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Downstate Teacher Revives Art Of Old-Fashioned Penmanship

Cursive

The Zaner-Bloser cursive writing chart. (Credit: AP)

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PEKIN, Ill. (CBS) — Old-fashioned penmanship is considered by many to be a lost art, or even something obsolete.

But WBBM Newsradio’s John Waelti talked to one teacher who believes there’s still a place for it in the digital age.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Waelti reports

“Cursive is pretty much a non-existent thing,” said Kristin Walraven, who teaches in downstate Pekin.

But in resurrecting the seemingly archaic art, Walraven believes she’s onto something.

“Kids who were slow writers, it impacted their ability to copy notes, take notes, peer editing, that sort of thing,” Walraven said.

Walraven has developed a unique workshop aimed at preschoolers and second-graders called the Mighty, Mighty Writing Club. It uses new techniques such as dancing and singing, as well as the old-school ones – “letter formation, crossing the midlines, how they sit at their desks.”

The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, as parents buy into Walraven’s argument that old-fashioned penmanship can lead to future academic success.

“The work that they’re handing in is presentable, and they’re proud of it,” Walraven said.

Two years ago, the annual Mindset List from Beloit College indicated that few members of the Class of 2014 knew how to write in cursive. Some academics were bemoaning the loss of old-fashioned handwriting.

Speaking to WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya last year, Northern Illinois University professor Donna Werderich acknowledged teachers aren’t given enough time to teach cursive handwriting even if they wanted to. But she said she tells teachers-to-be that they need to have good cursive writing themselves.

“Their students need to be able to see what they’re writing, and model that as well, and of course. Teachers are always concerned about their handwriting – that they weren’t taught that and they don’t use it either,” she said.

Werderich pointed out that some school districts start off their kindergartners with iPads and keyboarding lessons. But she said she was teaching her own 6-year-old son how to write in cursive, and believes it is still important.

Some commentators have argued losing the art of handwriting could have devastating consequences.
Last year, SouthtownStar columnist Phil Kadner, who pointed out that Indiana recently announced it was joining 48 other states – including Illinois – that do not require cursive writing as a core component of elementary curriculum.

In his column, Kander conjured an image of a generation of students who can’t even write well enough to sign their names on credit card receipts, and may need to mark an X “like illiterate people did in the 1800s.”