SEF Helps Kindergarten Handwriting Curriculum
New system of teaching replaces generations-old rote techniques.
People of a certain age remember the endless repetition of handwriting class, working on their posture and their cursive writing until it matched the textbook style until it flowed easily from our pens and pencils.
And all these years later, we take it for granted when we sign our names or fill out forms. But we worry about a generation of students who do more of their work on the computer keyboard.
But don't worry, the technique of writing isn't in danger of becoming a lost art, especially for kindergartners at the Wilson Primary Center, who are taking part in a new handwriting curriculum funded by a grant from the Summit Educational Foundation. And repetition has given way to science.
The grant, worth around $5,300, is funding staff training and materials for new lessons that increase the fluidity and legibility of students' written work. This includes using items such as tablets and wood pieces on which students practice their letters.
"Believe it or not, getting this concept at this age is foundational," Principal Feliz Gil said.
Students learn first the concepts of short and long lines and big and little curves to build the foundational knowledge needed to construct letters.
These concepts are integrated into the students' day so it becomes systematic and are also included in a hands-on way. Students can touch wooden or clay pieces shaped like the short and long lines or the big and little curves.
"The sensory piece is heavy in the beginning," Gil said.
The curriculum being used, Handwriting without Tears, was adopted when first-grade teachers commented that acceptable handwriting is the most glaring problem facing incoming first-graders.
"This is an approach that's scientifically proven for a large group of students," he said.
Students are taught to hold a pencil and to begin writing letters from the top left corner. Many of the materials smiley faces in the upper left-hand corner of each letter to remind students that it's where they should be starting. Teachers also use songs and physical movements in the classroom to create a fun, interactive environment for learning about letters and language.
Gil said that Handwriting Without Tears helps students develop their skills and communicate through writing by focusing on content and mechanics, rather than rote copying used by previous generations of students.
But enhancing the students handwriting skills doesn't just help them develop in their written communication. It also helps teach them to read by reinforcing their familiarity with letters.
"The program incorporates all modalities of learning and appeals to the senses though movement, music, tough and regular communication with peers," said Judi Fisher, a 14-year veteran teacher. "With Handwriting Without Tears, the idea of writing is demystified for our 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds. Handwriting Without Tears makes writing fun!"