The handwriting is on the wall in New Jersey—or not, as the case may be. New Jersey is one of a majority of states that accepts the Common Core Standards for English, which has omitted cursive writing as a required part of the curriculum. As a result, many school districts are debating whether to spend valuable instructional time teaching penmanship.
Proponents of cursive instruction contend that while many students have learned how to use the keyboard, there are still many occasions when they will need to write information, both in school and out. In addition, they say, poor handwriting mechanics can interfere with written expression. A student who finds handwriting difficult and tedious may resist written tasks.
Those who argue for reducing handwriting instruction maintain that students are better served by learning keyboarding skills and focusing on math and reading during the time previously spent on penmanship.
Whichever side prevails, the reality is that the era of spending 30 minutes a day practicing cursive is gone.
What can you expect in terms of penmanship lessons?—>
While your child won’t begin formal handwriting instruction until first grade, he should be able to at least write his name as well as some letters and numbers by the end of kindergarten. He will start learning cursive writing in second or third grade. For many children, learning to write the fluid lines of script is a sign that they are growing up, and, as a result, they look forward to it. However, handwriting also frustrates many students, especially boys, who may have problems forming letters, staying on the line, spacing properly, or writing at an appropriate speed.
If your child is struggling with handwriting, contact his teacher. She may be able to adapt her instruction or use a pencil grip or special paper. Or she may reassure you that what you are seeing with your child is not unexpected. Writing letters backwards, for example, is not uncommon with first and second graders.
If you find that your child’s homework is sloppy, it is fine to encourage him to work more slowly and carefully, but keep in mind that the substance of what he writes is more important than the form. Avoid giving him handwriting exercises at home unless he is eager for them. Not only do you risk turning him off to writing, but you may confuse him if your approach differs from that of his teacher.
Dr. Shore, a psychologist and author of six books, teaches part-time at Rutgers.