Thinking About Cursive in a Digital World
"What does a cursive Q look like?" I asked my wife after dinner one recent night. We were helping our 5-year-old daughter form uppercase letters in manuscript when it occurred to me that I did not remember how to form a cursive capital Q. It's just not something you write that often. I scribbled a cursive Z, hoping that it would help spark my memory of Q. Weren't they similar? Finally, we resorted to what most people do when they immediately need answers like this: We Googled it.
It turns out that a cursive Q resembles a sweeping, curvy number two with several loops, and the visual helped me instantly remember it. But what this episode also brought to mind was not so much my inability to remember certain cursive letters but a recent concern in my classroom, where I teach middle school English, with my own penmanship, and the balance between teaching skills like cursive handwriting and 21st-century skills in schools.
I take a small degree of pride in writing feedback to my students on their essays, poems, and other written work. I try to be a little humorous. I ask some probing questions. I relate to students' ideas if I can. I do not aim to correct every single problem with each student's paper, but make an effort to highlight several good qualities and areas for improvement. And then I usually wrap up with a summarizing statement—usually as positive as possible to start off, and then if needed a direct statement about what the writer needs to do better, such as "let's talk during your study hall tomorrow about how to...
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