Westwood Elementary School third graders Reif Swanson, Keira McInturff, Gus Sherrill and Andrea Knox practice cursive letters in Mr. Paul Anderson’s class last week.  -Staff photo by John Coffelt

Staff Writer John Coffelt Established in 1977, National Handwriting Day is a time for acknowledging the history and influence of penmanship, it falls Jan. 23, the birthday of John Hancock, the American founding father remembered for his iconic signature on the Declaration of Independence. In a tech-driven world where more is texted and typed, handwriting is threatened to become obsolete. Yet before counting the beloved cursive script out forever, however, note that as far back as the 1940s “Time” magazine feared for the fate of cursive. And despite the apparent trend against cursive instruction,   area elementary schools do still teach cursive. At Westwood Elementary School students begin a little cursive in the second grade but really start writing cursive in the third. Westwood third-grade teacher Paul Anderson explained that cursive is part of the standards but is not assessed. “Our standards say that we need to write upper and lower case letters in cursive legibly. My goal for this group for this group of kids is … by the end of the year is for them to sign their name,” Anderson said. “They were like, ‘oh, that sounds pretty good,’ because in fourth grade they are writing sentences and things. I told them, if we are learning our letters, we’re going to combine that and put it into your name.” Third grader Reif Swanson said that his favorite letter to write was “R,” which is pretty much consistent that students favor a letter in their name. Anderson explained that to keep handwriting from being a chore, the class keeps handwriting fun. “They like it because it’s fun. We write certain letters or names…I tell them it’s like you’re going on a roller coaster.” One of the challenges of transitioning from printing to cursive is holding the pencil correctly. “At some point they’ve learned how to hold a pencil correctly, but then they’ve adapted to their writing. So some of them the way they hold their pencil does not work for cursive.” The choppy, blocky prints strokes don’t really work for the flowing lines of cursive. “They want to be perfect. I tell them this is something new, you’re not going to be perfect. You’re going to have to erase. It’s OK,” Anderson said. One of the curriculum is “Handwriting without Tears,” which has stories and poems that go along with how to make letters. “We make up little stories like the ‘S’ kinda looks like a bird or the ‘D’ and the ‘O’ have a funny hairdo. The ‘M’s and ‘N’s are like camels having humps. It’s one of those little things that they can connect real-life concepts with to form that letter. ” Anderson said that the best way to improve students’ handwriting is practice. “We’ve learned all the uppercase and lowercase letters, as the year progresses, we’re going to practice writing their names. We’re going to practice the technique for making the letters. “You can form a letter, but are you doing it correctly?” Penmanship is often a struggle for adults too. For those of us who don’t write out much, our handwriting suffers. According to information from British National Adult Literacy Agency pamphlets, “It doesn’t matter what type of handwriting style you have… any style is good, as long as the letters are clearly formed, evenly spaced and easy to read.” It offers three fast tips to improve your handwriting: Use the right tools (a good pen or pencil and lined paper); Work on one problem at a time and Practice, practice, practice. The most common problems that cause sloppy handwriting are getting tired, problems with certain letters, spacing, size of letters, dropping below the line and making mistakes.