The Common Core. Whether you love it or hate it, you’ve surely heard a lot about it, but what really is it? Common Core sets academic standards in mathematics and English language that outlines learning milestones for students at each grade. This seems like an admirable standard for schools to adopt, but since 2010, 45 states have implemented Common Core standards which do not require handwriting or cursive instruction. Instead, individual districts are left to decide if they want to teach handwriting skills, and because of this, handwriting instruction is disappearing.
“With increasing technological advancements in the world market, there is a rush to make sure that our students are prepared. There is a rush to technology and along with that comes the thinking that handwriting is obsolete,” said Dr. Elizabeth DeWitt, a handwriting and curriculum expert with Learning Without Tears.
With laptops, cell phones, and tablets being used at home and at school, educators have been focusing on preparing students for work with technology while basic handwriting are being seen as less important. While keyboarding skills are essential DeWitt explained that handwriting instruction is not just a foundational skill for writing, but for overall learning success. Keyboarding, which became the focus for schools, must follow proper handwriting education. If explicit handwriting isn’t taught, it can lead to many issues including trouble with reading.
Dr. DeWitt explained that handwriting was so easily left behind because people do not realize how valuable it is. “I think if the understanding of why handwriting is important was there, it would have never left the schools,” she said. In recent years, parents, teachers, school districts, and even legislators began to realize the impact of this lack of skill. This “painful awareness” was partially brought to light when schools were forced to spend large amounts of time and money on Occupational Therapy (OT) referrals, she explained.
OT referrals are on the rise and many educators may feel that the child needs occupational therapy because of a decrease in written production. However, the answer could be as simple as the child was never taught handwriting. They were never given the explicit handwriting instruction to know how to write correctly. Students are being referred to OT by teachers mistakenly thinking they have a learning disability, but “the majority of the students don’t need occupational therapy; they need explicit handwriting instruction,” said DeWitt.
Poor handwriting skills impact so much more than school budgets, from brain development to long-term academic performance. In our next article on the importance of handwriting and skilled handwriting instruction, Dr. DeWitt will explain the benefits that explicit handwriting instruction brings to schools and students from early childhood education to college.