The powers of the internet just informed me that it's National Handwriting Day! Don't you love when those creepy advertising algorithms actually tell you fun facts? Thanks to the Google gods, I came across the infographic below from National Pen. It got me thinking about handwriting, why I love it so much, and why I've found it to still be a beneficial practice in my classroom.
Let me begin with my own handwriting adventures. I went to elementary school in the 90s. Yes, we're going all the way back, my friends. I know this isn't exactly the stone age, although my current 2nd graders would disagree. I remember getting our first computer at home when I was in 1st grade and I remember my school adding about 6 computers to the library around that time. Are you telling me I can type up my story into an actual book!? And then add a tiny pixelated illustration? I can also make banners that take up 25 sheets of paper? Awesome.
As much as I thought this was the coolest thing about life in 1992, I also remember writing all of my assignments out by hand. Once we got to upper grades, they had to be in cursive. I'm not saying this in a "we walked up hill both ways" kind of way, I just remember that we would occasionally use the computers, but until I reached 6th grade we still wrote most everything out by hand.
Honestly, for me, it wasn't really until college that I used my computer regularly. I was still that kid who wrote out her English papers by hand before typing them up. There was something about actually writing it that helped me form my thoughts and get things in the right place. In college, I discovered I didn't have time for this and made the transition to just typing. However, all of my notes were still written by hand, and that was the norm. Only a few people at that time had laptops and were bringing them to class. Writing things down worked for me. It always has and I'm guessing it always will.
Fast forward to my teaching career. I know that what worked for me growing up will not work for all of my students. There is technology around every corner. My students have grown up using iPads and smartphones and don't know what a computer mouse or a CD is. I really freak them out when I bust out the books on cassette I still have. We as teachers are encouraged to integrate technology whenever possible, and for the most part, this is really cool. It's truly amazing what we can do with a few apps in the classroom. We're making connections and creating projects that weren't possible when I was in 2nd grade.
With all that being said, I love me some good old fashioned handwriting. Hand-lettering has even become a hobby and creative outlet for me. Handwriting is a skill that I think students still need in spite of ever-present tablets and technology. Here are some things that I've heard to the contrary:
1. "But, why? No one writes anymore."
2. "There's no time."
3. "Just teach them how to sign their name."
To which I say:
1. Maybe not as much, but they do! You don't have to be writing a novel. What about a grocery list? A quick note to a friend? Yes, you can also do these things on the phone, but not everyone does. I'm not even talking about cursive here, I know that students need printing practice, too.
2. There really isn't a lot of time. I agree completely. It's exhausting to fit something into the school day that is no longer in the actual curriculum. I incorporate it into our writing time or reading centers when I can. Towards the end of the year we do some introduction to cursive when I need an activity to keep them engaged when the weather breaks. They are into it. Tongues out in concentration, they beg to learn "fancy writing."
3. I think there are so many other reasons than just your signature to be able to use handwriting and be able to read someone else's. Already, we have a tough time reading historical documents because the style of writing has changed over time. In a couple of my chapter books in my classroom there is a little note from mom or a friend and it's written in cursive. Without fail, a student who can otherwise read the entire book comes to me so I can read the cursive part to them.
All in all, keep writing. I know it's helped me and I can see how much my students want to be able to do it. I'm no expert, so take a look at some of the facts and research in the infographic if you're still here.
Teacher, reader, tea drinker, and dog mom.