Saturday, December 21, 2013

Lampooned by Stephen Colbert

After Colbert made light of Campaign for Cursive and AHAF's printed logo, we received several emails, asking for a C4C T-shirt. As a result, we will be putting some on sale soon. Stand by for a link!

Meanwhile, here's the Colbert segment

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

If you blinked, you missed it...

Tonight I had a 3 minute debate on Chicago’s Fox News affiliate, with Kate Gladstone on the other side. Those three minutes were cut about in half, but that's showbiz! 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Common Core Curriculum

By Edda Manley

This is the first year the Common Core Curriculum is being "transitioned" into the school system across the land. Having studied the phenomenon of the current generations having significantly different outlooks on things I began to ponder the "Common Core Curriculum".
The generations who are now having children, Gen X and Y are noted for feeling "special and unique".
The generation who developed and had input into forming the Common Core Curriculum are from the Boomer Generation where conformity and adhering to rules set by others was more highly valued.
The word "Common" of course can have several meanings: common as in ordinary or common as in an established togetherness. The children and parents of the younger generations are not very interested in being perceived as being common/ordinary. There is much in the media today encouraging everyone to be innovative and get inspired to lead in new thinking, the opposite of common as in established togetherness.
"Core" basically is another way of expressing a central, basic or even foundational aspect. When we consider the body, personal trainers will tell their clients that the core of the body needs to be strong the support the rest of the frame. There is a lot of body surrounding the "core" including organs, nerves, veins and arteries - all very important to a persons' well being. 
The core of an apple has the initial seed around which the delicious flesh of the apple is grown. In the education system, the powers that be have decided that the "core" which they define should be 85% of the curriculum.  States are permitted to have some leeway over a full 15% of what gets taught. So in other words, the people who have developed the Common Core Curriculum feel they know what 85% of the education should be for each student. The individual teachers who are actually implementing the curriculum and working with the students on a daily basis can only adjust what is taught by 15%. To me this seems to be reverse of what nature is showing us. The core of an apple is certainly not the majority of the fruit, and similarly the core muscles of our body don't comprise the majority of our body.
In the past, the education system that served students well for centuries had a solid foundation of reading, writing and arithmetic. On top of this "core" more information was added and our societies progressed in amazing ways with inventions from the printing press to iPads.

Only time will tell what kind of fruit the curriculum of today will yield.

Friday, September 20, 2013


By Dr. David Sortino

           Most children are taught to print the first few years of grade school and, depending on the school, either they stay with printing throughout their school careers or they are also taught cursive, usually in second or third grade.
Is learning cursive still important in an age of texting and email?
Most definitely, yes. I particularly side with those who recommend teaching cursive handwriting as a strategy to stimulate brain synchronicity. That is, cursive handwriting helps coordinate the right side of the brain - or visual side - with the left side - or verbal side - of the brain. According to some researchers, the debate is a little like comparing the act of printing versus cursive to painting by numbers versus the flowing rhythmic brush strokes of a "true artist."
        For example, Rand Nelson of Peterson Directed Handwriting believes when children are exposed to cursive handwriting, changes occur in their brains
which allow a child to overcome motor challenges. He says, "the act of physically gripping a pen or pencil and practicing the swirls, curls and connections of cursive handwriting activates parts of the brain that lead to increased language fluency."
        Moreover, the work of Iris Hatfield, creator of the New American Cursive Program, also believes in the connection between cursive writing and brain development as a powerful tool in stimulating intelligence and language fluency.  The movement of writing cursive letters helps build pathways in the brain while improving mental effectiveness," she said. "And, this increased effectiveness may continue throughout the child's academic career."
     Further, Shadmehr and Holcomb of Johns Hopkins University published a study in Science Magazine showing that their subjects' brains actually changed in reaction to physical instruction such as cursive handwriting lessons. The researchers provided PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scans as evidence of these changes in brain structure. In addition, they also demonstrated that these changes resulted in an "almost immediate improvement in fluency," which led to later development of neural pathways.  In addition, as a result of practicing these handwriting motor skills, the researchers found that acquired knowledge becomes more stable.
            There are the psychosocial benefits as well. According to author, Mathew Geiger, "As our brains learn to connect our inner worlds to the external universe, we begin to recognize abstract ideas like awareness of others and perception."
Cursive writing (ability) affords us the opportunity to naturally train these fine motor skills by taking advantage of a child's inability to fully control his fingers. This means cursive writing acts as a building block rather than as a stressor, and provides a less strenuous learning experience.

    Parents can be the final deciders as to whether or not to use cursive writing.
You have the research, you have the child.  I encourage you to give it a
try. Go to any school supply store and purchase a wide lined paper pad, appropriate pencils, a white board to copy the alphabet, etc. And then merely support their writing those thank you notes in cursive or sit down with them and practice together. By them a journal and suggest they practice in a daily diary.
It could be quite a learning experience for them and a sharing experience for you.
     David Sortino, a Graton resident, is a psychologist, retired teacher. He is currently director of Educational Strategies, a private consulting company catering to parents and students.E-mail him at

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Why teach handwriting in the digital age?

Check out this article for some answers.

Several comments appear from a person who is often quoted as if they were credentialed as a handwriting expert when this is not the case. People who give themselves a big presence on the internet by commenting on one blog after the other are often seen as knowing what they are talking about. One wonders how much research is done by those who write articles when they are searching for someone to talk to on each side of an issue, whatever that issue may be.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Flugle, Starnash, and Wimpolly: How Sight-Reading Affects Reading Ability

With phonics systems in place in most classrooms, many more children are picking up literacy with relative ease. However, 20% of children in English-speaking nations reach age 11 unable to pass a reading test.


Everyone has different learning styles, be that visual, kinaesthetic, or auditory. Kids with strong visual processing ability often favour this over the auditory (which is essential for phonics) when it comes to learning how to read. These children may or may not be diagnosed with dyslexia around the age of 7 or 8. Gifted visual learners will pick up the alphabet and simple words through sight-memorization and repetition very quickly.

But they are using a technique that will eventually fail them.  

As vocabulary and spelling gets more complex, these kids can no longer rely on their sight memory or the context as a trigger and so they begin to guess very wildly. The visual memory was simply not designed to hold thousands of combinations of fine-tuned black squiggly lines! That is why the auditory function is so essential when learning to read.

There is a simple test you can use to assess whether a child – or adult – is a sight-reader rather than a decoder. If they can read the first paragraph ok, but find the second paragraph much more difficult and the third nearly impossible, then they are using sight-memorization strategies to process text. This means they are very gifted visually, but have been misapplying this strength to the reading context.
Paragraph 1 (normal):
The country farm was in a deep valley. It covered 100 acres of green, rolling hills and in the winter was buried under a thick layer of heavy snow. Ben the farmer thought it was the best place to be in the entire world.

Paragraph 2 (letters mixed up):
His two-door, sporty car was panited oarnge, with braod, yleolw stirpes running aolng the roof. Jim lvoed his Mstunag more than aynthnig in his life.

Paragraph 3 (nonsense):
The brin, smight fload is where glagged balfs trow fron with oabs and snuts and flates of shrab. If you vroy after them juffedly with smoor and slirk, you will gwipe a shnook.

Guided Phonetic Reading technique was developed for sight-readers with weak auditory function. It is a revolutionary approach to remedial literacy that actually utilizes these children’s bright visual processing cortex as a tool to teach them.

See how this works over at Morgan Learning website. Morgan Learning publishes the Easyread System, an online course for children with highly visual learning styles, dyslexia, auditory processing disorder and more. It works through short, fun, daily lessons that are fully supported with one-on-one coaching and consultation.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Hartford Courant article

I was just sent an article that was in the 4/28 issue of the Hartford Courant in Connecticut.  The Assumption School in Manchester, CT, has a student who won the State Level and is eligible to compete in the Annual Zaner-Bloser National Handwriting Contest (I didn't know it existed).  More than 285,000 students entered this year's 22nd annual contest with the winner to be awarded later this month.  
In the article, it explained that at the Assumption School, students learn manuscript and cursive by the 3rd grade and receive 15 minutes of daily handwriting instruction - the amount recommended by experts.  A teacher at the school stated that there is significant research showing handwriting instruction enhances both cognitive and motor skills development and activates regions of the brain associated with thinking, short-term memory and language.
Irene Lambert

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Interview with Fiona Summons

From Australian handwriting professional, Jasmin Martin:

Last year in December, as I was in Australia, Ingrid Seger Woznicki and I interviewed Fiona Summons of the Alison Lawson Centre. She is a specialist in dyslexia and treats children and adults with dyslexia as well as the other 'dyses'. She in particular is a supporter of handwriting being kept on the school curriculum. We interviewed Fiona and a series of videos with the questions has been put together (I will try to do this a little more professionally later) but for now if anyone is interested the videos are on our web site:

You can watch all of them in sequence by clicking on the link above. The question posed and which she answers is in the title of the video.

Friday, February 15, 2013

When disasters strike...

This morning I awoke to this news, “Meteorite strikes central Russia, hundreds injured”.  Something like this does not have any impact on our lives directly, but it is something to think about.  We are so heavily dependent on computer access/reliability that we may want to consider what information we have secured either on disk or printed hard copy.  The following articles have been written in the past and I think are worth re-reading to remind ourselves of our vulnerability.  Of course at the foundation is the need to ensure everyone is still able to write by hand should technology fail.

The following articles have been printed in one of our national newspapers that can give us cause for concern regarding our dependence on computers:

1) National Post, September 26, 2009 pg. A27 by Peter Godspeed - " In 2007, Beijing shocked the world when it demonstrated its satellite killing capabilities by destroying an ageing Chinese weather satellite 680 km. above the earth.  Dennis Blair US Director national intelligence: "Washington has serious concerns over the threats in the cyberworld."  US could be caught off guard in a space "Pearl Harbor".  China has used space weapons against US spy satellites.

2) Globe and Mail, June 15, 2010 Social Studies - " The sun is about to get a lot more active, which could have ill effects on Earth," reports. "...Solar storms occur when sunspots on our star erupt and spew out flumes of charged particles that can damage power systems.  The sun's activity typically follows an 11 year cycle, it looks to be coming out of a slump and gearing up for an active period...People of the 21st century rely on high tech systems for the basics of daily life.  But smart power grids, GPS navigation, air travel, financial services and emergency radio communications can all be knocked out by intense solar activity.  A major solar storm could cause 20 times more economic damage than Hurricane Katrina, warned the (U.S.) National  Academy of Sciences in a 2008 report. ...Luckily much of the damage can be mitigated if managers know a storm is coming."

3) Globe and Mail, February 3, 2011 Social Studies - "Space is so littered with debris that a collision between satellites could set off an 'uncontrolled chain reaction' capable of destroying the communications network on Earth, a Pentagon report has warned " The Daily Telegraph says, "The volume of abandoned rockets, shattered satellites and missile shrapnel in the Earth's orbit is reaching a 'tipping point' and is now threatening the $250-billion [U.S.] space services industry, scientists said.  A single collision between two satellites or large pieces of 'space junk' could send thousands of pieces of debris spinning into orbit, each capable of destroying  further satellites.  Global positioning systems, international phone connections, television signals and weather forecasts are among the services that are at risk of crashing to a halt." 

Edda Manley

Friday, February 8, 2013


Letter to the Editor of Canada's Globe and Mail, by Elaine Charal:

As a long-time career Certified Handwriting Analyst, it was distressing for me to read your article in Friday’s Globe and Mail, predominantly because there was no reference to Canadian education or Canadian schools, or even mentioning that the Ontario school curriculum guideline states that “…by the end of Grade 7 students will use legible printing and cursive writing.”

Linda Sweet, Founder of Glenburnie School, a leading private school in Oakville and Mississauga, continues to have cursive handwriting firmly anchored on the Glenburnie classroom timetable.  She states that using Callirobics, a Handwriting Exercises kit that combines music and creative graphics for 5 minutes per day, her students move very quickly and successfully to cursive writing without the usual tedium of practices and shakiness that can often accompany early cursive experiences. 

The challenge lies not with learning cursive writing, but the knowledge of the education tools that make cursive easy and fun.  The root of the challenge lies with the young teachers (who themselves were not instructed properly) receiving cursory (pun intended) instruction on how to teach cursive writing.  However, there are progressive Ontario elementary schools such as Armour Heights School actively instructing cursive to Grade 3 and 4 students.

Printing was never meant to replace cursive, but as a pre-cursor (again, pun intended) ‘ball-and-stick method’ to launch into cursive writing.  The physical process of cursive writing causes information to be more powerfully entered into the brain by producing stronger neuro-pathways than simply pressing keys or choosing to print.  Research by the University of Western Ontario has shown that cursive writing is actually more efficient than printing because there are fewer pen lifts.  The very definition of cursive, in Latin, is ‘to run’. 

Learning to cursive write helps a child focus and concentrate and helps to calm the emotional part of the Brain.  Over 3,000 nerve endings in each fingertip directly connected to the brain are stimulated when using cursive.

The leading schools in Europe correctly teach the children to cursive write in grade one.  These young students, fluent in cursive and being encouraged by their more traditional parents, can be seen in coffee houses all over the city with pen in hand working in study groups and using cursive writing.  These children will become the doctors, lawyers and upper management rather than the children with less discipline who have ‘lower case’ ‘reading/writing/and ‘rithmatic skills.