Week in Class: Week Seven 2013 from Cursive to Keyboarding



This week, I’ve been thinking about writing. The process of writing that happens in the brain, how that is translated into a fine-motor activity to express those thoughts, and how to do this effectively with students.

With the switch-over to Common Core, I’m doing my assessment in English, Social Studies, and Language Arts based on writing, and eschewing most multiple choice test. We’ve had a strong writing practice at my site, so my kids can write, but few can do so in cursive. Although cursive was not eliminated until the Common Core adoption, I now have students who not only can’t write in cursive, they can’t read it. Fortunately I “print” in a modified version of D’Nealian script which is pretty easy to read.  I went into sixth grade with awful penmanship, and great academic grades, but under the guidance of my sixth grade teacher I left with mediocre academic grades, but some killer cursive writing. On the whole, I would have preferred to have learned a bit more to prepare for middle school, but that is water under the bridge.  I also have a child who has had a keyboarding accommodation since the end of elementary school. I know that the fine-motor activity in printing and cursive helps with brain development (hence, the years of OT my son went through), but I’m more than a bit ambivalent about the penmanship thing.

I have one student who is really struggling with writing, even short responses. I have a single Alpha-Smart keyboard, and six computers in my class. The Alpha-Smart is easier to hand to students to type for a number of reasons, so I’ve been doing that. While I won’t claim that I’ve made that student into a budding Hemmingway, there is a significant improvement in that student’s writing. I’d like to expand this to more of the students, so I’ll be looking at doing using the Wikispaces account I’ve set up.

Meanwhile, I’m concerned about keyboarding skills as the new testing is going to be done online. We have a MacBook cart and computer lab that most of the upper grade (fourth – sixth) teachers take kids to on a weekly basis. I’m going to have them do a period of keyboard practice, and writing on blogs starting with this unit to get them practice in this skill.

We’re wrapping up the first unit of study over the last two weeks, and into next week. Here are responses to a survey I gave students on GoogleDocs. I’m pleased with the results. For a number of reasons, mostly around students not having work done, only 20 out of 33 students were able to respond.

Most were working on unit packets, which had been neglected up until the week they were due (I did try to warn students over the last four weeks, but they are 12 years old). Here is what I’ve asked for. What I am trying to do is make them more responsible about note taking (I provide them with time, directions, and materials to make that happen), and also to track the work they are doing in our workshop period (45 minutes – an hour 4 days a week). I want to prepare them for taking content tests that are not open-book, but only open-note, but to do that I need to have them taking notes so this is how I resolved to do it. In the next unit, students will only have notes to answer tests on science and social studies. The results of these efforts are often painful to check. I have a couple thoughts on this. Thought one, until they see the results of not doing the work, they aren’t going to take it seriously and I need to keep pressing on. Thought two, the form was not clear enough about what was expected, so I’ve improved the typography, descriptions, etc. on the one for the next unit. Thought two, I had too many assignments, so I’ve slimmed the list down a bit. I’ve also come up with a modified checklist for students who need that. I have an unusually high number of students with IEPs in my class (currently 7 out of 33, and it could go up to 9 which is close to a third of the class, and one 504 student, and two others in the SST process). Here is the next version.
&7 by moirabot, on Flickr

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