Keyboarding or cursive? A Q/A with Francie Alexander

Jan 31, 2013
In response to the great comments we received on the “Is cursive something kids should learn?” post, we thought it would be fun to have Francie Alexander, Chief Academic Officer of Scholastic, stop by OOM to answer some cursive questions for us! Have you seen a decline in schools teaching handwriting? In the early grades, I still see a lot of attention to manuscript printing, the handwriting for early education. However, there’s not the big “I get to do cursive!” when students are in second or third grade as a recognized passage of early childhood education. What are the benefits of students learning how to write in cursive? Cursive handwriting supports the development of fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination, and writing fluency. Try this, write your name with your dominant hand, now do it with your non-dominant hand. I think that the message from the hand to the brain may encourage writing fluency so that children can concentrate on ideas rather than on forming the letters. And Beverly makes a good point about cursive and brain development in general. Today most student use digital platforms, do you have any suggestions on how teachers and students can balance between typing and handwritten assignments? In the same way as with cursive, I think keyboarding needs to be fluent so I want children to have both experiences. Kate K.F. makes an observation worth repeating on how it’s useful to work with pens, pencils, and digital tools. Any tips for parents on encouraging their children to practice handwriting? Parents can encourage their children to practice writing by reminding them that they may be United States Secretary of the Treasury one day – with their signature of our country’s money. Late night comics have been comparing the new Secretary’s signature with the icing on a cupcake. Seriously, copying poems as gifts is a great and purposeful way to get children to practice handwriting. Also keeping a journal or diary is a motivating way to get children to write every day. The Common Core State Standards don’t address the need for kids to learn cursive, but the standards do mention the need for keyboarding. Any thoughts on this? The Common Core State Standards encourage states and localities to develop 15% of standards that reflect their unique goals for children. Keyboarding would be in my 15%. On a personal note, do you still write in cursive? Why or why not? I’ve come up with a hybrid of print and cursive for my signature: I use manuscript, cursive, and keyboarding based on my purpose and audience. It is my hope that today’s students will be able to do it all too – and with both artistry and skill.