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Elementary School Teachers in North Carolina Turn Attention to Cursive Writing

More than 40 percent of elementary schools in North Carolina are providing students with weekly lessons in cursive writing, according to a new report by the state education board.

The board approved the report this month, which was sent to state lawmakers. It included the results of a survey to school districts around the state about handwriting instruction.

It found that 41 percent of elementary schools provide lessons in cursive writing weekly, while only about 7 percent do so on a daily basis. A large percentage of schools (38 percent) reported providing cursive instruction occasionally, and 14 percent provide monthly lessons.

The survey also broke down instructional practices by grade level. For example, about 23 percent of 3rd graders spend class time practicing cursive writing, while only about 10 percent receive homework related to cursive practice.

A law passed in the state in 2013 required that schools teach cursive writing and that students memorize multiplication tables. The law specifically calls on public schools to "provide instruction in cursive writing so that students create readable documents through legible cursive handwriting by the end of 5th grade."

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State Rep. Pat Hurley, a Republican from Asheboro, N.C., was the main sponsor of the 2013 bill. She discussed the report with us via email.

"I have asked for more information from this report," wrote Hurley. "I need to know exactly which individual school systems are teaching it and which ones are not.  I have had many calls and emails from parents and grandparents that their child cannot write their name or read or write cursive and they are not being taught it at their school."

North Carolina is one of several states that have passed laws requiring schools to teach cursive writing since the Common Core State Standards, which don't call for teaching cursive, were released in 2010. The Education Commission of the States reports that since 2014, nine states have passed laws requiring schools to teach cursive writing, and bills requiring cursive instruction are under consideration this year in five other states.

Applying the Law

Courtney Banks teaches 3rd grade at Powhatan Elementary School in Clayton, N.C. She says the 2013 law didn't change things for her because her school had never stopped teaching cursive writing.

"It's important because ultimately they're going to have to write their signature," said Banks. "We just feel it's important that they know how to write in cursive."

She says once testing is done, she's able to focus on teaching the skill much more than during the early part of the school year.

Banks says she uses multi-sensory methods such as allowing the students to form the letters in shaving cream, and each child is shown how to write his or her name. She says the students practice writing their names each morning on mini whiteboards.

"They absolutely love it because they want to learn it," said Banks. "They see us write in cursive. They see their parents writing it, and they're so excited when we finally break it out for them."

Rhonda McFarland also teaches 3rd grade. She says her students at Hodge Road Elementary in Knightdale, N.C., enjoy practicing their cursive writing, too.

"They love learning it," said McFarland. "They absolutely love it."

McFarland says students start with their names first and then branch out from there.

She says she really focuses on it toward the end of the school year once testing is done. She says many of the students at her Title I school are learning English, and she has to prioritize her instructional time.

"When you have a student who is reading below grade level, do you teach them that, or do you focus on handwriting?" she asked. "I have a lot of students who are Spanish-speaking, so my main focus, my top priority, is reading."

Stock photo by Getty


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