happy national handwriting day! (jan 23)

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Happy (late) National Handwriting Day, everyone!  I have always loved anything to do with handwriting: keeping journals, writing notes in class, making lists, having pen pals, filling out forms, sending people birthday cards, you name it.  Even now, I keep track of my schedule in a planner that I take with me everywhere.  Sure, I have an iPad and an iPhone with brilliant apps that could organize everything for me–but I wouldn’t get to write everything down!

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Also, since 9th grade I have only used one kind of pen: black, fine point, Pentel RSVP pens.  Nothing else will do.  I’m very stingy with my pens, too.  I will watch you like a hawk until that pen is safely back in my pen pouch in my purse!

My husband recently bought me a Kindle Paperwhite to help me avoid the back and neck problems inflicted upon me by the 20-30 books I have to read each semester for my Masters program, but again, I need to write in the margins.  (I love the Kindle for pleasure reading, but when I am analyzing a text, I have to engage with it using an RSVP pen).

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You know what else is kind of strange about handwriting?  Mine is almost identical to my mom’s, and hers is almost identical to my grandma’s.  My best friend since 7th grade (Rochelle) and I also have incredibly similar writing.  Both of us have been confused when receiving Christmas cards from each other in the mail–Did this get sent back?  Did I have the wrong address?  Oh, ha ha, that’s not my writing after all!  Is handwriting hereditary, or do we copy what we see?

Anyway, I am always very excited for National Handwriting Day, and this year we celebrated it in my English class.  Sixth graders are never excited to hear the word “cursive,” but I opened their eyes to a whole new concept this year.  “You’re not in elementary school anymore,” I reminded them, “so now you can write however you want!  You can do loops on your y’s and g’s this week, and then hearts on top of your i’s next week, you can write in half cursive-half printing–the sky is the limit!”  I just wanted them to practice neat penmanship, and to have fun doing it.

We started off by writing the alphabet in whatever handwriting they liked best.  I encouraged them to develop their own signature style (no pun intended).  Then we wrote out some panagrams like,

The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog  and

My grandfather picks up quartz and valuable onyx jewels.

(Panagrams are coherent sentences that include every letter of the alphabet).

Next, they practiced writing their signature, or autograph.  You would be shocked at how many of my 8th graders cannot write their names in cursive.  Like, no matter how many different ways I explained it, I still got their name written in printing.  It was nuts.  So with my 6th graders, I want to make sure that they practice writing their signature at least once a year.  If they get that MLB contract one day, they are going to need to know how to do this!

Students had the option to continue to observe National Handwriting Day by completing an extra credit assignment that was due the next day.  They could either make up their own panagram (it’s actually REALLY hard!), or hand-write a letter to someone on stationary.  The art of letter writing is pretty close to extinct, so I am doing my part to bribe students into reviving it.  Here is what one class brought back the next day:

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Really, they didn’t have to write the letter to me, but hey, they’re smart!  How can I not give you a bunch of extra credit if you hand-write all the reasons why I am amazing onto a cute card?  I also liked the homemade stationary (which they probably made ten minutes before the bell rang from their binder paper and a pen they found at the bottom of someone’s backpack, but whatever).

Side note: I have heard that many states are dropping cursive from their Common Core curriculum (California is keeping it, though).  This is a shame, because I have read in a few articles that the act of connecting one letter to the next requires the brain to think one step ahead, and makes writing in cursive a fundamentally different task from printing.  Experts also argue that cursive is useful to know for note-taking, although I would guess that most students will be typing their notes in the future anyway.

Still, I enjoy handwriting, and I love to read at beautiful script.  I am going to continue to celebrate National Handwriting Day every January 23rd, and I hope that you do too!  What other ideas do you have for NHD activities?

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