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The Handwriting's on the Wall

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Reports of the death of handwriting have been greatly exaggerated (or at least slightly overstated), according to The Washington Post. This week, tucked away in a northern Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C., two dozen school teachers received training on how to teach handwriting to students—most of whom are more familiar with a keyboard than a pencil. Instruction came by way of a curriculum created by occupational therapist Jan Olsen.

Olsen's curriculum, Handwriting Without Tears, grew out of her successful efforts to help her son overcome his handwriting struggles in elementary school. HWT, which uses music and movement to teach pencil grip and letter formation, has been particularly effective with special education students, according to the Post. Olsen now has more than 30 trainers who run more than 500 workshops across the country annually.

"There has been a sort of disregard for handwriting among some people," says Olsen. "They didn't realize that this is like a skill, like tying your shoes or playing the piano, that really has to be taught, and it can't be taught by passing out worksheets. It had to be taught by a person."

To date, more than 300 teachers in northern Virginia have been trained in the curriculum since it was adopted two years ago.

"It's still a communication tool we need at this point," said Mary Zolman, English-language arts supervisor in Arlington County. "You shouldn't give up learning how to write for word processing."

3 Comments

My wife, who is a special needs teacher, tells me that handwritng is a fine motor skill necessary to overcome reversals. The cursive writing forces the dyslexic to go forward.


It's my general observation that both handwriting and keyboarding are given little to no attention in elementary school.

In my middle school classes, I've noticed that students who have a hard time remembering when to capitalize in print do much better at capitalization in cursive. The kids hate it at first but they love seeing how much better and faster they've become at the end of the year.

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  • Dana: In my middle school classes, I've noticed that students who read more
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