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Hurry Up and Write!
Contest Deadline Looms

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Curriculum Center

Kate Gladstone, national director of the World Handwriting Achievement Contest, explains why handwriting is important even in a technological age and discusses how both you and your students can improve your handwriting! Included: Tips for teaching handwriting


Do you love the convenience of e-mail yet miss the personal touch found only in a hand-written letter? Do you want to see the art of penmanship restored to a place of importance in our nation's classrooms? If legible handwriting is important to you, don't miss the World Handwriting Achievement Contest (WHAC).

This is the 17th year of the annual competition -- and the sixth year since it's gone global. The contest began in 1991 when Tom Hudson founded the Nebraska Handwriting Contest to honor his late mother, Eva Margaret (Nielsen) Hudson, who had won awards for her penmanship. Four years later, the contest expanded nationwide and became the Annual American Handwriting Contest (AAHC). This year, the opportunity to wield the mighty "pencil" in the battle for penmanship supremacy has spread around the world.

WHAC Rules!

  • WHAC is open to "anyone, any age, anywhere in the world."
  • Entries are judged in one of five age-related categories: eight and younger, nine to 12, 13 to 19, 20 to 49, and 50 and older.
  • Using any writing instrument you choose, copy one of the texts provided at the WHAC Web site for your age group. Entries will be judged on legibility, fluency, and general appearance.
  • Include your name, address, and age as of February 1. Students also should include the name, address, and phone number of their school; their grade level; and the names of their teacher and parent or guardian.
  • Mail the entry to
    World Handwriting Contest)
    ATTN: Kate Gladstone, contest director
    325 South Manning Boulevard
    Albany, NY 12208-1731
    United States of America

ATTENTION
Contest deadline is June 30.
For a complete list of rules and contact information, visit the WHAC Web site.


WORD OF PENMANSHIP'S DEMISE

Why, in this age of computers, do we need a penmanship contest?

"Predictions of the death of handwriting have appeared on a regular basis since the Remington typewriter company first made the claim in 1871," said WHAC co-director and "handwriting repairwoman" Kate Gladstone. "Until someone makes a computer that needs no batteries or electricity; that works after being stepped on, chewed, or dropped in a toilet; and that's cheap enough to sell in packs or give in multiples to school children, the humble pen/cil -- and the need for legible handwriting -- will remain alive."


SHOULD WE TEACH IT?

Even if handwriting is a useful skill, however, is it necessary to take time away from more immediately measurable subject areas in order to teach it in school? According to Gladstone, yes. "Handwriting," she said, "provides an educationally important manual/visual/kinesthetic/tactile reinforcement for the basics of learning to read, write, and spell. In learning the difficult but important set of skills called literacy, students need and deserve all the help they can get.

"Pen/cils," Gladstone added, "bridge the technological divide. Not everyone has access to a computer -- or even a typewriter. I've seen keyboarding and typing classes taught in schools that don't have a single working typewriter or computer. The children received no handwriting instruction, however, because 'handwriting is outmoded.' They ended up with no way to effectively present their written work; they wrote, perforce, by hand -- but they wrote poorly.

"Research has shown," Gladstone continued, "that poor handwriting can lower a student's grade by as much as a full letter grade -- even if the teacher isn't aware that he or she is including handwriting in the grade. A school policy that denies economically disadvantaged students handwriting instruction will inevitably disadvantage them even further by affecting their classroom grades and performance on state mastery tests and by lowering the acceptance level of their college and job applications."

Despite all that, it has become common practice in many schools to not teach handwriting, assuming that students will pick it up on their own. According to Gladstone, "The average student today receives five minutes or less of handwriting instruction a week -- which is not enough time to learn any manual skill. We spend ten to 20 times more effort and money teaching students how to hold a volleyball than we do teaching them how to hold a pen."

Even when schools do make an effort to teach handwriting, the results are often disappointing. "This country has a strange tradition of teaching two mutually contradictory ways of handwriting -- printing and cursive -- with a policy that 'never the twain shall meet,'" Gladstone said. "Research has shown that the fastest and most legible writers combine the most efficient elements of both styles in their handwriting, rather than adhering rigidly to one or the other. We need to teach children something workable from the start, rather than providing them with two unworkable extremes."