A few days ago, I was left, well, not speechless, but enraged at the decision in Indiana to eliminate Cursive Writing in their core educational program and to make it an elective. The article in my post Curse(ive)s, Foiled Again mentions that Touch Typing will replace cursive writing. I had posted my essay on many sites and the responses have been both for and against the new mandate. More against than for, but still: this is a small vocal community that has responded. There are thousands upon thousand of voices to be heard from, and that includes the Private, Charter, and home school sectors.
To me, there is NO reason, if planned properly, that both cursive and touch typing can not be properly explored in the classroom. I learned how to type, and well, in 7th grade. First time, and yes, that was ages ago. Do they need to know earlier? Yes..BUT…and you must have know there was a but here…the all-beloved tests that the NYS schools, and others around the US require a WRITTEN ESSAY, not a typed one. Grammar and spelling is not automatically corrected then, and sadly, so many of our youth do not really know how to do it without computer aid.
Secondly: we are creating illiterates in reading cursive writing. Much of American history source material is written in cursive writing. Two generations from now, the general public will most likely not know how to read cursive at all (and we have students NOW who have trouble or can’t do it!).
OR, even worse…we DO get that energy crisis, and have to revert back to hand written communications. Except, the general public, again, has no true understanding of how to do it, as we relied more and more on computers to transmit our written language.
Guess what? There will be a segment of our population that WILL know how to do this, and do it well, and the separation of the country will broaden. I’m talking about Private Schools (and, to a different extent, Charter and Home schooling).
Below you will find the standards from the New York City Department of Education in Language Arts and following that the standards for Language Arts from a private school in NYC. I have left off the name of the school as I do not anyone to accuse me that I am writing this as a plant or shill for any one location. I am FOR a good education for ALL students, not just in New York City, not just America, but the WORLD WE ALL LIVE ON.
Let’s look at the big picture: our children, and their children’s children will live in the world that we leave. We can’t look at just the here and now, but the big picture. Time for big thinkers who are proactive, not reactive. and especially not for the small minded and small focused that prevail in our land right now.
Because I can’t be assured that many will take the time to do the comparisons for themselves, I can only strongly suggest you do set the time aside to really read and compare what NYC asks of it’s students, and what a Private School does. Know the facts, and see how little is really being invested into Public Schooling by a policy making administration that only cares about numbers and money and not about the child.
Your comments, pro and con, are always welcome. (*Please realize, this is ONLY language arts I’m bringing up here: the Private School emphasizes all the core curricula AND computer, a foreign language, arts instruction, physical education and fitness, science, music, etc, while NYC: Cramming for the Tests. Soapbox!)
New York City Performance Standards for English Language Arts: Elementary School
a The student reads at least twenty-five books or book equivalents each year. The quality and complexity of the materials to be read are illustrated in the sample reading list. The materials should include traditional and contemporary literature (both fiction and non-fiction) as well as magazines, newspapers, textbooks, and on-line materials. Such reading should represent a diverse collection of material from at least three different literary forms and from at least five different writers.
b The student reads and comprehends at least four books (or book equivalents) about one issue or subject, or four books by a single writer, or four books in one genre, and produces evidence of reading that:
• makes and supports warranted and responsible assertions about the texts;
• supports assertions with elaborated and convincing evidence;
• draws the texts together to compare and contrast themes, characters, and ideas;
• makes perceptive and well developed connections;
• evaluates writing strategies and elements of the author’s craft.
c The student reads and comprehends informational materials to develop understanding and expertise and produces written or oral work that:
• restates or summarizes information;
• relates new information to prior knowledge and experience;
• extends ideas;
• makes connections to related topics or information.
d The student reads aloud, accurately (in the range of 85-90%), familiar material of the quality and complexity illustrated in the sample reading list, and in a way that makes meaning clear to listeners by:
• self correcting when subsequent reading indicates an earlier miscue;
• using a range of cueing systems, e.g., phonics and context clues, to determine pronunciation and meanings;
• reading with a rhythm, flow, and meter that sounds like everyday speech.
A Private School in NYC: Language Arts, by Grades (K-4)
Language Arts (Kindergarten)
The language arts program provides rich and varied experience in each of the four interrelated language skills: listening, speaking, writing and reading. We recognize that there are many ways in which children learn how to read. Our program builds on what the children already know about oral and written language and takes into account each child’s learning style, interests, motivation and level of maturation. Carefully structured activities involve them in functional language experiences and provide opportunities for literacy development in a stimulating and non-pressured way.
Creative dramatics, block building, “sharing time”, and outdoor play are some of the ways Kindergartners learn to formulate ideas and communicate with increasing confidence, clarity and richness of vocabulary. Critical thinking is expanded through guided group discussions and informal questioning, as is the ability to make associations, sort through details, and focus on the main idea. Placing labels around the room, having the children make lists and charts, and providing time for writing messages and letters demonstrate to Kindergartners that language is purposeful. Daily story time develops children’s appreciation of books and learning, while increasing comprehension and providing exposure to varied language patterns, vocabulary and writing styles. Group readings of enlarged print books sharpen auditory discrimination; help develop phonic skills and a sight vocabulary, and direct children’s attention to reading strategies. Classrooms are well-equipped with stimulating material for independent reading at various levels. Games and activities provide practice for memory development, phonics, visual perception, auditory discrimination and motor skills.
Language Arts (First Grade)
The primary goals of the language arts program in Grade One are to instill in our students a love of reading, to help them appreciate reading as a source of both information and pleasure, and to enable them to see themselves as readers. Our program is designed to accommodate the needs of both the emergent and the more independent reader, as students typically enter first grade demonstrating a wide range of reading readiness.
Instruction takes place in whole group, small group, and in one-to-one settings. Children are exposed to a variety of reading materials including classic and contemporary works from children’s literature, as well as selections from various reading series. Non-fiction as a genre is both read and discussed. Chapter books and poetry are read aloud and discussed. Teaching materials and strategies are many and varied, and they are aimed at using and building upon the strengths of the students, while enhancing their existing repertoire of strategies. We include formal work in phonics and word recognition. Building upon the pre-existing individual strengths of our students, we expand their repertoire of reading strategies so they can approach new material with growing confidence and independence.
Our writing program greatly complements our reading program, as a child’s first successful reading experience often comes from being able to read his or her own words. By exploring language our students learn about their own thinking and about how to make their thoughts accessible to others.
The children enjoy a variety of both teacher-directed and open-ended writing experiences. First graders write in notebooks and diaries, and also during Writing Workshop sessions. Topics are entirely self-chosen. The students make and record observations, write letters, and engage in beginning research activities. The children are encouraged to experiment with the various writing forms mentioned above including poetry. Our first grade authors are encouraged to share their stories with the class in a supportive atmosphere.
The context of the children’s own writing provides us with ample opportunities for elucidating and reinforcing the basic conventions of our language and of print. We use the children’s developmental spelling as a springboard into the beginnings of standardized spelling by noting patters, through the use of word families, and through the use of formal reinforcement work with beginning, ending, and medial consonants and vowels. In each class, we build a spelling list of common sight words; these words are reinforced in simple dictation exercises. Our language arts program also includes formal lessons in D’Nealian handwriting, a precursor to cursive handwriting.
Language Arts (Second Grade)
The basic aim of the second grade language arts program is to further enhance each student’s ability and desire to listen, speak, read and write. Growth in any one of these four modes of communication is dependent upon and related to development in each of the others.
As in first grade, reading instruction is taught using methods and settings that compliment the children’s learning styles. We utilize a variety of methods because we understand that children learn in different ways. We firmly believe that our students will derive the greatest benefit from being exposed to a wealth of reading experiences, and we judiciously choose and take what is best in each of the teaching methods. Our students read in small groups, as a whole class, and in one-on-one situations. Reading selections are chosen from a wide variety of high-interest materials, both fiction and non-fiction, that represent a broad spectrum of developmental and readiness levels. The children are encouraged to actively observe, view, listen, talk, reason, question, discuss, interview, comment, report, reflect, predict, evaluate, create and share their views on the material they are reading. Supplemental activities reinforce specific skills that have been introduced through the readings. We continue to provide opportunities for all kinds of artistic and expressive literary extension projects. Chapter books, poetry, and genre studies (such as biographies) help the children to expand their understanding of reading for pleasure and for information.
Our students participate in many writing experiences. They keep journals and/or diaries, they have regular Writing Workshop times, and they do some organized research writing both in social studies and in independent projects. We encourage the children to use writing as a thinking tool in all areas of study.
Grammar, punctuation, and editing and organizing skills are taught within the contexts of the children’s own writing in order to make these rules clearer and more meaningful. Formal reinforcement, increased practice, and the use of writing as a springboard into learning in a broader context begin to bring our students to a greater understanding of the conventions of print. Spelling is presented in a variety of ways; both individualized (within the confines of writing experiences) and in a more general, structured approach. The students learn to recognize blends, digraphs, suffixes syllable types and word families. Correct spelling is emphasized. The D’Nealian handwriting learned in first grade is reviewed throughout the year.
Language Arts (Third Grade)
The purposes of the third grade language arts encourages and supports in each child a love of literature, to increase both the skills brought to writing and the pleasure found in it, and to help the children use their growing abilities in reading and writing to approach work in other disciplines; including social studies, mathematics, and science, Throughout the third grade year, the student’s growing fluency in reading gradually enables him or her to routinely read directions and take in information with new-found independence.
The heart of the reading program is the time that third graders spend every day reading, discussing, and writing about literature. The selections, which are primarily novels and biographies, are chosen for their good writing and for the diversity of their characters and settings. Some are related to the work in social studies. While there is an emphasis on comprehension, children are also guided in the development and improvement of appropriate decoding skills and facility in oral reading. Time is also devoted to independent silent reading, to oral expression, and to listening to books read aloud by the teacher.
Third grade writing includes both personal writing and assigned expository writing. Students keep writer’s notebooks about their own experiences, they write answers to comprehension questions, they write about their discoveries and understandings in math, they react in writing to powerful scenes in literature. There is always a dual emphasis on writing clearly in the student’s own voice, and on continuing to master the mechanics of writing. Spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure are taught throughout the year. Students reflect on their writing and participate in peer editing.
Language Arts (Grade 4)
The fourth grade language arts program emphasizes the appreciation of literature and the acquisition of skills in reading comprehension, research, and studying. Students read a variety of novels, poetry, and non-fiction content area selections. While literal comprehension and recall of facts are not ignored, there is a growing importance placed on inferential thinking: the ability to establish a main idea, to place ideas in sequence, to draw conclusions and make predictions, to analyze character and plot development, and to support one’s arguments with details gleaned from the text. The independence in using reading as a powerful tool, begun in third grade, gains momentum in Grade Four as students learn to follow printed directions and to locate information in the text and in captions, illustrations, and graphs. Time is also devoted to polishing expression, clarity, and inflection in oral reading, and to listening to books and poetry read aloud.
Children study and experiment with different genres of writing and they build their writing skills through assignments in expository, descriptive, creative and narrative writing. Fourth grade writing continues to stress the development of ideas and their expression in clear, well-structured sentences and paragraphs. Fourth graders learn to write paragraphs with a central idea, a topic sentence, and supporting sentences. Students develop and practice age-appropriate skills in spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and grammar.