McPherson elementary schools’ cursive writing instructional practices mirror that of many others in the state.
McPherson elementary schools’ cursive writing instructional practices mirror that of many others in the state. The issue was discussed during a Kansas Board of Education meeting this week. Survey results from Kansas schools presented at the meeting showed most elementary schools are still learning cursive writing, but teaching interest has declined. About 90 percent of districts are teaching cursive, usually beginning in the third grade for 15 minutes a day, according to the Associated Press. McPherson has a similar take on the skill. Depending on the grade, cursive is learned on chalkboards, but also has crossed over technology lines. Melissa Beede, a second-grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary School, introduces the skill in the second half of the year, beginning to instruct them on how to pen their names. They also use classroom technology, such as iPad apps to read and interact with cursive. “I think that’s a skill to have,” Beede said, who often writes in cursive at the front of the class. “They’ll need to know that. When you think about the way the world works, you have to be able to read cursive, like reading a card at a store.” Beede also said in her seven years at the school, she has seen some students write better in cursive than in print. Carmen Zeisler, third-grade teacher at Eisenhower Elementary School, said she teaches cursive throughout the year but stresses it more after Christmas. She has found most students find it harder to read than to write. “They’re used to print,” she said. “They see print everywhere. There’s a bit of a transition for that.” Zeisler said skill levels and benefits vary based on the student. Many are often excited to work on their signature. “I think there’s a time and a place,” she said. “It’s part of what we do as teachers, and we do our very best at that.” In the survey presented to the Kansas Board of Education, 23 percent of responding districts said teaching handwriting is not a priority, and some predict reducing instruction of it in the future, according to the Associated Press. Angie McDonald, McPherson USD 418 director of instruction, said she sees society moving away from using cursive and couldn’t remember the last thing she saw that was written in cursive besides a signature. “Across the board, I think it’s like a dying art,” she said, adding it is giving way to an emphasis on other forms of communication. “There’s some importance to it, but there’s so much other important things, that it’s not a big thing on anybody’s radar.” McDonald said she has heard that cursive encourages brain development, but would be interested in knowing if that could be reached by other means. “Unless that brain development research absolutely tells me it does something that nothing else will do, then there is more important things to do with kids’ time,” she said. “We’re hanging onto something because we’ve always done it. We’re in a different time period, so we have to think about how kids are communicating now and in the future.”