I wrote about the demise of handwriting 2.5 years ago. Seems even truer now than then. One problem for both sides is that Common Core is ‘silent’ on it, according to the Alliance for Excellence in Education. That’s like the Fat Lady warming up, but not sure when she’ll be performing. Where Common Core has a lot to say about many tools required to deliver the education that will lead to college and career for students, it doesn’t mention ‘cursive’ at all. Though Common Core allows for a nominal amount of personalizing–meaning add-ons–only eleven states (as of publication) have amended their education requirements to mandate cursive be included in the curriculum. Not a ringing endorsement. Headlines such as these proliferate in the news:
Studies show one in three children struggle with handwriting. I’d guess more, seeing it first hand as a teacher. Sound bad? Consider another study that one in five parents say they last penned a letter more than a year ago.
Let’s look at the facts. Students handwrite badly, and don’t use it much when they grow up (think about yourself. How often do you write a long hand letter?). Really, why is handwriting important in this day of keyboards, PDAs, smart phones, spellcheck, word processing? I start students on MS Word in second grade, about the same time their teacher is beginning cursive. Teach kids the rudiments and turn them over to the tech teacher for keyboarding.
Every year, I have 4th-grade students compare handwriting speed to keyboarding speed. We run it like an experiment.
- we discuss the evidence–pros and cons
- we develop a hypothesis
- we test the hypothesis (with a series of four tests)
- we revise if necessary
I wanted to test some of the reasons students come up with on both sides of this issue. I framed the discussion with Common Core standards for keyboarding as well as my school’s guidelines:
- students must type 25 wpm by 4th grade, 30 by 5th, 35 by 6th, 40 by 7th, 45 by 8th
- students must type 2 pages in a single seating. That roughly 500 words. at the 4th grade required speed, that’s 20 minutes of typing at a single sitting
Since fourth graders for both years I’ve done this have (from a show of hands) believed handwriting was faster, I put that as pro. I should note: The pros and cons were verbal the first two times I did this. The third time, I wrote them on the SmartScreen as students commented:
Pro–handwriting is faster
- students are better at it. They’ve had more practice
- don’t have to search for the keys
- I can handwrite forever. Keyboarding–I get frustrated
- Have to use two keys for some symbols which slows it down
- Hand gets tired
- Gives you writers bump if you do it too long—hurts for 4th graders
Con–keyboarding is faster than handwriting
Most elementary-age students struggle with typing. This doesn’t surprise me. They’ve been handwriting since kindergarten. They’re proud of their new cursive skills. It’s easy to grab and pencil and write. Typing, though requires setting up their posture, hand position, trying to remember where all those pesky keys are (why aren’t they just alphabetized? It’s a good point. Discuss that with students).
In third grade, I gather the students and we chat about it. Why do they have to learn to keyboard? It’s more than a skill they trot out for the keyboarding software and then forget. Discuss the idea of sharing ideas–the Gutenberg Press, when writing began with scrolls and rocks, why was it important to save ideas in perpetuity? Why is it important to students?
The discussion should come around to the idea that putting ideas in some sort of permanent fashion is important to the history of mankind. The question is how, and the ‘how’ that’s relevant to the students is a comparison of handwriting and keyboarding. Here’s where we go from there:
- Discuss whether students handwrite faster/slower than they type. Ask students to share thoughts on why their opinion is true. You are likely to get opinions on both sides of this discussion. If not, prod students with logic for both.
- When it’s clear the class is divided on this subject (or not–that’s fine too), suggest running an experiment to see which is faster—handwriting or typing.
- Circle back to science class and engage in a discussion on the Scientific Method. Develop a hypothesis for this class research, something like: Third grade students in Mr. X’s class can handwrite faster than they type (this is the most common opinion in my classes).
- Have students hand-copy the typing quiz they took earlier in the trimester for 3 minutes.
- Analyze the results: Compare their handwriting speed to their typing speed. I encourage an individual comparison as well as a class average comparison to help with understanding the conclusion.
- Discuss results: Why do students think some students typed faster and others typed slower? (In my classes, third graders typed approx. 10 wpm and handwrote approx. 15 wpm. Discussion was heated and enthusiastic on reasons. Especially valuable were the thoughts of those rare students who typed faster).
- Students will offer lots of reasons for slower typing (they’re new to typing, don’t do it much in class, their hands got off on the keyboard). In truth, the logistics of typing make it the hands-down winner once key placement is secured. Fingers on a keyboard are significantly faster than the moving pencil.
- One reason students suggest is that they don’t usually type from copy. Key in on this reason (quite valid, I think—don’t you?) and revise the experiment to have students type and handwrite from a prompt.
- What is the final conclusion?
- If possible, share results from 4-8th. What grade level do students consistently type faster than they handwrite? Why? Are students surprised by the answer?
- Post a list on the wall of students who type faster than they handwrite. This surprises everyone.
Another problem for cursive in schools: Common Core is ‘silent’ on it, according to the Alliance for Excellence in Education. That’s like the Fat Lady warming up, but not sure when she’ll be performing.
Studies show one in three children struggle with handwriting. I’d guess more, seeing it first hand as a teacher. Sound bad? Consider another study shows that one in five parents say they last penned a letter more than a year ago.
Let’s look at the facts. Students hand-write badly, and don’t use it much when they grow up (think about yourself. How often do you write a long hand letter?). Really, why is handwriting important in this day of keyboards, PDAs, smart phones, spellcheck, word processing? I start students on MS Word in second grade, about the same time their teacher is beginning cursive. Teach kids the rudiments and turn them over to the tech teacher for keyboarding.
I searched for reasons why I was wrong. Here’s what I found:
- 1 in 10 Americans are endangered by the poor handwriting of physicians.
- citizens miss out on $95,000,000 in tax refunds because the taxman can’t read their handwriting
- Poor handwriting costs businesses $200,000,000 in time and money that result in confused and inefficient employees, phone calls made to wrong numbers, and letters delivered to incorrect addresses.
BROWNSBURG, Ind., Aug. 28 (UPI) —
Officials in an Indiana school district said cursive writing lessons will be scaled down this year in favor of computer keyboarding.