Monday, June 16, 2014

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Laptop v. handwritten notes--what's the verdict?

According to research detailed in The Brain That Retrains Itself by Dr. Norman Doidge, the brain processes differently according to whether material is read or listened to, and there is a difference between keyboarding and writing. This article supports the research that handwriting helps students to remember better.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Friday, April 18, 2014

Derek McGinty has got it right!

The need for cursive writing is being highlighted more and more, despite its detractors. Check out this TV spot:

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Art of Writing

By:  Marilyn Keller

I had lunch this week with a friend who is an archivist.  As we progressed through our getting reacquainted chatter, she mentioned how  disappointed she was with an intern she had recently hired.  “What are your concerns?” I asked.  “She can’t read,” my friend stated.  “She’s a junior in college.  How is it possible she can’t read?” I questioned.  “It’s not that she can’t read at all,” my friend explained, “but she can’t read cursive writing, a rather critical skill when working with historical documents.”

I did a little research on this topic and learned that while the instruction of cursive handwriting has been declining for years, the trend turned official with the first offering of the Common Core State Standards Initiative in 2010.  The CCSSI aimed to standardize math and language arts requirements across the country and omitted any mention of cursive writing.  2012 test scores showed 75% of American high school seniors lacked basic writing skills, including the ability to form a sentence, paragraph, or essay that was articulate and grammatically correct.  As of 2013, 45 states have elected to implement the Common Core standard, so the demise of cursive appears to be eminent.  Maybe I’m romanticizing this form of handwriting, but I think the lack of such ability will continue to have a negative impact on those growing up in a keyboard culture.

For me, learning cursive was a rite of passage.  An art which stated, I was becoming an adult.  I never had beautiful handwriting, at least the nuns didn’t think so, but practicing my penmanship led to my love of writing.  As I moved my fountain pen across the lined paper, my writing became my voice.  I wanted to read more to gain the knowledge to write more.  My vocabulary, spelling, grammar, and sentence structure all improved.  Today, I primarily use a computer when writing, but am often inspired by looking back at my handwritten journals.

In business, my clients often mentioned how much they appreciated the handwritten thank you notes I sent.   They were rare and made them feel special.   In my personal life, I love receiving handwritten mail.  Even before I open the envelope, the handwriting announces the author and I eagerly anticipate the message. 

My relationship with my deceased mother was not strong, but when I left home at age 17, she gave me four pieces of pink stationery on which she had written my favorite recipes.  To this day, I cherish those papers, especially the recipe where she forgot to include all of the ingredients.

My husband knows how much I love the written word and over our 12 year relationship, I have filled a large box with his many handwritten cards and letters.

A person’s handwriting is their signature. A part of them that is unique.  I understand the importance and necessity of keyboard instruction, but see much value in at least introducing today’s students to the art of cursive writing; the art of writing.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Proof that Learning Cursive Makes You Smarter

Cursive Research

Two articles contributed by Iris Hatfield.

Released: 9/16/2013 5:35 AM EDT
Source Newsroom: Universite de Montreal
Newswise — By 2014, 45 American states will stop teaching cursive writing in favour of keyboard proficiency. In Québec, there are no plans for the moment to abandon this type of writing. “Teaching and daily use of handwriting are essential, if only to avoid being at the mercy of technology,” says Professor Isabelle Montésinos-Gelet at the University of Montreal’s Faculty of Education. Although she welcomes the idea of young people learning to handle a computer keyboard, she believes it should be introduced in the school curriculum when students are already proficient in one style of writing: print (separate letters) or cursive (joined letters).
“Here, as in many countries, the general approach to teaching writing is based on tradition rather than on educational research that has proven benefits,” says the professor.
For generations, most Québec students learn to print in the first grade and write cursive in the second. "This was decided at a time when the cognitive aspects of the writing process and the important role of graphic-motor skills in learning how to write were unknown,” says the researcher, who conducted a study on the subject: Which is better, print or cursive? What form of writing instruction is more beneficial for students?
The study, conducted in collaboration with Professors Marie-France Morin, Université de Sherbrooke, and Natalie Lavoie, Université du Québec à Rimouski Sherbrooke, with 718 Québec students and teachers in 54 second grade classrooms, demonstrates the influence of three handwriting teaching methods (print, cursive, or print and cursive) on the acquisition of graphic-motor skills (speed and quality of writing), spelling, and text construction. The results, published in 2012 in the journal Language and Literacy, show that students who learned cursive benefited the most. In particular, they had better results in spelling and syntax. "These two aspects are essential elements that contribute to the development of writing skills at the primary level," says Montésinos-Gelet.
Worst approach: the print-cursive method
"Whether they learn print or cursive, children are better off when one type of writing is taught," she says. "Teaching both types does not promote the acquisition of automatic motor movements, which play an important role in spelling and text construction."
The data show that more than 50% of the variance in writing quality among second-grade students is associated with graphic-motor skills. This number hardly surprises the researcher. "If children write too slowly, they cannot remember all their ideas; they forget them before they can write them down," she explains. "Hence the importance of making motor movements automatic so they do not mobilize all the children's resources."
The transition to cursive writing in the second grade hinders this automatization. The findings of her research indicate that writing skills improve in terms of speed and legibility by the end of the year whatever the type of writing. On the other hand, students who learned printing in the first grade and then began cursive writing in the second grade made the least progress in spelling. The print-cursive method did not help with memory consolidation of word spelling.
At the beginning of elementary school, children experience a growth in spelling that allows them to spell many words, somewhat like the language development phase at around two or three years. If they have to change writing styles at this moment, it impedes their memorization by requiring more brainwork," says Montésinos-Gelet.
In her opinion, teaching cursive writing leads to the best results in comparison to the other two methods. “We observed among these students an increase in syntactic skills, unlike those who only learned to print or who learned both. The performance of these students remained stable throughout the school year.”
Avoiding “backwards” letters
Learning to write in cursive also has the advantage of encouraging students to respect linguistic constraints from the outset. “Children who learn to print tend to treat letters like pictures and often write them backwards." This approach slows down the integration of what specialists call "stroke grammar,” i.e., the sequencing of gestures to produce optimal letters.
When students write directly in cursive, they are forced to follow a kind of path determined by the direction of the strokes. “Otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to join the letters,” says Montésinos-Gelet. “So, there are no backwards letters.”
Furthermore, children who write in cursive do not at all have the problem of spacing between letters and words. “They understand the concept of word more quickly than the others do and therefore tend to have better graphic-motor skills related to language processing, which helps them in terms of syntax and spelling,” says the researcher.
Notes for media
This text was translated from a document originally published in French by Dominique Nancy. Professor Montésinos-Gelet is available for interview from noon to 4 pm Monday September 16 and Thursday September 19. She is not in a position to participate in radio or television broadcasts in English.

Here's Proof That Learning Cursive Makes You Smarter
Amanda Macias Oct. 8, 2013, 11:16 AM 1,914 1

Children practicing cursive handwriting
When was the last time you wrote in cursive? Fifty-eight years ago The Saturday Evening Post was already calling America a "nation of scrawlers."
Now, the recently established Common Core State Standards, the standardized education benchmarks for U.S. public schools, omits cursive as a graduation requirement. Indiana and Hawaii waved goodbye to cursive in 2011 and welcomed keyboarding classes to their curricula.
Still, states like California, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky and Massachusetts have kept cursive instruction in place or allowed individual school districts to decide. 
The technique has many defenders, including The National Association of State Boards of Education, which recently compiled evidence that learning cursive makes you smarter.
Below evidence from a NASBE policy brief:
·         Cognitive and Motor Skills Development: Because handwriting is a complex skill that involves both cognitive and fine motor skills, direct instruction is required to learn handwriting (it is not good enough to just give a workbook to students and hope for the best). However, the result of good instruction is that students are benefited both in their cognitive development and in developing motor skills.
·         Literacy Development: Handwriting is a foundational skill that can influence students’ reading, writing, language use, and critical thinking. Students without consistent exposure to handwriting are more likely to have problems retrieving letters from memory; spelling accurately; extracting meaning from text or lecture; and interpreting the context of words and phrases.
·         Brain Development: The sequential hand movements used in handwriting activate the regions of the brain associated with thinking, short-term memory, and language. In addition, according to Virginia Berninger, Ph.D., professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington, cursive in particular is linked with brain functions around self-regulation and mental organization. “Cursive helps you connect things,” Dr. Berninger said in an interview.
·         Memory: The act of handwriting helps students (and adults) retain information more effectively than when keyboarding, mostly likely because handwriting involves more complex motor functions and takes a bit longer. One study comparing students who took notes by hand versus classmates who took notes by computer found that the hand writers exhibited better comprehension of the content and were more attentive and involved during the class discussions.
·         Written Expression: Elementary-age students who wrote compositions by hand rather than by keyboarding, one researcher found, wrote faster, wrote longer pieces, and expressed more ideas.
·         Learning Disabilities: Handwriting instruction can be especially valuable to many students with disabilities. As one professor of occupational therapy has written, “One of the first things educators can do to ensure that students with special needs develop good writing skills, besides teaching them spelling and basic writing processes, is to provide them with formal handwriting instruction.” Students with learning disabilities are more likely to need extra support to improve their handwriting, but improved handwriting can both help improve academic outcomes and help in fine motor skill development.
 And you never know when cursive will be useful.
For instance, the technique proved crucial in this year's Florida v. George Zimmerman murder trial. Later acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, Zimmerman's defense team attempted to discredit Martin's childhood friend's testimony. Rachel Jeantel's was forced to admit she could not read the cursive letter she wrote to Martin's parents, bringing into question if she could truly write in cursive.
Dr. David Sortino in his article Brain research and cursive writing statedI discovered that cursive writing was an excellent kinesthetic exercise which grounded my students’ energies, many of which had severe behavioral problems.
Cursive writing has proved to even support higher SAT scores. That is, the College Board found that students who wrote in cursive for the essay portion of the SAT scored slightly higher than those who printed, which experts believe is because the speed and efficiency of writing in cursive allowed the students to focus on the cohesion of ideas in their essays through the mirror of the connected cursive stroke.
More importantly, after about six months, the students were showing one to two years academic growth in word attack, reading fluency and reading comprehension as defined by popular achievement tests.
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. As a result of practicing these handwriting motor skills, the researchers found that acquired knowledge becomes more stable.”
How to improve everyday memory.
by William Klemm, D.V.M., Ph.D.
What Learning Cursive Does for Your Brain
Cursive Writing Makes Kids Smarter
Published on March 14, 2013 by William R. Klemm, D.V.M, Ph.D. in Memory Medic
“… scientists are discovering that learning cursive is an important tool for cognitive development, particularly in training the brain to learn “functional specialization,”[2] that is capacity for optimal efficiency. In the case of learning cursive writing, the brain develops functional specialization that integrates both sensation, movement control, and thinking. Brain imaging studies reveal that multiple areas of brain become co-activated during learning of cursive writing of pseudo-letters, as opposed to typing or just visual practice.
There is spill-over benefit for thinking skills used in reading and writing. To write legible cursive, fine motor control is needed over the fingers. Students have to pay attention and think about what and how they are doing it. They have to practice. Brain imaging studies show that cursive activates areas of the brain that do not participate in keyboarding.
In learning to write by hand, even if it is just printing, a child’s brain must:
  • Locate each stroke relative to other strokes.
  • Learn and remember appropriate size, slant of global form, and feature detail characteristic of each letter.
  • Develop categorization skills.
Cursive writing, compared to printing, is even more beneficial because the movement tasks are more demanding, the letters are less stereotypical, and the visual recognition requirements create a broader repertoire of letter representation. Cursive is also faster and more likely to engage students by providing a better sense of personal style and ownership.
Other research highlights the hand's unique relationship with the brain when it comes to composing thoughts and ideas. Virginia Berninger, a professor at the University of Washington, reported her study of children in grades two, four and six that revealed they wrote more words, faster, and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand versus with a keyboard.[4]
There is a whole field of research known as “haptics,” which includes the interactions of touch, hand movements, and brain function.[5] Cursive writing helps train the brain to integrate visual, and tactile information, and fine motor dexterity.”

Penmanship/cursive research