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Local schools still teach penmanship despite state standards change

posted March 20, 2017 12:00 a.m. (CDT)
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by / Elizabeth Dohms. bio | email

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    Staff photo by Dan Reiland | Enlarge
    - Roosevelt Elementary School third-grade teacher Jeannie Miller teaches cursive to her students on Friday. Handwriting and cursive are still a part of early elementary school curriculum in local school districts.
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    Staff photo by Dan Reiland | Enlarge
    - Roosevelt Elementary School 3rd grader Alyssa Manteufel worked on cursive in class on March 17, 2017. View more photos at
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    Staff photos by Dan Reiland | Enlarge
    - Roosevelt Elementary School third-grader Britanya Lee works on cursive Friday in class. View more photos at

Honing the curve of a perfect capital G hasn’t yet been relegated to the shift key and a pointer-finger tap.

Although cursive is no longer required in the Common Core state standards — national benchmarks that delineate each grade — local students still are dotting i’s and crossing t’s with pen and paper.

“Some districts in some states have gone away with teaching cursive,” said Laurie Haus, literacy academic services coordinator for the Eau Claire school district. “I think people hear those things and they just assume it’s everywhere.”

Locally, handwriting and cursive continue to be taught as part of the curriculum, which now employs keyboarding as another key skill to pin down. 

Jennifer Starck, director of curriculum at Chippewa Falls school district, said students are taught handwriting from kindergarten through second grade and begin learning cursive in third grade. 

Students follow a similar path at Altoona schools, where they are taught writing and cursive in pre-kindergarten through third grade, said Andrea Steffen, director of instruction and Altoona Intermediate School principal. 

Handwriting is taught starting in second grade at Regis Catholic Schools, and those lessons continue into third grade, said spokeswoman Meghan Kulig. By third grade, students are also writing sentences in cursive. 

Cursive is introduced in second grade and continues into the third grade in the Eau Claire school district, Haus said. Students are taught printing in pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first grade, she said. 

While handwriting and cursive remain embedded in elementary school curriculum, Starck said some instructional changes have been made to the way these lessons are delivered. 

“We don’t emphasize it all the way through in the same way that we had,” she said. 

Haus, too, said practicing handwriting and cursive is done in the context of other learning.

“There is instruction, but we try not to spend a lot of instructional time practicing it in workbooks,” she said. “We embed it in the regular classes so we can make the best use of our time.”

Time in the classroom for learning handwriting and cursive also has to be shared with lessons on keyboarding, which is introduced in third grade in the Eau Claire and Altoona school districts. 

“That is the reason we now introduce cursive in second grade, to take some of the load off of third grade teachers,” Haus said of Eau Claire schools. 

Steffen said students need to feel comfortable using computers and keyboards by third grade, when the state-mandated computer-based Wisconsin Forward Exam is first administered.

Third grade is also Common Core’s benchmark level for learning keyboarding.

In several districts, computer skills such as how to log in and out of a computer and how to use writing and editing software is taught as part of the curriculum starting in as early as kindergarten. 

Contact: 715-833-9206,, @EDohms_LT on Twitter