Last week’s posting about getting students back to school attracted quite a lot of comment for which I am grateful. There are some other issues that should be brought to wider notice and so I shall embark on a visit to The Things That Matter.
A well-meaning commentator popped up on the Television Three Project Programme about the Teaching of Writing which claimed that most students were being taught to learn to write in a flowing hand. I must say that my excursions into the realm of schools leave me with a burning understanding that some but only some youngsters receive tuition in the fine art of handwriting.
I can describe grotesque attempts of young children to actually hold a ball point pen which is both very difficult and does not engender the growth of a ease with hand-writing.
Only occasionally do I take recourse to describe how I was taught in the olden days to hand-write, (this was 1951-ish). We were each assign a smallish blackboard and we learnt to write stand at these said black boards. Emphasis was placed on our achieving rows of upper case “O’s” until we could produce a succession of fields of kiwifruit all ready, at the same size, etc to fuel our writing. This was followed by the addition of a flick of the chalk which would be required to start joining the letters together. The proscribed shape of the alphabet followed and so on. Chalk led to pencil. And pencils were replaced by fountain pens at the start of Standard 5. And the handling of ink produced a few rather messy moments.
This journey was not entirely about scratching messages and so on, but it was about linking the process of thinking with the with the process of expression and of developing a cache of words that would increasingly develop to be available -the ammunition of the written word.
The business of literacy suffers from the students not receiving an adequate writing programme. Writing and Reading are the soulmates of literacy. You learn to read by writing, and to write by reading. Writing and Reading will not and should not replace each other for young readers. Using the facility with electronic keyboards should have as a precursor, basic facility with reading and writing language.
And it is not soppy to want students to read and write.