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Author Topic: We don't know how to teach handwriting, teachers say  (Read 1525 times)
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« on: February 28, 2006, 10:57:55 PM »

Six of every 10 primary school teachers grade assignments for penmanship, even though many of them feel ill-equipped to teach the subject, according to a not-yet-released national survey by a Vanderbilt University professor.

Steve Graham, a professor of special education, found that 80% of the teachers surveyed did not feel prepared to teach handwriting and that the majority indicated they did not enjoy teaching the subject.

"Many teachers don't feel well-prepared to teach handwriting," Graham said. "It's not necessarily the best scenario."

He said it is recommended that teachers spend approximately 75 minutes per week on the subject and found that most do: Students in the first, second and third grades of teachers surveyed get 15 minutes a day of handwriting and penmanship lessons. In his survey, 60% of the teachers also said they grade for penmanship.

"We expected it to be much lower than that," he said.

Typically, third-graders are taught with an emphasis on cursive handwriting after learning manuscript printing in first grade and kindergarten, but some educators said widespread computer use was complicating the task.

Principal Judy Goodwin at Barfield School in Murfreesboro said there had been a loss of focus on the art of handwriting as young students spend more time using computers.

"Many years ago, penmanship had a high value placed on it," Goodwin said. "Cursive is about to be a lost art in terms of beauty. Cursive is a beautiful expression form."

But it is a subject that can be hard to measure.

"There is no assessment in terms of a state standard," Goodwin said. "There is no certain amount of time that teachers are required to spend on teaching handwriting."

As students progress from fourth grade into higher grades and there is less instruction time spent on penmanship, there is an increasing emphasis on the quantity of writing rather than the quality of handwriting.

Fluency of handwriting be-comes a premium, Graham said.

"As you write faster, what suffers to some degree is legibility," Graham said. "Speed has become an important issue. Speed develops up to high school, and legibility declines."

Tabitha Peter, a third-grader at Lockeland Elementary School, understands that already. She says she sometimes has to sacrifice the legibility of her handwriting to complete assignments quickly.

"I've never had good handwriting," she said. "But handwriting can be fun to learn. I just like to learn."

Lockeland stresses handwriting. In Jennifer Roth's third-grade class, students must complete all of their assignments in cursive. She says it is still an essential form of communication and provides students with a sense of accomplishment and maturity.

But it is just as important to learn how to write legibly. Legibility influences how much kids write, Graham said, and it also can influence the quality of their writing. Legibility also can affect students' note-taking ability, which can translate into better grades on tests and other examinations, he said.

Quality of handwriting can influence how teachers grade assignments, even when the assignment has nothing to do with legibility. Some teachers would give assignments with quality content a poor grade because of the illegible handwriting, even if the instructor did not intend to do so, Graham said.

Practice varies from teacher to teacher. Alyssa Hayes, a first-grade teacher at Lockeland, does not take handwriting into account when grading assignments. She grades her students' work in core subjects by content and not on handwriting. If she feels that her students did not put forth enough effort in handwriting, she will ask them to redo the assignment.

Computers aside, students seem to recognize the importance of legible handwriting.

Ross Fleming, a student in Roth's class, said he was satisfied with his handwriting.

"My handwriting is not the best but it's OK to me," Fleming said. "When it's not what I want, I go over it and correct it. When it's neat, I leave it as it is."


Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
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