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10 June 2012


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When I was teaching composition-- and thus reading books and books and books on composition and educational theory-- I stumbled across an idea which felt true, though I never had a lot of chance to test it in the classroom. It was that students need a space to write in which they are not at all anxious about correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation. And for younger writers about correct handwriting. They need journals that are not graded or corrected, where they write just for the purpose of self expression and where they can let go of the rules of writing.

As you observed, when he was worried about trying to do the cursive right, his hand couldn't keep up with the flow of ideas. I think that can be true of young boys even in printing. So I say if they keyboard faster than they write, let them type their journal. If they can't write or keyboard with enough proficiency to keep up with the flow of ideas, then perhaps they can dictate to you or make a voice recording and then transcribe later. Whatever you can do to keep the mechanics of writing from interfering with the joy of composition.

So I wonder if you'd let him use print for most applications but kept up with the cursive at a rate that was just at that edge of what he thought was too much to do in a sitting if you might have been able to keep it up.

I don't think we ever really outgrow the need for unstructured, unedited writing, by the way. Even the most proficient writers know that during a brainstorming period you need to be free to generate ideas without the internal editor telling you why everything is all wrong.

Barbara C.

I am subscribing to the "better late than early" theory of cursive. I figure that sometime around fifth grade we'll go through one cursive workbook to get the basics of writing and reading it and that will be it. The only exception would be if a child asked to learn cursive.

But my oldest (9) really does not like writing with pencils or on paper. I don't know how much of it is that texture sensitivity of her spirited temperament, or if she is just insane. So, we are starting typing in the fall to minimize the pencil/paper necessity.

Barbara C.

Melanie B., I know exactly what you are saying.

I remember reading in one of David H. Albert's books about interrupting a kid's flow of writing to "teach" them. For instance, if they ask you how to spell a word, don't make them stop their flow to go "look it up"...just tell them. Save proofreading and editing for more formal things that leave the house.

Amy F

My rising 3rd grader has been quasi-writing in cursive because he thinks it's cool and fun for the past few months (his 5th grade school-assigned buddy wrote in cursive, which had some influence). His school usually teaches cursive in 3rd grade. I just asked him, if we school at home next year, did he want to learn cursive? He nodded with a huge grin.

So, what book did you get?

Emily J

Maybe he'll be an architect. My husband never writes in cursive. And I'm sure there are a great many other adults out there who don't use cursive either - or who write illegibly. I gave up trying to teach my 2nd grader in cursive also. Otherwise, he'd never write anything.


hmmmmmm nice article

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I think I read something somewhere about this

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