According to Dr. Tania Ross, director of curriculum and resources for the Lackawanna Trail School District, the “To teach cursive or not to teach cursive?” discussion is ongoing in the district. For now, however, handwriting is still taught in third grade, using the Zaner-Bloser curriculum. It is then reinforced in fourth, fifth and sixth grades.
“It’s something that, honestly, we’ve been debating back and forth, as I’m sure many school districts have been, with implementing technology,” she said.
“On the technology side, we’re saying, ‘Kids are typing these days,’ ‘They’re not really doing much by hand,’ and ‘Why can’t they just print, rather than hand-write something in cursive?’”
She explained on the flip side of that, students still need to be able to sign their names. Plus, taking notes by hand can be faster in cursive.
The Abington Heights School District, according to Victoria Jones, director of language arts services/ESL coordinator, also uses the Zaner-Bloser curriculum, beginning in third grade. Students are then required at least once per year in third through eighth grade to produce a process writing piece that is fully written in cursive.
Jones said removing handwriting from the district’s curriculum is not on the table at this point, but with the rise of technology and increased use of keyboards, even in the lower grade levels, it could be a discussion that surfaces in the next five years or so.
“There’s enough research that says holding a writing tool and learning to write and think is important for kids,” she said. “And it requires eye-hand coordination and eye motor skills, so that’s something that we want to encourage, even at the third grade level, until there’s research that says it’s not beneficial.”
This focus on pencil and paper, however, does not diminish the district’s use of technology. Jones said there is a good balance between both, with a lean towards the computer side of things in the sixth through eighth grade levels. In the high school, students can even communicate, to an extent, with teachers via email. And with the Turnitin program, the high school students can submit papers and receive feedback electronically.