Developing a script to keep cursive alive


Many schools around the country no longer require instruction in cursive writing. (Sarah L. Voisin/THE WASHINGTON POST)
April 3, 2013

My third-grade son is an anomaly. He actually enjoys a school subject, which — much to our chagrin — is being scrubbed from elementary schools nationwide.

The subject in question is cursive handwriting, which P.J., age 9, first started mastering this year. He enjoys practicing it as he completes book reports and pens original stories. To him, cursive feels like he’s perfecting a secret code that he believes “no one can read anymore.”

If education administrators get their way, that just might be the case.

Cursive has become an optional subject in elementary school classrooms across the country as educators adapt to students’ practical needs in a digital age. Forty-five states (including Maryland) and the District have adopted the Common Core curriculum in their elementary schools, which does not require cursive instruction.

Some parents and educators aren’t letting cursive disappear without a fight, though. They are taking it upon themselves to continue cursive instruction, either in the classroom or at home. And they’re finding plenty of helpful resources online.

Cursive remains on the curriculum my son’s school, Smithfield Elementary in Charlotte, N.C., though budget cuts almost eliminated it since it’s not a testable subject. Parents at the school paid, out of our own pockets, for the purchase of workbooks that are used in classroom instruction.

But parents who want their children to learn how to read and write cursive can turn to the very devices that are making handwriting obsolete.

The Web site TeachWithYouriPad.com is a clearinghouse for downloadable apps that can help students practice cursive on their own time. A similar search for “cursive handwriting” on the app finder lisisoft.com reveals 25 online programs that range from intensive instruction (the Zaner-Bloser Handwriting-Cursive app will challenge older students) to playful games (the Cursive Alphabet Monster will help lure young kids into handwriting lessons).

The program ABC Cursive Writing turns iPads into writing tablets, allowing students to practice upper case, lower case, whole words and cursive sentences. Similar programs such as iCanWrite and iWriteWords are low-priced, downloadable apps parents can access immediately to help create cursive lessons at home. Practice on these programs can, in time, push kids to more advanced programs such as Sentence Builder and Story Builder, a popular multi-purpose app that educates kids on story structure.

Parents simply have to take a more active stance in retaining cursive instruction, before the scripted word joins carrier pigeons and smoke signals on the growing list of outdated methods of communication.

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