News from Enrichment Resources
PO Box 4724 · San Luis Obispo, CA 93403-4724
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Cursive or the Cursor?
Animated Handwriting program allows time for both
SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA — Is cursive handwriting a still-relevant essential skill, or an outmoded tradition in today's digitized world? The implementation of Common Core State Standards has left educators wrestling with this either/or dilemma.
The tough choice for teachers today is to accept the mandate to phase out cursive handwriting lessons, or find a way to buck a system driven by eviscerated budgets. Under the guise of preparing students for the future, schools can justify dropping cursive altogether. But the debate on this issue suggests many schools would choose to teach both cursive and keyboarding if they had the resources to do so.
Connie Magee of Enrichment Resources in San Luis Obispo, CA, has a practical solution for the budget cutbacks, increasing classroom sizes, and teacher layoffs forcing proponents of cursive writing to say goodbye handwriting, hello keyboarding against their better judgment. Magee's website ( www.animatedhandwriting.com) offers teachers and parents a timesaving and easy way to blend cursive writing into their daily lesson plans.
"The Animated Handwriting video-assisted handwriting instruction program features no-frills DVDs designed to guide students to learn cursive writing skills independently," Magee explains. "For just a few minutes a day, kids can follow the simple, animated image of a letter on the screen and practice on their worksheets."
The selected letter draws itself on a lined "paper" background, dissolves and repeats with a color-highlighted retrace for 5 minutes. This allows ample time for "copied" as well as "memory" practice. Students love the DVDs, and teachers love the freedom of helping individual students instead of being tethered to the blackboard, drawing letters for the class. If a school has eliminated cursive handwriting instruction, parents can use the DVDs to work with their children at home.
Magee attests to the success of this approach. "I used the program with my 7-year-old granddaughter, and she very quickly learned the lowercase letters by devoting only 10-15 minutes a day for just 3 days a week over a 5-week period. The only involvement I had was starting the DVD and checking her first practice letters to be sure she didn't repeat mistakes."
Opponents of teaching cursive handwriting reason it has no bearing on academic achievement and should be relegated to art classes, along with calligraphy and other gracefully decorative, if arguably obsolete, techniques. Some point out that even written signatures are becoming unnecessary as electronic and digital versions are increasingly acceptable.
Advocates fire back that cursive handwriting stimulates brain development in ways printing and typing cannot. Studies in the research field called "haptics”—sensing and manipulating through touch—suggest the act of drawing letters, a more demanding task than keyboarding, trains the brain to integrate visual and tactile information, and develop fine motor dexterity. Many believe the student who can write by hand tends to participate more, with better concentration on content, and shows greater development of critical thinking, language, reading, and memory.
Dr. Virginia Berninger, a professor of education psychology at the University of Washington, has researched writing's effect on composition for over 20 years. She maintains that students writing compositions in longhand write faster, use more words, and express more ideas than those using keyboards. "Writing in cursive seems to help the brain with self-regulation and mental organization," she says, “Cursive helps you connect things.” Some of those connections include advantages for students who learn best by doing, and those with learning disabilities who struggle with the confusing similarities of printed letters. Being able to write in cursive teaches students to read it too, which connects them to historic documents as well as to saved family letters, journals, and cards.
Some school districts are rethinking Common Core recommendations and putting the brakes on the keyboarding-only bandwagon. Others are strengthening their efforts to expose students to the benefits of learning cursive. The Animated Handwriting program offers a seamless way to pair technology with tradition and keep cursive writing in the curriculum. Students love the sense of grown-up mastery and personal style learning cursive affords.
Connie Magee credits a friend of hers with developing the idea of video cursive instruction. "Lil was a third grade teacher who came up with the concept, which her husband developed into animated videos, then in VHS format. She tested and used the videos in her own classroom with great success."
Animated Handwriting is now available in six DVD sets, including three cursive-specific volumes: Modern Cursive, Cursive Connectors, and Classic Cursive. Each set features two 2-hour DVDs (uppercase and lowercase letters) and one CD of coordinating practice worksheets.
Since the DVDs are designed to be effective over short periods of self-motivated participation, teachers can focus on providing children one-on-one help. "They are fascinated with the way the letters form like magic,” comments third grade teacher Ms. Graves. “The video has made our lessons painless and pleasant.” First grade teacher Ms. Wilcock agrees: "My students look forward to handwriting daily and are disappointed when it's over." Third grade teacher Ms. Schonwald enthuses, "Thanks for making my teaching day easier!"