Handwriting is quickly being replaced by computer and cellphone keyboards.
However, many people believe that handwriting, particularly cursive writing, is still vital to a child's development and success in today's society.
For five years, the Jamestown Public Schools district has been implementing a program called "Handwriting Without Tears" in its elementary schools. The program, which teaches children the fundamentals of handwriting as early as prekindergarten, culminates in a thorough understanding of cursive writing by the completion of fourth grade. Handwriting Without Tears is intended to deepen the understanding of students from kindergarten to fifth grade in the Common Core Standards, as set forth by the New York State Education Department.
Students display chalkboards featuring their names written in cursive.
P-J photo by Gavin Paterniti
According to Tracy Grey, occupational therapist for JPS, the program is expanding each year. Students in the class of 2022, currently in third grade, will be the first to complete instruction through Handwriting Without Tears. Beginning in prekindergarten, they have now reached the point in their handwriting development in which they can learn their cursive curriculum. As the class progresses through each school year, its upcoming teachers also need to be instructed in the Handwriting Without Tears curriculum.
According to Mary Neumann-Ceminilli, a third-grade teacher at Bush, the importance of cursive writing should not be overlooked by today's youth.
"Cursive writing is so important because all of our (nation's) historical documents, such as the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, are written in cursive," she said. "We want the students at JPS to be efficient and proficient, and that's one of the skills that they need. Also, if they have the ability to read (cursive) for themselves, they won't have to have something interpreted for them by somebody else."
She continued: "When they get into the upper grades and are taking notes, it takes a little bit longer if they're just printing each of the letters as opposed to being more fluent. One of the big things at JPS is to be fluent in the things that we do, and so, as the children are more fluent, they'll become better note-takers and they'll be more confident in themselves and more confident when they read historical documents."
In her Tuesday morning class, Neumann-Ceminilli taught her students how to write the letter "k" in lowercase cursive. One of the main differences in the Handwriting Without Tears' cursive lettering is that many of the loops and curls have been done away with in order to make for a more streamlined transition from print to cursive.
The students also talk out their movements by using catchy phrases such as: "travel up like a helicopter," "climb down and bump the line," and "kick and slide away." Studies have shown that simultaneously speaking and creating the movements several times consecutively helps with memory retention. By the end of their morning cursive session, the students were writing complete words such as "keep" and "take" in cursive.
By the start of the next school year, fourth-grade teachers will receive training on the Handwriting Without Tears curriculum in preparation for the upcoming class, who will be continuing their education in cursive writing.