Chas. Co. School System Proposes Change in Handwriting Program

LA PLATA, Md. (May 12, 2011) — The Board of Education is considering a change in the way children are taught to write. A committee, composed of instructional staff, is recommending “Handwriting Without Tears,” a switch from D’Nealian, a handwriting technique with similarities to cursive writing.

When D’Nealian, which teaches children to write slanted letters that often end with small strokes upward or "monkey tails," was introduced, educators believed that using a slanted manuscript alphabet enhanced the transition to writing with cursive letters. Natalie Hart, early childhood specialist, said there is no evidence to substantiate this claim and teachers say children have to relearn many of the letters they can already write. Children often come to school knowing how to form some letters with vertical and horizontal lines and circles. Teachers must re-teach using the D’Nealian “monkey tails,” adding another step in writing instruction and learning. Handwriting Without Tears would eliminate the extra steps and is more developmentally appropriate for younger children, Hart said. Prior to D’Nealian, Charles County Public Schools children were taught using the Zaner-Bloser Script method, which presented challenges to children when learning cursive writing, said Jackie Grabis-Bunker, director of program support.

If accepted, Handwriting Without Tears would be implemented beginning in the 2011-2012 school year. Training is planned for early childhood educators, those teaching in the three’s program, prekindergarten and kindergarten, in August.

In a presentation to the Board, Hart said nearly 10 to 30 percent of elementary school children struggle with handwriting. She also said children with poor handwriting skills also have difficulty in other academic areas.

It is logical, Hart said, to teach children to write letters similar to the letters they are learning to read. By age three, she said, children produce drawings that are composed of vertical lines, horizontal lines and circles. Handwriting Without Tears also includes a fine motor/multi-sensory component for prekindergarten.

Proposed handwriting materials and books are on display at the Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building in La Plata, Dr. Gustavus Brown Elementary School and J.C. Parks Elementary School. Community members are encouraged to review the books and materials and provide comment in writing by June 13 at either the display site or in writing to the Board of Education, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; through e-mail to; or in person at the Public Forum at 6 p.m. on either May 23 or June 14, at the Starkey Administration Building.

The Board of Education is reviewing the recommendation and materials and will take action on the change at the June 14 meeting.

Source: Charles County Public Schools

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