Word of Mind, Word of Mouth

Keep teaching cursive writing, for it strengthens minds

Special to The CambrianJune 26, 2014 

I read some things recently that re-affirmed my suspicions about losing lessons on handwriting in school (http://bit.ly/1cGDdfZ and http://nyti.ms/1y5uDVK). My mother used to pride herself on her skills (she still had her penmanship awards from grammar school in the 1920s!), taking great care in her signature up until her dying day. How appalled she would be to know schools are dropping cursive from the curriculum altogether.

What brought me to Cambria in the first place was a special education school in Pasadena that focused on sensorimotor training. I was to run the students who visited our new Cambria site through drills on horseback. Cool, eh? Never happened, but that was the intention.

Sensory motor training consists of activities and exercises that stimulate and develop the sense of touch, sense of “proprioception” (the awareness of what body parts and strength are being used in movement) and of kinesthesia (the awareness of what your body is doing). Basically, connecting the brain to the sensations of your body so you can better control it, thereby helping your brain fire on all cylinders and creating better learning and social skills. There’ll be a test at the end of the column. (Kidding!)

Fine-tune it with handwriting. Cursive, to be more specific, means finer visual recognition, integrating visual and tactile information and fine motor dexterity. Like playing music, it makes your brain problem-solve, tracking and strengthening neurons (just like your biceps need exercising, your brain needs strengthening, too) to function more efficiently.

“Children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information. In other words, it’s not just what we write that matters, but how,” stated the article from The New York Times. “When … children composed text by hand, they not only consistently produced more words more quickly than they did on a keyboard, but expressed more ideas.”

Printing obviously has a place in education. Keyboarding is mandatory. But, I feel it also should be mandatory to continue to teach our children the art of cursive writing.

Once again, learning math and reading and science is important, but the little, seemingly inconsequential activities such as cursive writing, music and art are what build those muscles in the brain, so to speak, that make it receptive and capable of making sense of the information it’s bombarded with daily in school and life.

Someone mentioned that for children (and adults!) with attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), printing would sometimes make them lose their place, lose track of their writing more often than writing cursive, as their pencil had to remain on the paper for the duration of a word. Also, “Not only do we learn letters better when we commit them to memory through writing, memory and learning ability in general may benefit.” Remember writing out flashcards?

What I’m saying is, I do hope schools do not opt out of this skill. And parents, take note, too. This is, perhaps, a suggestion of what else you may do on your summer vacation — write postcards, write letters, write love notes, write in the sand — lest the writing fall from the wall. (And how else will we know what’s really going on, I ask in a surreal voice …)

Dianne Brooke’s column is special to The Cambrian. Email her at ltd@ladytiedi.com, or visit her website at www.ladytiedi.com.

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