Is handwriting dead?

New programs seek to carve out a place for one of the Rs in the age of the computer lab and laptops for every student.
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor

In the age of the computer keyboard, why teach young children handwriting? A Daily Telegram article ponders this question and finds that the age-old school activity has definite benefits even in today's high-tech classrooms.

More and more elementary schools use computers in classrooms, but some school districts in Michigan are reinstating a formal handwriting curriculum — 25 years after it last had such programs.

"It's almost seeming like a lost art," said David Pray, superintendent of Clinton Community Schools. "I'm not sure that computers haven't taken handwriting over: Even younger kids are using keyboards." "I have a lot of teachers come to me and say they can't read the handwriting," said Amber Kapnick, an occupational therapist from the Lenawee Intermediate School District who worked with Onsted schools. "I feel that handwriting is still an important piece of schooling."

The two most popular programs are Zaner-Bloser and Handwriting Without Tears which uses vertical letters instead of slanted ones. Along with more closely resembling the letters children see outside of the classroom, the diagonal lines are more perceptually difficult for younger children. "It doesn't expect the student to do things before, developmentally, their brain is ready to do it. It expects a 5-year-old to be what a 5-year-old is," said Kapnick.

Despite the formal adoption of new handwriting programs, they still get short shrift when it comes to what to spend time on in the classroom.

"We started to see a trend going down in the mid '80s. There are more subjects to teach, and technology is finding its way into the curriculum. We didn't increase the school day, but we increased the amount of things we had to teach children. That's when we started seeing fewer schools teaching handwriting,"said Allison Williams from Zaner-Bloser.
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