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Old 01-29-2010, 11:42 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Cursive writing, should it still be taught in school?

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Should kids be taught cursive writing in school?

Today's tech-savvy children are whizzes when it comes to typing on the computer keyboard. But their penmanship is atrocious. Some people wonder whether educators should even bother teaching cursive. Others cry out that it's still an important skill.

AlexandreNunes/Shutterstock

Is cursive an important skill? That's a matter of debate.

A parent wrote in with a great question for SFGate readers to ponder: Should kids be taught how to write in cursive at school?

He wrote in an email:
The San Francisco Unified School District public elementary school my kids go to focuses a great deal of energy on cursive writing -- even making it mandatory at a certain grade level.
While the students do get to do a limited amount of computer time, there is no emphasis on getting them to teach students how to type. This seems to me to be a somewhat archaic stance to take in this day of computer ubiquity.
Indeed, I've heard from co-workers that some schools in the suburbs are completely downplaying cursive and instead focusing on getting kids to type on a computer.
One school in the East Bay, for example, gives homework writing assignments with a "first choice" preference that it be done on a computer.
I'm just wondering what parents with kids in upper elementary grades are finding their schools, be they public or private, are doing on this question.
I vividly remember learning to write with fancy loops in the third grade. At about the same time, I started dotting my "i's" with cutesy little circles and hearts. To me the writing was beautiful and creating it was like an art. But do I use the proper cursive form today? Hardly. My writing looks like chicken scratch.

My 6-year-old daughter recently came home and showed me that she learned to write her name in cursive from an older kid at school. She was proud, and now she always signs her name with pretty penmanship. But does she need to learn to write anything in cursive beyond her own name?

Children typically learn print in kindergarten and instruction in cursive begins in third grade. But these days, they don't master either form. Daily handwriting lessons have decreased from an average of 30 minutes to 15 minutes over the years, according to Time. Many experts are appalled by the handwriting of some children--the sloppiness became apparent when the SAT test introduced a handwritten section.

That said, last year a USA Today article reported: "Cursive is still widely taught in U.S. public and private elementary schools, according to a 2007 nationwide study on handwriting instruction by Vanderbilt University. It surveyed a random sampling of about 200 teachers in grades one through three in all 50 states.

"Ninety percent of the teachers who responded said their schools required instruction in handwriting, the study found. Of those who taught it, half of second grade teachers and 90% of third grade teachers offered instruction in cursive.

"Furthermore, the teachers said they spent about 60 minutes a week, or 15 minutes a day, on teaching cursive -- the amount recommended by handwriting experts."

Steve Graham, the University of Vanderbilt professor who compiled all of these numbers, would argue that it's still worth teaching our children to write with curlicues. Graham has looked closely at cursive in the classroom, and, according to Newsweek, finds that a majority of primary-school teachers believe that students with fluent handwriting produced written assignments that were superior in quantity and quality and resulted in higher grades--aside from being easier to read.

Graham's work has also shown that from kindergarten through fourth grade, kids think and write at the same time, Newsweek reports. "Only later is mental composition divorced from the physical process of handwriting. If [kids] have to struggle to remember how to make their letters, their ability to express themselves will suffer. The motions have to be automatic, both for expressive writing and for another skill that students will need later in life, note-taking."

Others are more skeptical. "Personally I thought it was ridiculous that I had to learn cursive in elementary school decades ago," says Mike Sela, whose daughter is in the fifth grade at an S.F. public school, "so the idea that my daughter has to spend precious school time in the 21st century on an archaic and redundant handwriting style, seems laughable at best. In an era where schools are desperate to save money and time in any way possible, and are on the hook to measurably increase achievement, how about killing this useless piece of curriculum? In general we're typing more and more, so what's the point of teaching our kids a second and less-legible form of handwriting? Save it for the calligraphy elective."

Do you think children should learn to write in cursive or should teachers use the time spent on other subjects?
If you don't learn how to write cursive how can you be taught to read cursive? Also, couldn't this be an indicator for people to learn fine motor skills say for skills that require such a thing for example hand dexterity for the the medical profession?

Personally, I think that it's an important skill. People still write by hand, some people actually write cursive still maybe not many in the circles you frequent, but it is still widely used. It is also widely learned and used in many other countries.
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Old 01-29-2010, 11:54 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Writing cursively isn't the same thing as typing on a keyboard. I don't see one as a replacement for the other.

From a compositional standpoint, I think it puts someone at a disadvantage if they didn't know how to write cursively. In my own experience, writing something out by hand has a different outcome than if I typed it out.

I also agree with what you say about motor skills. This is something of an issue with children of young ages using computers vs. hands-on learning in terms of their development.
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Old 01-29-2010, 11:57 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Wish my boss had learned to write cursive esp. writing that is at least legible.
IMO, It makes him look dumb... especially when most of us can't decifer what he has writtien on a message to us and inveribly, we are always going to him to "decifer" the message and/or numbers for quotes to customers etc. This is succh a time waster! It's a real pain in the butt.

I believe that schools still need to teach cursive writing (it's faster than printing, if practiced and used often) and people should be proud enough to write well. It makes you look smarter and "polished". When I hired people for jobs that required notes and reports, hand written 95% of the time - I always bounced the bad writers.

Your signature is a whole "other" elelment - no?
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Old 01-29-2010, 12:01 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I was required to learn both cursive writing and typing in elementary school, thus I would expect my kids to also be required to learn both of these skills. Schools should be teaching both skills.
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Old 01-29-2010, 12:04 PM   #5 (permalink)
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What's the point of teaching them to write in cursive if they won't have a chance to practice it? Say, it's a requirement to pass the third grade with fundamental in cursive. Then what? All essays are required to be typed up all the way through college. Peer to peer interaction is done with thumbing on the keypad or touch screen or via regular two handed keyboard typing.

I was taught how to write cursive. Hell, I used to be great at it. Eleven years ago when hand-written essays stopped being accepted. I don't even have to write often unless to fill out forms. Can I write cursive now? Like hell. My handwriting sucks.
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Old 01-29-2010, 12:08 PM   #6 (permalink)
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On the other hand...

I freely admit my handwriting is atrocious. I did learn in school, but have had little to no practical use for it in my daily life since. Having spent enough time around computers to be able to touch type at 80 or so words per minute, it's generally faster and more convenient for me to bang something out digitally. In the event that I need to put something down on paper I can use block printing. It's serviceable, though hardly pretty.

I won't go so far as to say that cursive writing should be dropped from the curriculum completely, but it certainly doesn't need or deserve the emphasis that was placed on it twenty years ago. Typing is a much more useful skill today.
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Old 01-29-2010, 12:08 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I was required to learn in 2nd-3rd grade and promptly forgot when middle school was reached and it hasn't been required since then. I print everything I write except for my signature. It's something I can still force myself to do though.

Fun Anecdote:
In college my roommate and I were assigned two page opinion paper that we had to hand write. He turned in the only paper written in cursive. Our prof failed him outright, without even reading the paper, for being a 'smart-ass'.
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Old 01-29-2010, 12:21 PM   #8 (permalink)
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It has just now occurred to me that I don't know what cursive is. Then I googled it. Then I now realize I was the only student in my class that wrote in cursive.

I don't think it has to be "taught". In fact cursive is somewhat difficult to read if not often practiced and not done well. They should, however, emphasize on HANDWRITING! It is important that you write clearly and neatly with only ONE strike through when a mistake is made. No unnecessary scratches.

As I think about it further I believe that cursive should not be taught. They should hit you on the wrist (like they did me) if your letters are not balanced and have the same height. Cursive is difficult to master as well as read and even harder if the writing is that of 7 chickens.
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Old 01-29-2010, 12:41 PM   #9 (permalink)
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i've forgotten how to write in cursive. well, for the most part anyways. certain letters throw me off. i forget how capital r's and z's (both lowercase and capitol) are written all the time.

i guess it's important. i mean, as long as you douche-bags continue to use it.


edit: cursive=laziness. pick yer fucking hands up. sheesh.
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Old 01-29-2010, 12:51 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Yah, I have to write the capital letter "Z" ALL the time and I always have to look that one up.

Damn, dude.
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Old 01-29-2010, 12:54 PM   #11 (permalink)
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I break a lot of the "rules." I often use a hybrid of cursive and printing, the ratio of which adjusts randomly.
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Old 01-29-2010, 01:03 PM   #12 (permalink)
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i guess i need to install the sarcmark so people can tell if im being serious or not.
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Old 01-29-2010, 01:11 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by hunnychile View Post
Yah, I have to write the capital letter "Z" ALL the time and I always have to look that one up.

Damn, dude.
print and tape to your desk...

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Old 01-29-2010, 01:56 PM   #14 (permalink)
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It's useful if you want to read through your grandparents' old love letters, but I haven't run across anyone who uses cursive in years. It's the new Merovingian script.
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Old 01-29-2010, 03:06 PM   #15 (permalink)
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I break a lot of the "rules." I often use a hybrid of cursive and printing, the ratio of which adjusts randomly.
I know a lot of people, like you, who use a hybrid of cursive and printing... then again I think I might know more who print. It is kind of interesting to think about.

As for myself, I’ve always been a printer. I guess, like most people I learned cursive in third grade. They had these little green chalkboards they wanted us to practice on. I had another teacher who wanted us to write in cursive in, I want to say, middle school, but that was a fleeting experience. Despite being taught, I never found must use for it as I just continue to print. I never write in cursive, except for those occasional when I have to sign something, and even then my signature varies some.

I remember in college I a took a couple semesters of Russia. The professor tried to teach us among other things how to write Cyrillic in cursive. I’ll admit learning a whole new alphabet can be hard, never mind learning to read and write it in cursive.
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Old 01-29-2010, 03:48 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Cursive should be taught right alongside the abacus as a relic from a simpler time.

I don't think our motor skills will be any worse for wear; I bet the motor skills required to print are pretty much the same as the motor skills required to write in cursive.
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Old 01-29-2010, 03:56 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Cursive should be taught right alongside the abacus as a relic from a simpler time.

I don't think our motor skills will be any worse for wear; I bet the motor skills required to print are pretty much the same as the motor skills required to write in cursive.
Some scientists don't think so.

Quote:
Handwriting and Fine Motor Skills: New Insights into Autism
By Faith Brynie
Created Nov 11 2009 - 2:07pm

Handwriting and Fine Motor Skills: New Insights into Autism

Over the last couple of years, I've been privileged to interview several researchers who work at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore. I've written about their work on the brain's motor (movement control) regions and functions as they relate to autism. Just this week, I received word of another Kennedy Krieger study--this one on handwriting and autism--that made me think about my teenage friend--we'll call her Lara--who was diagnosed with dyslexia in kindergarten. With a lot of hard work, determination, and tutoring, Lara has managed to excel in her schoolwork, but the dragon she has never slain is handwriting. Now a senior in high school, Lara still struggles with forming letters on a page. The keyboard is her best friend, and she uses it whenever she can.

Now--before I get a lot of correction comments about autism and dyslexia being different things--let me assure you, I understand the difference. But I also understand that the more we learn about how the brain works--whether the normal brain or the impaired brain--the more we know about how to protect and preserve the healthy brain and, perhaps, how to restore health to the brain when something goes wrong. I can only speculate that Lara's handwriting difficulties may share a common origin with those now documented for autism, but the research is intriguing enough, I think, that I wanted to share it here.

This new study, published in the November 10 issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, identifies fine motor control as a root source of some of the problems categorized as autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The study reveals that children with ASD may have difficulty forming letters without expressing problems in other cognitive, social, or sensorimotor domains.

Amy Bastian, who is corresponding author of the study, worked with a team of researchers to compare handwriting samples, motor skills, and visuospatial abilities of children with ASD to those of typically developing children. The researchers found that overall, the handwriting of children with ASD was worse than typically developing children. Specifically, children with ASD had trouble forming letters; however, in other categories, such as size, alignment, and spacing, their handwriting was comparable to that of the typically developing children. The researchers also found that motor ability, specifically for timed movements, was a strong predictor of handwriting performance in children with ASD.

"Identifying this fine motor deficiency in handwriting provides important insight about ASD," said Bastian. "It provides another example of motor skill problems that may give us cues for other deficits with socialization and communication. Furthermore, occupational therapists and teachers can now take the information from this study and apply it to the students they see on a daily basis."

I suspect those innovations in education and therapy will come too late to help Lara, but they may help Lara's cousin, age nine, who has been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, which is indeed one of the autism spectrum disorders. Little Gary's handwriting is illegible, even when he labors over his printing. Lara is understanding and supportive, but unable to help him. If she can't, maybe this new research will.

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Old 01-29-2010, 04:23 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Some scientists don't think so.
But do you think so? (I'm guessing 'yes', if only because I can't verify another member here holding an opposing viewpoint to schools continuing the teaching cursive practice, which would thereby render this discussion as an ongoing listing of differentiating ways to say "I agree".)
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Old 01-29-2010, 04:28 PM   #19 (permalink)
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But do you think so? (I'm guessing 'yes', if only because I can't verify another member here holding an opposing viewpoint to schools continuing the teaching cursive practice, which would thereby render this discussion as an ongoing listing of differentiating ways to say "I agree".)
I think it could be optional as part of the curriculum, meaning that I don't see it worthwhile in the public school curriculum. Kids coming out of public schools can barely read and write, let alone do maths, english, and cursive handwriting.

BUT I bet the moment that happens those parents that care about handwriting or feel that it benefits their child in some fashion will take it or insist that private schools that offer it are even more superior to the public schools.

AND, we'll have someone shouting disparity and divide to those who cannot afford private schooling.

So it should be kept in.
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Old 01-29-2010, 04:43 PM   #20 (permalink)
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I am a fan of cursive.
It aids in speedy note-taking.
If typing skills are adequately taught, I will not complain too loudly. Then again, I have no children and my niece has already been taught the skill.
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Old 01-29-2010, 05:30 PM   #21 (permalink)
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I read that article twice, cyn, and I couldn't find any mention of cursive vs. printed writing. For all we know the scientists didn't differentiate, which makes sense to me, because why would they? The differences between cursive and printed writing seem to be irrelevant to the purposes of the study.

I don't think that there is much difference in terms of intricacy with respect to writing a sentence in cursive and writing a sentence in print.
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Old 01-29-2010, 06:50 PM   #22 (permalink)
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I agree that kids should be taught how to write it, but the actual value of it is very low. No one ever writes cursive after learning it. Ok, maybe for a year or so they do, but no more. When I was in school, whenever we got an assignment people always asked the teacher what to write in, cursive or normal. Teacher would always say "whatever is the neatest and easiest to read." We always chose writing in normal print.
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Old 01-29-2010, 08:28 PM   #23 (permalink)
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I think typing skills should be taught over cursive. It's just more useful and practical.

Fine motor control can be taught in other areas.
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Old 01-29-2010, 09:04 PM   #24 (permalink)
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I think typing skills should be taught over cursive. It's just more useful and practical.

Fine motor control can be taught in other areas.
Texas lowered high school graduation requirements for technology from needing to take a year of a tech class to not needing a tech class at all. Reason: kids use computers so much and pick up on it so easily that it's not needed to teach them. I agree.
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Old 01-30-2010, 02:03 AM   #25 (permalink)
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Teach both cursive and good printing.

I think cursive is a waste of time, at a personal level. I learned it as a child and quickly dropped it in HS and barely remembered it existed in college.

I would like to see children learn good printing, like an engineer. Children writing similar to print you would see on an exploded schematic would be fantastic IMO.

Not to say that it should be required, not at all. If a child is very literate and has a taste for the arts rather than mathematical thinking, then the cursive they were also taught may come in handy for them. My mom is a perfect example of the english teacher that loves language and fancy styles of writing, while my dad is a mechanical engineer and writes like he's doing a schematic.

I'm pretty sure any teacher can deal with both styles for reading/grading purposes.
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Old 01-30-2010, 02:23 AM   #26 (permalink)
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Being a lefty, my handwriting has always sucked. While cursive is a good thing to learn, I personally use a hybrid of cursive and printing. It's fast and it's legible.
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Old 01-30-2010, 06:11 AM   #27 (permalink)
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Cursive? Feh. I sucked at it before I mangled my writing hand. Now even my printing looks like that of a 5 year old. There is a reason the vast majority of professors and teachers no longer accept handwritten papers... Legibility decreases marking time. Typing decreases production time. Everyone wins!
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Old 01-30-2010, 06:36 AM   #28 (permalink)
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I abandoned cursive writing around grade 4 because I could print faster than I could write and it was more legible.

I found cursive writing more of an exercise to back up stuff like sentence structure and proper punctuation than something to be used on a daily basis.

Should cursive writing be taught in schools? I don't think I am qualified to say given set curriculum's and alternatives offered.

What should be taught in schools is teaching kids how to think independently at an early age and then using those skills to further the learning process.

That would pay dividends down the road.
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Old 01-30-2010, 07:22 AM   #29 (permalink)
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Texas lowered high school graduation requirements for technology from needing to take a year of a tech class to not needing a tech class at all. Reason: kids use computers so much and pick up on it so easily that it's not needed to teach them. I agree.
I disagree. Typing should be taught, at minimum. Most people in my generation didn't learn tot type in any orderly format. They may be able to type quickly, but their ergonomics are bad, leading to repetive stress injuries that could have been avoided.
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Old 01-30-2010, 09:01 AM   #30 (permalink)
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I disagree. Typing should be taught, at minimum. Most people in my generation didn't learn tot type in any orderly format. They may be able to type quickly, but their ergonomics are bad, leading to repetive stress injuries that could have been avoided.
Yes, I definitely see a lot of hunt-and-peck typists our age, my SO included. I have tried encouraging him to try a program such as Mavis Beacon or Mario Teaches Typing (yes, you can still find this) to learn to type properly.

I don't take notes longhand anymore, and I am often left scratching my head as to figure out why my peers are still doing so. I have a netbook and that is what I use in class. I still see people with study guides written out longhand, despite the fact that typing is faster and things like Microsoft OneNote can make your study guide look all pretty and shit.

While the argument about fine motor skills is an interesting one, it's not really a good one. By the time a child is at the age cursive is taught, they are engaging in a wide variety of activities that encourage fine motor skills. Using scissors, drawing, painting, and even printing all use fine motor skills; cursive isn't special. Over the early elementary years, legibility and uniformity increase; learning cursive typically comes at the end of these gains (Berk 2008).

I think children would actually benefit more from having a recess instead of a cursive lesson. Now there's something that really needs to be brought back! More recess!
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Old 01-30-2010, 09:20 AM   #31 (permalink)
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Do you want to know what I'm more concerned about than cursive writing skills? Reading comprehension and written communication.

I've seen the samples of writing from my SO's grade 7 and 8 students. It looked like it was about on par with what I thought should be grade 4. *shudder* And much of it sounded like it was parroted (or outright plagarized) from some anime-style video game or maybe a television show. *double shudder*

If you're going to replace cursive writing instruction, replace it with reading and composition development. Please.

Quote:
Originally Posted by snowy
Yes, I definitely see a lot of hunt-and-peck typists our age [...]
I always want to yell at these people: "Dude, you're only using 20% of your finger capacity! And that's not to mention the possibilities of mental keyboard mapping!"
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Old 01-30-2010, 10:01 AM   #32 (permalink)
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I hunt and peck. I don't know how to type. Well, I know where all the keys are but I need to look at the keyboard in order to type. I don't have the ability to "ASDF-;LKJ" properly. I never bothered.

I type 80 wpm w/ 90% accuracy.
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Old 01-30-2010, 10:22 AM   #33 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Xerxys View Post
I hunt and peck. I don't know how to type. Well, I know where all the keys are but I need to look at the keyboard in order to type. I don't have the ability to "ASDF-;LKJ" properly. I never bothered.

I type 80 wpm w/ 90% accuracy.
Same here. I can type pretty damn fast with good accuracy with my two finger approach.

Also, does anyone use a mixture of cursive and print writing like Charlatan? I do, but only for words with Q's in them. And for all letters past the Q in that word. Weird, I know.
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Old 01-30-2010, 10:24 AM   #34 (permalink)
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Xerx, if you're at 80 wpm you're not hunting and pecking. I'm about the same, and it's pretty much self taught. We're typists dude. Or keyboardists.

My tiny skul districk in North Carolina was awarded a room full of IBM PCs thanks to the plant in Charlotte. What did they do with that raw computing power? They taught keyboarding. Because they couldn't possibly accept the concept some of us might learn C++ or other languages than French.
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Old 01-30-2010, 02:07 PM   #35 (permalink)
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I know when I was younger (6th grade-ish) I struggled in our typing class. It was your most stereotypic typing class, you look at your hands and you get a mark, you slouch you get a mark (I probably shouldn't have rebelled against that one) but the point was I got a bad grade in that class and the next year was introduced to Yahoo messenger where I could chat with all my friends. While using messenger it took me less than a few months to learn to type fluently.

As for cursive, I learned it in elementary school as well, haven't used it since.

For typing or writing out notes, I've never seen many people type out notes in my classes, but at the same time all my classes are math, chem, physics etc.
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Old 01-30-2010, 03:46 PM   #36 (permalink)
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I see no reason for typing in elementary school. Children don't need computer skills at that age. Typing skills are useless until they have to write something of length.
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Old 01-30-2010, 04:19 PM   #37 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Xerxys View Post
I hunt and peck. I don't know how to type. Well, I know where all the keys are but I need to look at the keyboard in order to type. I don't have the ability to "ASDF-;LKJ" properly. I never bothered.

I type 80 wpm w/ 90% accuracy.
I used to type properly and did about 65 words a minute but felt too confined on the board.

My two finger approach nets me almost the same words and I don;t make hallf the mIsteakes.
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Old 01-30-2010, 07:32 PM   #38 (permalink)
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Learning to write cursive was the bane of my existence as a kid, and this was before computers. I never learned properly. My cursive always sucked, and was always infinitely slower to write than if I printed. To this day, anything I write by hand is printed, and if people don't like it, they can kiss my ass. Even my signature is a fusion of printing and cursive, mostly printing.

I teach high school now, and I demand that kids turn everything in on computer. If they have to write it out, they need to be extra careful about legibility and spelling: so most of them don't bother, and I get most things in electronic format.
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Old 01-30-2010, 08:54 PM   #39 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CandleInTheDark View Post
I see no reason for typing in elementary school. Children don't need computer skills at that age. Typing skills are useless until they have to write something of length.
Why don't they need computer skills and where do you get the idea that typing is useless for shorter writing?
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Old 01-30-2010, 10:45 PM   #40 (permalink)
 
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I am in actuality a hamster that can type.
Cursive writing takes too damn long, and keeps getting ink on my fur.

---------- Post added at 10:45 PM ---------- Previous post was at 10:42 PM ----------

seriously though - cursive writing schmursive writing.
I agree with the previous comment where you teach people how to print engineering style. Then more people would have legible writing and communication increases. Oh, and I second the whole teach reading comprehension. I'm slowly watching our youth's level of competency in the English language deteriorate into txt msgs wher u only need 2 typ shrthand....
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