Penmanship is “the art or skill of writing by hand,” also known simply as handwriting. Penmanship is increasingly getting pushed out of the American classroom as other curriculum demands grow. According to the Washington Post, “until the 1970s, penmanship was a separate daily lesson through sixth grade, said Dennis Williams, national product manager for Zaner-Bloser Handwriting, the most widely used penmanship curriculum. At its peak in the 1940s and ’50s, most teachers insisted on as much as two hours a week, but a 2003 Vanderbilt University survey of primary-grade teachers found that most now spend 10 minutes a day or less on the subject.” (The link is found at the bottom of the page.)
Forty-two states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) have adopted the Common Core State Standards according to the commoncore.org website. Common core does not require cursive and there is little emphasis on print. Many argue it is unnecessary in the current technology focused era. However, my husband and I disagree with the majority of our contemporaries. To us, penmanship is more than a simple form of communication but an extension of oneself. We are both committed to teaching our children to have legible, fluid handwriting.
Megan Eldridge, an occupational therapist who founded Scribble 2 Script, lists 15 skills needed to master handwriting, including fine motor skills, large motor skills, concentration, memory, spatial orientation, hand-eye coordination, and more. As parents, it is important to educate ourselves about these individual skills so we are more adapt to help our children obtain the end goal–the art of handwriting.
Once we understand the components involved, we need to develop these skills in our children. Mother Goose Time does an amazing job of integrating these skills into their daily curriculum. The children are constantly doing projects that refine their fine motor skills–gluing, cutting, play doh/clay, painting with fingers and brushes, using the pincher grasp to move story cards or game pieces around, manipulating different components of a craft, the list is endless.
Mother Goose Time incorporates many activities that require large motor skills within daily lessons but I especially love the Dance ‘n Beats add-on. Not only does the dancing gets the kids up and moving but it includes numerous hand motions that build the forearm and hand muscles while teaching the brain to control the hand.
Circle time as a daily introduction to the Mother Goose Time and then continuing into the lessons are increasing the kids’ concentration, core strength to stabilize the body, increasing motivation to learn, and building their receptive language. Learning the ‘take aways’ and committing them to memory in order to discuss with their dad over dinner, helps with recall and developing expressive language.
For children ready to take the first steps towards penmanship, the Mother Goose Time add-ons More Literacy and More Math introduce the children to forming letters and provide some practice. My kids love to trace the letters and numbers but are not ready to write on their own. I believe when kids have mastered the individual letters, a supplemental writing curriculum would be beneficial to truly master the art. However, if your only goal is for child to have a rudimentary grasp on print, this may suffice.
Mother Goose Time is so well laid out, it can be easy to miss the subtle ways almost every activity is building the foundation to very important future academic benchmarks. Once the foundation is strong, moving on to the next step should be seamless.
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