I came across something disturbing the other day with 9th graders and I wanted to hear your thoughts/experiences. It's a known fact that many students are reading and writing below grade level. But what I experienced was disheartening. I handed out a short report (easy reading) that was written in cursive. 1/2 the students handed it back to me and said, "I can't read this.' I almost fell on the floor. I explained that this is cursive. (I don't know why I even tried to explain, since they already indicated to me that it was useless to them.) Long story short, those who couldn't read it said they were never taught it? How can this be? Are programs like NCLB and SFA missing the basic fundamentals of learning?

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Carol,
I also teach 9th grade and have discovered the same thing. My students also scratch like chickens and call it writing. Much of their hand writing is not legible. What do we do at this level? Do I buy the students script books?
I'm afraid that education is really starting to concentrate on testing what some suit thinks third graders should know and not concentrate on basic skills that will serve those third graders the rest of their lives.
I used to think cursive was important, now I just want students to write legibly. Some of my kiddos can type 40-50 words a minute, but struggle to write a sentence. I do think we should give them as many experiences to practice writing, but I'm afraid cursive is going to be less and less of a priority as time goes on.
Agreed. What they write is more important than how they write, in my opinion. I would not be sad to see it go. After all, what real world application does it really have?
I might suggest the demands of writing, reading and math assessments has pushed cursive right out of my mind. I am also curious about the value of cursive. I hope someone weighs into the conversation with some compelling arguments for cursive. Computers are pretty versatile. I have often wondered why advocates of cursive do not change their document fonts to cursive if it is a superior form of writing. It would certainly facilitate learning to read it.
I teach 7th grade and my students can't understand cursive either. I think they stopped teaching cursive writing. I feel kids should at least know how to write their name in cursive. Other than that they don't need it. If they can print legibly than I am happy, but some can not even do that. Handwriting without tears is a great program, but to teach cursive in middle school become tedious. the 3 r's are fading away:Readin(books on tape, Kindle's, readingpens etc replacing the need to read. Writin-texting and the use of computers and word processors is making the old art of writing obsolete,Rithmetic-they expect kids to do Algebra, but they haven't mastered the basics of addition, subtraction, multiplication or division. I am so happy I went to school back in the day when we learned functional skills.
Well, in my school we do handwriting without tears in 3rd grade. We dont teach it as such in 4th and 5th grade, but we have been told that when teaching spelling, the kids should use that writing style to complete any worksheets. We do teach the three Rs. Many of the example you quote above are really after school activities. Reading is a big priority for us, and we teach very little 'real' algebra really because we are all about the basic skills.
I find this discussion intersting as it illustrates what happens when a "technology" is reaching the end of it's usefulness. In my opinion cursive writing was a technology that was created for two purposes: one to make writing, note taking, book keeping, etc, faster, Two it was also a way to make things look professional or "pretty". However now in the digital age hand writing per se is obsolete. Students still need to learn how to write but they don't necessarily need to know how to write on paper.

Now I know the writing teachers out there will have a cow but hear me out. Students need to know how to write well and do the writing process (what ever process your school follows) but they need to learn how to do it digitally. They need to know that just because an article is typed it doens't mean you are done (I get that a lot in my tech classes). They need to know that just because you spell check that you are not done proof reaading. It is amazing how many students tell me that you only do your final draft on the computer.

On another note I think we need to start teaching students how to take digital notes. I learned in college that there is a fine art to taking note in lecture. I think students think that because the have a laptop, netbook, etc. that they can just note down certain things or download the lecture nets and have thave it, but there is more to it. That actually paying attention to what is being said and making a connection and noting that down helps to remember. I have seen some colleges now ban laptops from class because they are more of a distraction to students who are facebooking, tweeting, myspacing, etc. rather than listening to the lecture.
John,

I hadn't thought about it until reading your post, but I just looked back on my students' blogs, in which some are doing research and "blogging" it rather than a traditional report. They keep notes in a private notes section of their blogs. There is no written note-taking, and no written rough drafts. They transfer their notes to a blog post. When their posts come to me for review, I make notes right there in red, send it back, and it is published when I OK it. I send private comments to them with their evaluation or grade. This is a perfect example of a completely digital writing process that is working out beautifully. Not to say that it is the only experience that students should have, but just proof that it can work!
I don't think it's about using cursive, it's the fact that the kids didn't know what it was. It's one more skill that the education system doesn't feel is important so it's ignored. Look what happened to vocabulary when SFA took over. It was taken out of the curriculum. (I know teachers who got negative comments in their observations when they were observed teaching vocabulary.) Then, student's SAT scores drop. Go figure. The point is students can't write. Whether they use pen and paper or the computer, they miss punctuation, capitalization, and write in text lingo: u, r, i. Teaching to technology is a no-brainer, but as educators, we shouldn't forget the basic skills that we were taught that got us where we are today. We all use to complain about math formulas, but we still teach them. Only now kids have calculators. Did you ever see the look on a high schoolers face when they're asked to add 2-2 digit numbers in their head? Some can't! How are we going to prepare our students to compete globally if they can't read or write by the time they reach high school?
I think because it was so disturbing to me that the students were not familiar with cursive it opened a can of worms.
While reading through all of the other posts, I found myself saying "ya, you are all right about not needing cursive." Then I started thinking about what really was bothering me about the cursive thing. It's not so much about the cursive, it's about a general lack in skill mastery of any sort. I think it's that the students don't master much of anything. I have students who have a hard time printing. I have students who can't construct a sentence much less a paragraph. That's the part that bothers me. I think the loss of cursive just clouded my real frustration. I'm frustrated that we only teach for the moment and assume that someone else will fill in the gaps. When the students get to me at the 9th grade, it finally all catches up and gaps are just too big to fill. That won't stop me from trying, though. Happy writing to you all.
Yes. I think that's it!

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