Every school year, I have a handful of students with terrible printing. Over the last several years it has slowly deteriorated. A combination of things contribute to the demise of handwriting – The emphasis on standardized testing has greatly limited the amount of time we spend working on handwriting technique. Academic preschool is also to blame. Three- to - four year olds are assigned class work and homework that includes paper and pencil tasks without being shown how to correctly hold a pencil and form letters. After two or more years of preschool the bad habits have formed and they are EXTREMELY hard to break, especially in a test-heavy curriculum. This year, there are a couple of students who hold their pencil in a fist and many who make their letters from the bottom up and therefore have very little control of their pencil. Both scenarios end up with sloppy handwriting.
But in the scheme of things, is it that big of a deal? I go back and forth with worrying about it. Those who have been teaching since before No Child Left Behind (the beginning of test prep) overwhelmingly think that printing/cursive instruction is essential, that it’s an art form and needs to be preserved, and it’s important that our kids have neat, legible printing. To me, they are valid points. On the other hand, how often in our lives do we actually write by hand anymore. As a teacher, I probably print more often than most, but even then it’s not that often. Our kids can text and scroll like nobody’s business nowadays. They are becoming technologically literate earlier and earlier, some far more literate than many adults I know. We regularly communicate using technology, so wouldn’t it seem putting pencil to paper is just about obsolete?
It’s a debate that continues year after year. Until it’s decided upon by the powers that be, I’ll continue to cringe when I see fist writing.