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Teachers try to squeeze in cursive lessons

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With shaving cream and "magic pencils," students at Garrett Elementary School on Friday learned a secret language and a lost art.

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Garrett Elementary School teacher Erin Duttenhofer helps Matthew Holmes write cursive letters in shaving cream. Elementary school teachers say they wish they had more time to teach pupils penmanship but instead have to fit it in when they can.  Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Garrett Elementary School teacher Erin Duttenhofer helps Matthew Holmes write cursive letters in shaving cream. Elementary school teachers say they wish they had more time to teach pupils penmanship but instead have to fit it in when they can.

"Today we are going to learn the secret language of adults. ... It's cursive," second-grade teacher Erin Duttenhofer told her class, just before dispensing a small amount of shaving cream on students' desks for them to spread about and write in with their fingers.

Duttenhofer stood before the class with a plastic clipboard, also covered in shaving cream, and swooped her index finger circularly to create the lower-case letters "a" "e" and "l."

"I did it!" exclaimed Kevin Martinez, 8, who mimicked what he saw.

Duttenhofer and other elementary teachers say they wish more time was available in class to teach pupils proper penmanship. With students accustomed to typing on computers, standardized tests and a focus on new reading and math curricula in the past few years, teachers say the attention paid to handwriting is dwindling.

"It's definitely going away," Duttenhofer said, noting that nothing in her curriculum is solely focused on teaching penmanship.

Duttenhofer and other elementary teachers say they have to fit in handwriting instruction with other topics and can give a special focus only toward the end of the school year, when standardized tests are over.

"I've seen huge changes," said Garrett third-grade teacher Kimberly Moore, who has been in the profession for 15 years and recalls a time when penmanship was part of the curriculum, being taught at least three times a week, 30 to 45 minutes at a time.

On Friday, Moore started a two-week session with her students focusing on cursive writing. She had students pretend to hold "magic pencils" in the air and spell out letters while closing their eyes.

"It's just a lost art," she said.

Dr. Melissa Shepard, the principal of Sue Reynolds Elementary School, said her teachers receive no professional development on the topic.

"Teachers find teaching these skills as challenging, due to the numerous standards they are required to teach, and see this as something that is not a priority after first grade," she said. "I do believe technology has been a part of this skill losing importance over the years."

The greatest concentration on proper handwriting in Richmond County schools, officials say, occurs in kindergarten and the start of first grade, when students learn how to print. Cursive is to be learned in third grade. As early as second grade, students learn to write their thoughts in sentences, and third- and fifth-graders take a narrative and informational-persuasive writing assessment on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests.

Washington, Ga., resident Janie Cravens, the immediate past president of the International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers and Teachers of Handwriting, said handwriting continues to be important because it helps children remember things better, and computers can't be used in all circumstances.

"It needs to be recognized that it's still viable," she said.

Duttenhofer agrees and said that with state budget cuts eliminating the requirement for CRCT for first- and second-graders next school year, she might have more time for handwriting instruction "so I can actually focus on it."

Comments (25) Add comment
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Trey Enfantay
9
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Trey Enfantay 05/10/10 - 03:58 am
0
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This could certainly add a

This could certainly add a touch of class to the graffiti around town.

audioofbeing
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audioofbeing 05/10/10 - 04:03 am
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"This could certainly add a

"This could certainly add a touch of class to the graffiti around town."

I was going to come in here and make a snarky comment about finally leaving the 80's behind, but this made me laugh. I'll let my self-righteousness cool down a bit in honor of that comment. Good on ya.

gfrantzich@yahoo.com
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gfrantzich@yahoo.com 05/10/10 - 06:27 am
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It is about time someone

It is about time someone tried teaching cursive. I have a sixteen year old that can not write anything but his name in cursive.

Trey Enfantay
9
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Trey Enfantay 05/10/10 - 06:41 am
0
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gfrantzich - Has there been

gfrantzich - Has there been some reason you couldn't help him out and show him how?

class1
299
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class1 05/10/10 - 06:43 am
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When you try and write on the

When you try and write on the board in cursive as a teacher, students can't read it. It is very sad that it is a lost art.

cristinadh
6
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cristinadh 05/10/10 - 06:45 am
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My cursive is beautiful.. oh

My cursive is beautiful.. oh yeah!!.. I didn't receive my formal education here in the US

cristinadh
6
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cristinadh 05/10/10 - 06:45 am
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My cursive is beautiful.. oh

My cursive is beautiful.. oh yeah!!.. I didn't receive my formal education here in the US

Brenda_G
1
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Brenda_G 05/10/10 - 07:56 am
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What happened to the big

What happened to the big cards that were mounted over the chalkboard with the upper and lower case letters of the alphabet in cursive? I don't recall it being a difficult task to master and have had many compliments on, what we called, penmanship over the years. It flows from my pen, not wrenched. I admit to being more particular than most and abhor struck through, cramped third grade type writing, and otherwise messy hand written works. I think one's penmanship says a lot about them, if not beautiful, at least neat and legible. Thanks to my third grade, US, teacher.

Jane18
12332
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Jane18 05/10/10 - 08:48 am
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It's a lost art?? One of the

It's a lost art?? One of the basics to an education and most people cannot do it. Has anyone else noticed that these same children, newscasters, and most business people CANNOT even hold the pen or pencil correctly? Parents, older siblings, cousins, began teaching young children(preschool, kindergarten and daycare was not the big deal it is now) how to count, say their abc's and, guess what, to write(print and cursive). I have many family members that will tell you, "Jane taught me!" What a pitiful situation!!

Chillen
17
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Chillen 05/10/10 - 08:59 am
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This is what you get when the

This is what you get when the school systems spend the majority of their time teaching kids to do well on the standardized tests. Cursive writing isn't on the test so it falls by the wayside.

My middle schooler can hardly sign his name in cursive. The CC public schools have failed him in this "subject".

countyman
20025
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countyman 05/10/10 - 09:46 am
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Nowadays it's all about

Nowadays it's all about making AYP... CRCT test are a big deal for teachers and students...

GAterp
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GAterp 05/10/10 - 10:39 am
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I went to Catholic school as

I went to Catholic school as a little boy (K-6). The good sisters always taught cursive writing. When you made a mistake they whacked your hand and fingers with a ruler. Generally, with more practice the writing did get better though. Now those were the days!

Chillen
17
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Chillen 05/10/10 - 11:00 am
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And you are still here

And you are still here GAterp. A functional member of society. No life-long scarring. No hidden ruler fears. We baby the kids today way too much. Those days a loooooong gone, somewhat for the better but mostly for the worst.

emergencyfan
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emergencyfan 05/10/10 - 12:23 pm
0
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I remember coming back from

I remember coming back from summer vacation and entering the 2nd grade, we were supposed to magically know it. My penmanship is awful, especially compared to my Mom's, so I just print everything. I've never had anyone tell me they had trouble reading my printing or demand I go back and rewrite something in cursive. Given the technology today, I think typing is taking over as a more necessary skill. Beautiful handwriting is a dying art. :-(

KingJames
10
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KingJames 05/10/10 - 12:31 pm
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I was shocked a few months

I was shocked a few months ago when my Sunday school students told me they can't read or write in cursive. I suppose that doesn't bother me too much. I just don't want them to write in the same manner in which they text message each other. Trying to figure out what my son means when sends a text or email is hard on an old guy like me.

Taylor B
5
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Taylor B 05/10/10 - 01:48 pm
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Wow, this discussion is so

Wow, this discussion is so silly. Teach kids about money, finance and balancing a household budget.

grinder48
1945
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grinder48 05/10/10 - 02:09 pm
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Hooray for these teachers for
Unpublished

Hooray for these teachers for going the extra mile! The dumbing-down of the American educational system is frightening ...

Little Lamb
45836
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Little Lamb 05/10/10 - 02:12 pm
0
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Are the school teachers

Are the school teachers trying to “take back the night” by adding penmanship to their lesson plans? Is this and incipient revolution occurring? First penmanship, who knows what next? Some teachers have been saying the required curriculum is too expansive and they can't cover it all, but these teachers are covering everything that's required and they still have time for penmanship.

GAterp
2
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GAterp 05/10/10 - 02:12 pm
0
0
Taylor B, agree

Taylor B, agree wholeheartedly that those courses should be required in the high school curriculum, and at home too. Too many people today are not balancing the checkbook. But cursive writing in elementary school is needed.

Nightwing
0
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Nightwing 05/10/10 - 02:52 pm
0
0
Cursive writing, much like

Cursive writing, much like caligraphy, is becomming a lost art.

mable8
2
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mable8 05/10/10 - 03:28 pm
0
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Maybe the educators should

Maybe the educators should take a look at how children were taught in the '40s and '50s. We did not learn to print until around 5th grade; first graders were immediately taught cursive writing and students were rewarded for developing good penmenship (a word that no one seems to understand today). Calculators in later school years were FORBIDDEN until the 11th or 12th grade, and for good reason. When children have to learn the basics they seem to develop better thinking and reasoning skills. The computers and fancy calculators that do everything for them are considered teachers as opposed to being tools one can use. But to use shaving cream rather than pencil and paper? How foolish--what does that teach, if anything at all.

audioofbeing
0
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audioofbeing 05/10/10 - 04:12 pm
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I fail to see any inherent

I fail to see any inherent benefit to cursive writing. One could say that intense focus on the technique of any craft (especially the artistic sort) offers a certain number of benefits, but sketching, painting, music, any of these offers the same possibility and a greater reward (most would say) in the end. Cursive handwriting offers some small benefits, but correct typing techniques are taught more quickly and to greater benefit.

I suppose it probably is easier for a teacher without an arts background to present to a class of children. Hm.

I'll cop to having always hated cursive as a child, though. The discovery of typing at a pretty early age poisoned me against slower methods of writing until decades later. More universally, it's the most blatant example of the "repetition over learning" problem that plagues so many schools and students. Teaching children to think and question would create an infinitely stronger country than pouring facts devoid of context through their ears like so much sand and seeing how much they managed to catch at year's end.

On the other hand, I would agree that math skills are tremendously important to develop before calculators are allowed to be used freely. Cursive is interchangeable with any number of things, but math, outside of it's obvious uses, is the development of logic, and one of the last vestiges of it to be found in the public school curriculum. Calculators (before a certain point) blunt the little bit of sharpening the average child can expect to receive before meeting the real world.

Just My Opinion
5582
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Just My Opinion 05/10/10 - 04:36 pm
0
0
I mean, look..let's be honest

I mean, look..let's be honest here. Cursive writing is NOT something necessary when compared with math, science, social studies, grammar, and even foreign languages. Okay, being able to pen your name in cursive is pretty much expected, but writing an entire epistle in cursive is not. Believe me, I wish the teachers DID have the time to teach it like in the "old days", but they just don't. I'd rather you teach my kid chemistry than how to make a loopy capital E. And if cursive writing was so important, then why don't all of our computers/cellphones use cursive text rather than print? Something to think about. (However, I think when my son comes home from school today, I'll get him to show me how well he can sign his name in cursive.)

burninater
9580
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burninater 05/10/10 - 07:26 pm
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Am I the only person who sees

Am I the only person who sees the irony in blaming modern standardized curricula for taking time away from antiquated standardized curricula?

vytiense
0
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vytiense 05/10/10 - 09:20 pm
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I was a teacher for 27 years

I was a teacher for 27 years prior to my retirement. I look upon a person's handwriting and take it as yet another clue as to what sort of person he or she is. I listen to a person's speech, observe their manners or lack of, and see their general appearance as giving a sort of an impression to the world. Thank God for the people who try to bring a little beauty into all that! I feel nothing but pity for the people who discount the importance of handwriting. What is the use of being alive?

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