Archive for April, 2014

“Sign Your Name”

Posted: April 11, 2014 in Education, Humanity


On AM640, there’s been debate lately over the skill of handwriting and whether or not it should be taught in elementary schools. From what I’ve heard, there are a variety of opinions: 1. Teach it early (grade 3) – ensure the students practice it by enforcing that their work be handwritten, 2. Make it optional – in other words, teachers can teach it if they want and can enforce it if they want, 3. Don’t teach it – it’s a dying skill and everyone types on a computer these days anyway.

The picture above is very similar to what I saw as a young student (I can’t remember what grade, but it was early). My teacher taught handwriting, made us practice it everyday (we had a handwriting workbook), and made sure our submitted work was handwritten. We were never told why we had to learn it (we were probably too young to understand why anyway), but this has certainly become an issue with parents. From the sounds of it, parents want their child to learn it, but with some teachers not teaching it, parents have taken it upon themselves to teach their child themselves.

The advantage to learning handwriting is that it develops fine motor skills in young children (the ability to control the movement of fingers and manipulate small objects). It also helps with brain development – our brain receives feedback from our motor actions along with the sensation of touching a pencil/pen to paper; this feedback is different than when we touch our fingers to a keyboard. Finally, the advantage is that it’s simply quicker than printing – when you print, you’re forced to take your writing utensil off of the page a lot more often than with handwriting. These are three very solid reasons for learning handwriting.

With that being said, I don’t handwrite – even with the amount of practice I had as a child, I slowly transitioned back to printing. To me, my printing was neater than my handwriting. Nowadays, my writing has combined elements of both printing and handwriting into one catastrophic mess. It’s true, though, I tend to type these days more than write.

Anecdote: Every-so-often I supervise the S.A.T testing at my school. Students from the surrounding area spend their entire morning writing the S.A.T’s – a very tough set of tests designed for Canadian students to enter post-secondary education in the United States. Though these tests may be difficult, many students struggle with one aspect: handwriting their acknowledgment not to share the test questions with anyone. Allow me to explain. At the culmination of their testing, students must handwrite a few sentences agreeing not to share the test questions. Students will ask me how to write a capital “F” or a lowercase “r” and by direction of the S.A.T institution, I am not allowed to help them. This part of the day takes much time to complete simply because students, these days, have no idea how to handwrite. What makes matters worse is that because students do not know how to handwrite, the S.A.T institution changed the instructions, which clearly state that if students do not know how to handwrite, simply complete the acknowledgment to the best of their handwriting ability.

I’ll admit, I’ve told certain students of mine to start typing their paragraph responses to me, so that I can actually read their work and mark it. I don’t feel too bad about this. Otherwise, I’ll have to pop an Advil every time I have to grade their written work (exaggeration).

My opinion? It’s a dying art form, but what’s going to happen when they have to sign their name on a government-issued document?…