At least 15 minutes of every day in a Northwood Elementary School third-grade classroom is spent practicing cursive writing, but that isn’t the case in every local school.
Elementary school teachers at Franklin, Center Grove and Greenwood schools all have cursive writing lessons they can use with their students, but it’s often left up to teachers whether they teach cursive.
Teachers have to make sure they have enough time to strengthen students’ reading, writing and math skills so they can pass ISTEP, IREAD3 and other mandatory exams. So cursive writing often is the first lesson dropped from class, school officials said.
Northwood third-grade teacher Becky Skeel believes cursive lessons are too important to stop teaching, even if students aren’t tested on the skill. Students still need to be able to recognize the different forms of handwriting they can expect to see in college and in their careers, she said, and learning to legibly connect letters can develop students’ cognitive and fine motor skills.
“For me, it’s just a skill that kids need to learn to be successful in their careers and as adults,” she said.
For the third straight year, state lawmakers are considering a proposal that would require public and accredited nonpublic schools to teach cursive writing to elementary students. State Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, has been told by medical professionals that students develop important cognitive and fine motor skills as they learn to neatly connect letters.
Leising became concerned that schools could drop cursive writing lessons after the state began to replace Indiana’s academic standards with common core standards, which are being used by most states and don’t require students to learn cursive writing.
State lawmakers are reviewing whether they still want schools to use common core lessons, but as Indiana’s academic standards are finalized, Leising wants to ensure cursive writing is included.
The same proposal has been approved by the Indiana Senate twice but died in the House.
“I think it’s important that this issue be addressed,” she said.
United Teachers Association of Center Grove president Katie Hoffmann said students can learn valuable communication skills through cursive writing, but teachers have other methods they can use to develop students’ cognitive skills.
“One size fits all — just like anything in education, it doesn’t work well. You can do it, you can force something, but it’s not going to work well for every one of your students,” Hoffman said. “We can keep (cursive), we can get rid of it.”
Hoffman previously taught second and fourth grade and now teaches sixth grade at Center Grove Middle School Central. She taught cursive lessons with her younger students, who will need to know how to understand cursive letters when they see them as adults, she said.
“There are plenty of people, for many years to come, who are going to write in cursive. And if you don’t know how to read it, that becomes an issue,” she said.
Hoffmann isn’t convinced cursive needs to be a requirement, especially when it comes to developing students’ minds.
When a student is having problems writing cursive legibly, it could be a sign of a larger problem with their fine motor skills.
If that’s the case, Hoffman can connect the youngster with an occupational therapist. Or the student may have sloppy handwriting, and teachers have other ways to help develop coordination and other skills, she said.
Hoffmann once had a student who struggled with cursive writing and hated handwriting assignments.
So one day she gave the student a choice: continue working on handwriting skills or trace sketches.
She said the student chose the tracings and eventually was able to improve their fine motor skills.