“I was so excited to learn to write all the letters,” Riverside Elementary School third-grader Julia Rissberger said after her cursive writing Friday afternoon.
Riverside Principal Melinda Murdock said cursive writing is taught in the Oneonta City School District to students in Julia’s grade. Other schools interviewed on the subject said that third grade is the key year for teaching the process.
There was a time when cursive handwriting was taught as part of an ongoing process, but it’s not necessary, Murdock said. The current system is working well and it has allowed more time to teach state requirements.
For cursive instruction, the teacher sets aside about 15 to 20 minutes per day during the school year, showing students such techniques as forming letters and linking them. Teachers will help students in the upper grades but they don’t provide the drill instruction third-graders have, he said.
In recent years, there’s been less emphasis on penmanship, because the state curriculum requirements demand more time be spent on areas such as expressive writing and critical skills, she said. State testing is also requiring better computer than penmanship skills, she said. By the time students move to middle school they are able to express their ideas three different ways — printing, cursive, and keyboard.
However students are still eager to learn the cursive writing process, Murdock said.
Rissberger said she knew how to write her name and a few letters at the start of the school year but the skill is helping her read letters other members of the family write to her. Before that, her mother had to read them to her.
Jack Gustafson, also in third grade, said having the skills is “like moving a step up in life.”
At Laurens Central School, third grade teacher June Townsend said she has been using the same handwriting program for the more than 35 years she has been teaching. About eight years ago, the school started the same system in grades four to six as a follow-up, Superintendent Romona Wenck said.