Assessing and Correcting Reading and Writing Difficulties: Chapter Five

For reasons unknown to me, I found it difficult to come up with a topic to write about, which seems particularly odd since anyone who knows me realizes I am never at a loss for words. That being said, the one item that stuck out to me was the tiny blurb on handwriting, which is probably due to my own personal experiences with the subject. The only F I ever received in school was on a cursive assignment, in Fourth Grade no less. Seriously, what sadistic teacher grades nine-year-olds’ handwriting skills? Needless to say the poor grade did nothing for my self-confidence or self-efficacy. I continued to struggle with cursive throughout grade school. One of the first strategies my mother implemented when she began homeschooling my sister and me was to “re-teach” me cursive by using those lined papers where you trace each individual letter forty times in a row. My cursive did not improve an iota from these exercises. To this day my handwriting—both print and cursive—resembles that of a neurosurgeon’s. I am trying to improve, but there must be something missing from my brain that allows me to write neatly. Tis a puzzlement.

Gunning lists several factors for sloppy handwriting, one being a correlation between poor reading skills. Obviously this wasn’t my problem. Gunning also suggests “poorly developed motor skills, deficient visual or kinesthetic memory, or dysgraphia” (154) as culprits. He maintains that deficient writing skills can lead to lowered self-concepts and grades, which I can attest to, thanks to my own cursive-grading debacle.

While I understand that it is imperative that teachers be able to read their students’ work, I don’t see why we should place such a HUGE emphasis on neat penmanship. Since we live in the digital age, it makes sense to me that if a student struggles with his handwriting, we should let him type it out. That’s the solution I found for my own struggles. As someone who is always writing, computers are indispensable to me. No one would be looking at this blog if it was in my own sad scribble.

In the end, I think evaluating a student’s penmanship should be more about looking for other cognitive struggles, such as the deficient visual or kinesthetic memory that I previously mentioned, and less about grooming kids into adults who can write pretty. After all, it’s not how your writing looks, but what your writing says that’s important.

Thomas G. Gunning, Assessing and Correcting: Reading and Writing Difficulties, rev. ed. (Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 2010), 154-155 .

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3 thoughts on “Assessing and Correcting Reading and Writing Difficulties: Chapter Five

  1. I have had the exact same struggle with my handwriting, and have never been able to correct it. Yes, it’s embarrassing, but I do try to keep my writing to a minimum. I even try to put most of my notes on my iPod anyway, just so that I won’t loose them. I do move to a point as a society where most of our writing is done digitally, but we’re not quite there yet.

    My strategy for consistent writing is to write down all of my ideas as they pass through my head. It can be a short sentence, it can be a couple of paragraphs. I have one file on my computer I keep them in, another on my laptop. Every now and then, I go through them and pick something to write about, if I can’t find an idea in my head that instantly sustains 700 words our so. If I ask myself “What do I think about the most?” usually I can find an idea to work. Also, long walks really help creative dry spells. C
    Continued blessings on your student teaching!

  2. You are such a great writer! When I read your writing, it feels more like a conversation type-tone. I like that!

    I really like your stance on handwriting, especially since I am the opposite! In elementary school, I practiced and practiced to have neat handwriting. I know that my mother had great handwriting which made me want to write like her. Even today, I envy those with the neatest or unique handwriting like Shannon, who makes her letters very vertical. Her and I both agreed in our blogs that neat handwriting would be a priority in our classrooms, if possible. I like hearing your side, though. I cannot expect all my students to have a desire like mine for organized handwriting, nor is it fair to force it upon them. 🙂

    • Trust me, I definitely hope my students have nice handwriting, because that will make it easier for me to read their work! But I won’t penalize them if they are struggling to write neatly.

      Thanks for reading and complimenting my writing! 😀

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