NEW CASTLE —
Students in New Castle learn about cursive writing in grade three. But by grade six, keyboarding takes center stage.
“We’re looking into beginning keyboarding sooner, maybe grade four or five,” said Terry Meehan, who is assistant to the superintendent for curriculum and instruction. “By sixth grade, many have learned bad habits by texting or using the hunt-and-pick system to type.”
Meehan said the district uses the “Handwriting Without Tears” program which covers pre-kindergarten through middle school. It begins with printing, builds on basics and includes cursive writing by grade three.
“Handwriting is a lost art,” Meehan said. “Our kids learn how to do it, how to read it but we don’t grade it.”
The state department of education, he added, does not require that schools teach cursive writing or keyboarding.
In Ellwood City, second-graders learn to write in the cursive style, connecting the printed letters they learned in kindergarten.
“Writing in some form is taught and graded in kindergarten and grades one and two,” elementary principal Frank Keally said. “Our students know it exists, and use it in grades three to six, but it is not assessed, not graded and not emphasized. It has been de-emphasized since I was in third grade in the 1980s.”
The district, Keally said, targets subjects emphasized by the state department of education that include reading, math, science and writing skills and focuses more on content than penmanship.
Second-graders are introduced to computer classes and become familiar with computers, software and typing, even though they are not “officially” introduced to keyboarding until grade seven.
“But kids today are computer savvy even before they come to school,” Keally pointed out.
The Shenango district is so “old school” on handwriting they use a method developed in 1908, elementary principal Adam Vincent said.
“We teach handwriting from kindergarten through grade six using the time-honored Peterson System and supplemental materials provided by our teachers.”
Second-graders who enter the school year printing are introduced to cursive writing following the Christmas break.
Vincent said not all teachers are fans of cursive lettering.
“Some ask why do we need it since everything is printed and keyboarding is part of the curriculum, but the veteran teachers say there is a lot more to handwriting than making letters.”
All students from kindergarten on up get computer classes at least one day each week, Vincent said, noting students become proficient in keyboarding at a young age.