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Cursive writing offered

Thursday, June 13, 2013

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Amid a national debate about the importance of handwriting, the Spencer-Penn Centre is offering a class to “learn the lost art of cursive writing.”

The class is to be offered on Tuesdays, June 18 through July 30, from 1 to 2 p.m. Lynn Wolf, a retired educator who has a doctorate in educational leadership, will be the instructor.

Mary Jordan, who helps out at the Spencer-Penn Centre and is its former executive director, said the idea for the class originated about four years ago from the late Irene Martin, a retired educator who felt cursive writing was not taught sufficiently in public schools.

But “I never could get it (the class) going,” Jordan said.

Then several months ago, Jordan heard a news report about how cursive writing stimulates brain activity, she said.

She remembered that when Spencer-Penn Centre officials were planning the classes for this summer. She also remembered a child who had been too old to take part in the center’s summer reading program but who came along with cousins and felt out of place.

The cursive writing class is open to students in grades five and up, as well as adults, Jordan said.

Wolf said cursive writing is a more complex skill than keyboarding, and it stimulates more brain activity. A single stoke on a keyboard will make a letter, but to make a letter in cursive may involve, for example, moving the hand up, over, down and in a swing motion. “There’s much more going on.”

Cursive writing also helps develop reading and fine-motor skills. It helps prevent the transposing, or transferring, of letters, such as b and d, she said. It helps with memory. “I am much more likely to remember what I am hearing if I write it down in cursive,” Wolf said.

Compared with cursive writing, printing takes longer, does not increase fluency as much and can cramp hands. If taught correctly, cursive won’t cramp hands, she said.

She also pointed out that “not every child has access to an iPad or computer.” Cursive writing is important too in taking legible messages and writing signatures.

Wolf will be using some of the techniques she used in teaching students with learning disabilities. “As a teacher, I knew if it worked for LD, it worked for anybody,” she explained.

She plans to teach cursive writing in a multisensory way (not all paper and pencil), including involving the sense of touch; air writing; having students say everything they do in cursive writing (curve, swing, dot, for instance).

“It’s going to be very interactive and fun,” she said. Students will work individually and in pairs. They will write letters on each other’s backs and on walls. There will be lots of rewards.

Cursive writing is not one of the skills tested on Virginia Standards or Learning, so public schools figure they don’t have to put as much emphasis on it as subjects that are tested, Wolf said. She “absolutely” thinks cursive writing should be taught — and taught to mastery.

Handwriting is part of the instructional program in early elementary grades under the Virginia’s English Standards of Learning, according to Charles Pyle, director of communications for the Virginia Department of Education.

Second-graders are expected to be able to print legibly and begin to make the transition to cursive writing while they learn how to edit for grammar, punctuation and spelling. By the end of grade three, students are expected to write legibly in cursive, enhance the ability to edit writing and write a short report.

“Virginia still sees value in young children learning cursive. There will always be times when you can’t rely on technology to communicate or when technology may not be the most efficient means of communication,” Pyle said.

In cursive writing, children learn small-muscle control and eye-hand coordination, he said. “If cursive is a mystery to a child, he or she really is cut off from the founding documents of our republic” and more recent documents in cursive.

The National Association of State Boards of Education commented on “The Handwriting Debate” in a policy update by that title in September 2012. It stated:

“...With the proliferation of personal computers in the 1990s and smartphones and tablets in the 21st century, many educators and policymakers have been questioning the usefulness of spending ever-more-valuable class time teaching handwriting to students who have been born into — and will live and work in — a digital world.

“At the same time, new research has been emerging that points to the educational value of handwriting in ways that go well beyond being able to read cursive or take notes without benefit of a handheld device.”

Wolf was a learning disabilities teacher for Henry County Schools for 15 years and also a school administrator in the county, she said. She retired almost a year ago from Averett University after 11 years there. She was Averett University’s director of and department chair for the teacher education program.

Tuition for the cursive writing class is $12 for six sessions. Call 957-5757 for information.

 

 
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