The Common Core Standards for education are beginning to be rolled out in schools across the country. Many people are unaware that the Language Arts section of the Common Core standards has omitted cursive handwriting as a subject that must be taught. Keyboarding is a required course. The need for keyboarding skills is obvious. The need to learn cursive handwriting while less obvious is also important.
The omission of cursive handwriting has created growing controversy over the role handwriting and keyboarding instruction will have in the classroom, particularly in the elementary grades where students are still developing their reading, writing and motor skills. Little research has been done to determine how the change in writing, from learning and using cursive to using keyboarding exclusively, affect neuro-pathways in the brain.
The reduction in instruction time for cursive handwriting has slowly and subtlety taken place. Sometime in the 1980’s cursive handwriting began to receive less and less classroom instruction. It changed from the excessive two hours a day in the forties and fifties to the current fifteen minutes two or three times a week. Schools often start teaching cursive at the end of second grade and little instruction extends after the third grade. Since cursive isn’t stressed after third grade students are not given enough practice to make cursive writing a habit. As a result many kids educated in the last two decades cannot write in or even read cursive. Many cannot even sign their name in cursive instead they use block printing.
Little regard has been given to the interrelationships of handwriting development and reading, spelling and composition. The past two decades of decline in learning to write in cursive has paralleled the nations last two decades of declining scores in reading comprehension. Handwriting can change how children learn and how their brains develop.
Researchers are trying to understand why units of language are affected differently when hands write by pen and by keyboard. Handwriting experts know that handwriting is actually brain writing as it is the brain that directs the strokes on the page. Neuroscientists are studying how handwriting actually affects the brain.
Psychiatrist and neuroplasticty expert Dr. Norman Doidge author of the book The Brain That Changes Itself explains, “When a child types or prints he produces a letter the same way each time. In cursive however, each letter connects slightly differently to the next, which is more demanding on the part of the brain that converts symbol sequences into motor movements in the hand.” He also explains, “Sure in the 1980’s there were things that were part of a kind of classical education that people did away with because they thought that they were irrelevant like an almost fanatical attention to elocution and handwriting or memorizing long poems. But, it now turns out that what these activities did is, "they exercised very important parts of the brain that allow you to think in long sentences, have deep internal monologues and a certain amount of grace in all kinds of expression. And probably a lot of damage was done by doing away with these exercises that were there for good reasons we didn’t understand.”
Few would argue that deep internal monologues, memorizing, and grace in all forms of expression are becoming lost or certainly on the wane in our culture today. rumbff? Text talk for, Are you my best friend forever? Texting has created a new language which is rather reminiscent of primitive forms of writing.
I'll be back with more research findings in my next post. Please comment. I would love to hear you opinion on cursive handwriting, keyboarding and learning in this high tech world.