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New curriculum could write off cursive
Style of handwriting has limited role these days, says elementary school principal
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Learning to write in cursive may be disappearing from curriculum standards for Georgia schools. - photo by Tom Reed

Fifty years ago, cursive writing was a crucial skill.

Letters to both friends and business associates were scrawled in cursive. Today, it's a dying art.

With the prevalence of computers and a focus on hitting math and reading standards, cursive has taken a back seat.

It isn't listed anywhere in the new curriculum standards Georgia teachers may start using next year.

Jody Spain, a third-grade teacher at Martin Technology Academy of Math and Science, said she has seen the practice slow over her 18-year career.

"When I started teaching, we did a letter a week in cursive and taught the strokes and how to form it," Spain said. "But in the last few years, it's something we introduce at the very end of the year."

It's indicative of a changing world, a change some say should be embraced.

"It's a totally different generation, and we need to prepare to teach where they're at," Martin Principal Tamara Etterling said. "There are positives to what is replacing it; using technology to collaborate and produce different types of products."

New Common Core Standards for English, which Georgia and 40 other states adopted last summer, don't include cursive, but teachers and administrators plan to start talking in February about whether to add cursive to the curriculum.

Georgia Department of Education spokesman Matt Cardoza said there's a lot of reference in the new standards to keyboarding skills and a student's ability to write papers of a certain length on a computer as the student progresses through the grades.

He added that the decision to add cursive writing next year is "open for discussion."

Like others, Principal Connie Daniels of Mount Vernon Elementary School said the de-emphasis of cursive is a sign of the times.

Cursive has a more limited role these days, she said, and many only use cursive handwriting for signatures.
For the cursive that is taught, changing culture affects the lessons.

"We're putting them in real-life experiences, so they print neatly and sign their names in cursive, but it's more about application than rote practice," Daniels said.

It's a similar story for Spain.

"We have more of a signature lesson. We used to use form paper, but now it's more about tracing it and seeing how it feels," she said.

At the higher grade levels, more students are turning in their homework typed, South Hall Middle School Principal Paula Stubbs said.

"Here at South Hall we have so many computers and Netbooks so a lot of it is done on computer," she said.

Still, she said cursive writing has its uses.

It allows some students to take notes more quickly.

"If students can't take notes in an expedient manner, it does hurt them," she said. "Block writing can slow them down."

Centennial Arts Academy Principal Charlene Williams said others enjoy learning how to use the flowing style of writing.

"Some kids just prefer writing in cursive when they learn," she said.

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