(Note: This post is based-on a recent Network article written by Niccole Wilson.)
In today’s increasingly digital world, whether schools should focus on handwriting as a skill or not is a hot debate. Many elementary schools have already ceased teaching cursive. Will the ax fall on the use of paper and pencil next?
Actor and comedian Steve Carell, best known for cracking jokes on film and TV, made a surprising case for the art of handwriting when he said, “Sending a handwritten letter is becoming such an anomaly. It’s disappearing. My mom is the only one who still writes me letters. And there’s something visceral about opening a letter – I see her on the page. I see her in her handwriting.”
Handwriting and the Brain
Research suggests that writing by hand provides important cognitive benefits. It’s a complex task that taps into and helps shape a variety of skills. Handwriting is a creative movement of the body and allows for graphic and artistic expression. Handwriting can help improve letter recognition, which can help with reading skills. Handwriting makes you think better by making you focus on what’s important – the task at hand.
Handwriting plays a vital role in our elementary Missions, a program in which students collaborate and experience real-world, hands-on applications of math, art, and engineering through interactive science concepts and reading practice. If you peek into any classroom using our Missions 2.0, you will see students working together in cooperative groups on hands-on activities and writing in their Mission Journals.
The Mission Journal provides a space for students to connect to the concepts they’re working on by exploring follow-up questions. It doesn’t matter if you’re watching third-, fourth-, or fifth-grade students – all are writing in a Mission Journal. Mission Journals serve as proof of learning for the teacher and enable students to track their progress through the Mission.
Connecting to Standards
Using pencil and paper might seem unusual in a time of advanced technology, maybe even a dying art, especially with the amount of texting and typing young students do these days. However, it’s not dying! It’s still a skill very much needed by students. Students will always need to know how to sign their name, write checks, work out math problems, do homework, take notes, sign cards, fill in forms and other legal documents – the list could go on!
National and state English language arts (ELA) standards include specific writing requirements. When students complete a Mission Journal, they meet several of these national and state writing standards, and the R (reading) in STREAM is more significantly emphasized. If Mission Journals were offered only digitally, then students wouldn’t be meeting several of these important ELA writing standards.
A Handwriting Solution
Every Mission includes Briefing questions and conclusion questions, which are also listed in the corresponding Mission Journal. Students are expected to answer Briefing questions at the end of every Briefing and conclusion questions at the end of every Exploration. Teachers grade the students on their accuracy, spelling, grammar, punctuation, and capitalization. Students are also expected to answer the questions in complete sentences and use the question as part of their answer.
Also, during the course of each Mission, students write vocabulary definitions in their Mission Journals as part of their Briefings. They write numbers in the form of math problems, data, graphs, and measurements in their Mission Journals as part of their Explorations. They even brainstorm engineering design challenge solutions in their Mission Journals, and they use the Mission Log pages in their Mission Journals to record answers to questions, take notes, and document ideas.
Technology can be great and make life easier, but writing is still an essential life skill. Paper and pencil should be another tool that teachers keep in the tool belt. To learn more about Missions, go to www.pitsco.com/STREAMmissions.