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Penmanship Takes a Back Seat in Many Elementary Schools

Time and technology have largely done away with traditional penmanship, leaving schools with a challenge that mirrors today's fast pace: how to teach a cursive style that's faster to write than older, ornate methods and easily readable.

In one study, college students who took good lecture notes got higher scores on essay tests. The best predictor of quality notetaking was writing speed, said researcher Stephen T. Peverly, professor of psychology and education at Columbia University's Teachers College in New York.

“Since at least for many kids the thoughts they think up are a little ahead of their handwriting, they need to be able to write fast or they're going to forget them,” he said. Faster writing also helps the brain spend less effort on forming letters and more on higher-order cognitive tasks like composing good essays, he said.   “For most people cursive is a more efficient form of writing,” Peverly said.

This article appeared in the July 11, 2007 edition of the Union Tribune.

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