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The longer I teach or tutor, the more I learn! I attended a workshop for pre-k’s on Friday presented by GET SET FOR SCHOOL©. I will be using the materials and skills in two of j&R Tutoring Academy’s summer sessions, Kindergarten Readiness and Cursive Writing.

One piece of knowledge that I took from the workshop is that it is more difficult for young children to learn both upper and lower case letters at the same time. Unfortunately, this is common practice today.

The GET SET FOR SCHOOL© program teaches the child how to hold a pencil or crayon correctly and presents the letters in an order that facilitates learning. The method also prevents children from reversing letters!

If what I have experienced with my tutoring students is representative of all students, then correct or proper writing is nearly a lost art! Additionally, the public schools no longer teach cursive writing, and as a result, children are not developing much needed fine motor skills.

In the GET SET FOR SCHOOL© program A is not the first letter taught. Why? Very young children are able to draw straight lines, both horizontal and vertical. Three and four year olds can draw circles and make crosses. Five and six year olds can draw a square and a triangle. The triangle is usually the last figure a child can draw correctly.

Drawing lines on the diagonal is the most difficult of the skills. Yet, the first letter a child is usually expected to be able to make is the capital A! I can confirm that very young children struggle to write the capital A.

Not only have I been frustrated by the poor writing skills of many of my tutoring students, but their grip on a writing instrument is shocking! I even had one student who would change grips four or five times – all different – while doing one exercise!

Sadly, I suspect this lack of attention to writing skills is a result of the over testing so prevalent in elementary schools today. There is just not enough time to address writing skills.

The other element that has impacted writing generally is the computer and the accompanying hi-tech products. Even two year olds can operate an IPad! So conventional wisdom says we don’t need to know how to write because keyboards are the future.

What has been lost in the rush to high tech are the skills learned that are the result of learning how to write. According to Dr. Carol Christensen, “printing and typing do not stimulate the synchronicity between the brain’s right and left hemisphere, but cursive does.”

The quote by Dr. Christensen was included in the online version of The Federalist in an article by Jennifer Doverspike. She also noted that cursive “activates parts of the brain that lead to increased language fluency.” The same article went on to say that cursive writing keeps the brain busy and lowers the rate of cognitive decline.

I think we can safely conclude that cursive writing is good for children and for older folks as well!

Today college students (high school too) take a computer to class, thereby eliminating the need to take notes. What has been forgotten is that the act of writing/taking notes is one of the best ways we imprint information on our brain. We study notes, outline them, highlight them, perhaps even rewrite them. Guess what all of this does? Makes us smarter and better able to retain the information.

When the information is on the computer, we may read over it a few times. That is not nearly as effective as the “old way.”

And we wonder why high school graduation rates have not improved; why the number of non-credit, remedial college courses has skyrocketed.

I learned so many useful skills Friday that I wish our summer classes were starting this Monday!


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