Two Nelson students are being honoured for the graceful way they dot their i’s and cross their t’s.
Hume School’s Kiko Pinzon and Andi Silva finished second for Grade 1 and 2 students, respectively, in the Cursive Is Cool national writing contest after each wrote a paragraph about their love for cursive writing.
The pair learned the technique from their teacher Teresa Keenan, a lifelong fan and practitioner of handwriting who instructs her students in both printing and cursive.
“Most of the parents have been amazed because their kids have picked it up so fast and have been so interested in doing it, and they end up having better penmanship than their parents,” she says.
Cursive isn’t a part of the provincial curriculum, and although she teaches printing Keenan is a cursive believer. Printing, she says, can be difficult for young students who struggle with fine motor skills. It can also tire students because it requires the hand to lift with each letter.
But she says cursive writing, which keeps the pencil on the page, helps keep students focused.
“It made such a difference in their penmanship and their ability to write and then their endurance to write. So there was less struggle and being tired and giving up.”
There’s research that suggests handwriting leads to improved learning.
According to a white paper published by the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation in 2016:
”Letter and word recognition, comprehension, abstract thought, and memory are shown to improve with handwriting. As a result, handwriting makes learning faster and more efficient in areas from reading and writing to math and music.”
One of Keenan’s students has a habit of biting her lip. But her parent told Keenan she stops when she’s writing in cursive.
“She doesn’t have to concentrate as much,” says Keenan. “As she said, it’s really an interesting phenomenon to see. This has become such a natural and easy part for her as a young student.”
Cursive techniques originate in early Roman writing, which appears with no spacing between words. There are different methods of handwriting, but in B.C. elementary students were taught the MacLean Method from 1921 to 1965.
The technique, which combines use of the forearm and upper arm, was invented by Vancouver principal Henry Bovyer MacLean in 1921.
MacLean, having heard his teachers complain about sloppy student writing, had been asked by the provincial government to work on a new manual. His method was later adopted by schools in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Manitoba.
It was also taught in Nelson at Hume School.
A diploma, which was recently found by current principal Janene Stein and hung up in Keenan’s classroom, honours Hume’s Grade 6 class of 1924 for “proficiency in the MacLean Method of Muscular Movement Writing.”
Keenan also grew up writing in the MacLean method. Her grandmother was a primary teacher who helped Keenan practise cursive in elementary school.
But where others gave up cursive in favour of printing, texting and, perhaps regrettably, emojis, Keenan has kept up her handwriting skills to pass on to future generations.
“This might be an old fashioned idea, but how important it is for us being a literate society, a literate civilization?” she says.
“This is from our beginning times, being able to write and to communicate in writing.”
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