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An article by Steve Graham in the Winter 2009-2010 issue of American Educator says evidence collected over the last century demonstrates that “directly teaching handwriting enhances legibility and fluency.”
Graham and his colleagues conducted a national survey of first through third grade teachers’ beliefs about and instuctional struggles for handwriting.
Ninety percent of these teachers, hearteningly, reported that they did teach handwriting for an average of 70 minutes a week.
More than half agreed that
“handwriting has important consequences for students, indicating that it influences their grades, the quantity and quality of their writing, and time needed to complete writing assignments.”
But only 39 percent of these teachers felt their students’ handwriting was adequate; and just 46 percent said their students’ handwriting was fast enough to keep up with classroom demands.
In the article, Graham describes effective handwriting instruction.
To make handwriting instruction more manageable, he and his colleagues have developed and tested a handwriting program for first-grade teachers.
The Center on Accelerating Student Learning (CASL) handwriting program for the first grade (all 113 pages!) can be found (free) at http://www.peabody.vanderbilt.edu/casl.xml
They feel that students need to be able to quickly and easily name the letters, match each name to its appropriate letter, and write letters when named. The program’s goals are to teach first-graders how to write letters accurately and fluently.
Children are taught to name and identify the letters of the alphabet; correctly write lowercase manuscript letters in isolation, in words, and in sentences; and copy connected text more quickly.
Note: Graham says however that it’s important to use common sense. For a variety of reasons a small percentage of youngsters will never achieve these handwriting goals. Physical impairments and learning disabilities can create insurmountable problems.
Fortunately, there are a number of viable alternatives, including traditional word processing, word processing with word prediction capabilities, and speech-to-text synthesis word processing programs.
For Steve Graham’s complete article, see http://archive.aft.org/pubs-reports/american_educator/issues/winter09_10/graham.pdf.
You’ll also find a convenient Checklist of Best Practices!
Steve Graham is Professor of Special Education and Literacy at Vanderbilt University and the editor of Exceptional Children. He’s the author of several books, including Handbook of Writing Research, and Handbook of Learning Disabilities.
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