jump up".  The child must see how many of the items he/she can gather before they drop down into the basket again.  This activity encourages reflex development as well as grasping skills.
Blow bubbles outside at an easy to reach height for the child and then see how many bubbles the child can burst using one hand and then the other hand.
Edda Manley

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Wall St. Journal published an article about a scientific breakthrough that will allow disabled people to “write” with their eyes. Notice, he has them writing in cursive, not print. I’m guessing because it’s easier to keep the flow going.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Can't write - Can't Read

An interesting thing many people don't know is that if you don't learn to write in cursive, you also are unable to read cursive writing. I only learned about this a few years ago when a Grandmother told me how her Granddaughter was unable to read what she wrote in her birthday card.  True enough, when I checked further many young people today are unable to read anything written in cursive.  Even many of the younger teachers today cannot read cursive writing.
Recently I read about countries in Europe who never adopted teaching printing at school. In Scotland in the early 1900's the teachers also quickly discovered that if children were not taught to write in cursive they would be unable to read anything written in cursive. In those days education was much less regulated and many students would leave formal schooling by the age of 11 or 12 years old to help their families financially.  Girls would often stay home to help their mothers care for the younger children in the family, or they might work for other households to help earn money for the family. Boys could start to learn skills helping their fathers or in factory jobs. It was important that the students get as much education as possible before that age. Reading, writing and basic arithmetic was taught beginning in grade one and most students had enough knowledge in these subjects to function in their day-today lives. Teachers believed that not being able to read and write in cursive meant the student was handicapped for the rest of  his/her life. Since schooling in those days was purely for the purpose of educating students, teachers knew what worked well and stuck with the tried and true methods.
It's also interesting to me that the reverse is not true. If a child is not taught to print, rather is taught cursive writing beginning in grade one, he/she is still able to read printed text in books as well as on signs and even hand printed information. For some reason the brain doesn't recognize connected cursive letters in the same way it does printed letters. 
So here we are 100 years later and the education leaders have a completely different attitude towards cursive - eliminate it from the education system altogether.
More children's activities:
Cut up a few different coloured drinking straws into different sized pieces.  Thread a large darning needle with thin yarn or kitchen string and make a large knot oat one end.  Have your child string the straw pieces onto the yarn and then make this into a necklace.
Search for 4-leaf clovers in the grass or make a pretty wildflower bouquet.  Older children can try to identify the names of the picked flowers.  
Make a whistle using long blades of grass held between the outer edges of both thumbs.  Blow on the grass blade to make a whistling sound.
Edda Manley

Friday, July 13, 2012

Fantastic News!!!

States are allowed to amend up to 15% of the document and the state of Georgia did just that. The Georgia Department of Education added cursive writing in the curriculum.

Iris Hatfield, Handwriting Coach
Author, New American Cursive
Penmanship Program

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Short video presentation

Here's a video of the short presentation Sheila Lowe recently gave on the decline of cursive writing and what you can do to help

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Cursive is Faster

A year ago Katie Zezima wrote an article for the New York Times about the decline in handwriting. There were over 220 comments to that article. The most frequently stated reason for why people chose to write in cursive was that it was faster to produce. At the University of Western Ontario, Canada, Marvin Simmner PhD conducted a study that showed students who wrote in cursive indeed were faster writers than those who printed. 
When we look at printing it certainly looks like it would take less movement and energy to produce, so logically then it should be faster. The reason printing is not faster is because every letter requires you to lift the pen from the paper, sometimes more than once. Those pen lifts take time, and the short bits of time it takes for each pen lift add up. The visual I like to compare this to is if you have a stack of books at one end of the table and you want to move them to the other end of the table, you can either slide them over (similar to cursive) or lift them and carry them (similar to printing).
Even printing by young children is changing yet again. Teachers are accepting their individual ways of forming the letters. For example, a lower case "p" can be made like a candy cane starting with the hook part and going up and around to the left. Similarly, with the lower case "m & n," one or two humps is acceptable without the straight stroke first. As long as it's a reasonable facsimile of the letter, it is acceptable.
Now that children are on school vacation, parents are looking for activities to keep the little ones busy. I'll end with a few suggestions for activities that help develop both the fine and gross motor skills that are used for handwriting:
Give children an empty detergent bottle and a pail of water.  They can fill the bottle, twist on the top and then "paint" the driveway or sidewalk with water. This activity helps to build hand strength  and dexterity in the fingers.
If you have containers with various sized nails, screws, nuts and bolts children can keep busy sorting them by size and type and putting them in smaller containers or small plastic bags. Older children can also learn the names of the fasteners and what they are used for. This helps develop the fine motor skills.
Summertime is a great time to have Wheel Barrel Races in the grass. One child holds the legs of the other child who tries to get to a line a few feet ahead walking on their hands. This is great for strengthening the arms and wrists.
Edda Manley

Monday, July 2, 2012

Campaign for Cursive - You can help!
Here's a link to some information about how you can help in the Campaign for Cursive: Please join in and let us know how many letters you sent and to whom you sent them. Send at least 5 letters and ask at least 5 people to do the same. We can crank up the volume loud enough to be heard! If after reading the PDF in the link you need any help with your letters or finding your local legislators, send an email to