NEW CASTLE —
Local teachers are not writing off cursive. They still encourage students to try their hand at writing like grownups.
Students at Neshannock learn and practice “old-school cursive writing to a varying degree” in grades three to six, said elementary principal Matthew Heasley.
Several years ago, realizing children couldn’t read “connected, script writing,” the district developed a philosophy to bring back cursive writing.
“But we don’t assign a letter grade as we used to,” he said.
Fourth-graders, Heasley said, are required to write their spelling test words in cursive — but they may also print the word if they’re not sure.
Heasley added, “After grade seven, I don’t know if they ever do anything with cursive again.”
With computers central to modern education, keyboarding is the focus of educators.
Most children, Heasley said, enter school familiar with computers and with a stylized “hunt-and-peck” system of typing. Keyboarding, as typing is now called, is taught in grade two or three and children are required to be proficient by grade four.
That has become the focus of the high-tech 21st century, he said.
“We expose them to handwriting, we teach handwriting but it is not required by the state in our language and core curriculum.
“Our hope and goal is that they’ll recognize it for what it is and be able to read it if they encounter it. It’s nice if a child can read a hand-written cursive note from their grandma if she sends them a birthday card and puts a note in it.”
Union students begin to learn cursive writing in grade two. These skills are reinforced in third grade and in grades three and four, students are required to use cursive in spelling tests, creative writing assignments and reports.
“By fourth grade we begin to change the focus and work computers into classroom work,” said elementary principal Linda O’Neill.
Word-processing skills are begun in grade three, “but we believe our students should be familiar with cursive writing, know what it is and be able to develop a signature, to sign their name.”
She said Pennsylvania does not require cursive writing be taught, “But it remains in our curriculum ... and we grade it — satisfactory or unsatisfactory.”
She added, “A lot of the kids think it’s fun to learn to write like their parents and grandparents.”