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Return to Mandatory Curriculum: Ontario Teachers Could be the Ones to Learn as Italics Make a Comeback


Although many in Ontario have welcomed the reintroduction of cursive to the province’s curriculum, some educators say translating that into the classroom might be easier said than done for a generation of teachers who may have missed out on the opportunity to learn the skill of handwriting.

While most provinces require students to learn cursive, it is not required in some regions. In British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, the Northwest Territories, and the Yukon, for example, it’s up to teachers to decide whether or not to include it.

Last week, Ontario announced that cursive, which became an optional part of the province’s curriculum in 2006, would once again be required. The new curriculum, which will be implemented this fall, incorporates many recommendations from a 2022 Ontario Human Rights Commission Report which explored the issues faced by public school students with reading disabilities.

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce says the changes were motivated by evidence that an emphasis on fundamental skills was required.

“The Ontario Human Rights Commission and many others have asked us to really be informed about what works, and what clearly works is the return to phonetics, the use of cursive writing, the adoption of digital literacy and the critical thinking skills,” he said. he said Thursday in an interview with Breaking:.

The curriculum reintroduces cursive writing as an expectation beginning in third grade. That’s good news for language education experts. (The Associated Press)

benefits of cursive

Hetty Roessingh, emeritus professor of language and literacy at the University of Calgary, sees big benefits on the horizon for students who are taught cursive writing.

“There is no replacement for involving the hand brain complex,” Roessingh said, referring to the neural pathways created when people write by hand.

She says it’s a skill that’s undervalued because people don’t understand the contributions it makes to cognition, noting that note-taking is one area where cursive has advantages over keyboarding.

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ottawa morning8:56Mandatory cursive writing returns to schools

Cursive writing will be required in schools starting this fall, but not everyone is convinced of its merits.

“People who write fluently and take notes, for example, for a test, tend to do better than those who just write their notes,” he said.

“When you write your notes, you’re just transcribing. If you’re writing your notes by hand, you’re outputting text, and there’s a processing advantage to that.”

Children can get some of the same benefits from printing, says Lizette Alexander, an occupational therapist in Toronto, but she told Piya Chattopadhyay on Metro Morning earlier this week that it’s not as efficient.

“With printing, the letters start all over the place,” he said, noting that some are formed by starting at the bottom, while others start at the top and sometimes require backward movement.

A close up photo of a hand printing letters onto a sheet of lined paper.
Children can get some of the same learning benefits from writing, says Lizette Alexander, a Toronto-based occupational therapist, but it’s not as efficient as cursive. (Rebecca Kelly/CBC)

“In cursive, there’s a constant forward motion. The letters are connected… there are basically three strokes you need to know to learn cursive.”

Alexander says that often the children who are referred to her may not have been diagnosed with any type of learning disability, but they find the work of putting pen to paper difficult.

“Every time they write, if they’re not specifically taught letter formation, they’re reinventing the wheel on how to do it.” [the letter] A, and it’s not consistent,” he said. “And then that becomes work.”

Fundamental change in the curriculum

Dyslexia Canada CEO Alicia Smith says the return of cursive in Ontario should be discussed in the context of broader change.

“Making cursive a required part of the curriculum is actually part of a much larger approach to bring back explicit instruction in foundational skills,” he said.

Smith says the previous curriculum did not support the needs of students with dyslexia, who she says require instruction in “explicit foundational skills” to succeed in learning to read.

“It’s beyond handwriting, but that’s part of it. They need to have phonics instruction, they need to have phonemic awareness instruction. They really need to have a lot of practice working on very small units, like working with letters and sounds.” ,” she said.

A woman leans against a wall, her arms crossed.
Dyslexia Canada executive director Alicia Smith says the return of cursive writing should be seen as part of a shift towards explicit instruction in foundational skills. (Jennifer Blakeley)

“The new approach is to start with those small pieces and help children learn how to put them together and master those strong pieces, small pieces, so they can develop the more complex layers of language.”

Smith believes that cursive writing has caught people’s attention among other changes because it represents a generation gap.

“It’s kind of a pet hobby of my parents’ generation,” he said. “When they write letters to my children, my children cannot read them.”

Teachers may lack skills

Roessingh says that some primary school teachers who will be tasked with teaching cursive may not have learned it themselves.

“You can put this in the curriculum, but if the teachers aren’t prepared to teach, if they don’t have good resources to teach, I’m afraid this will fall off the radar again.”

She says cursive tends to “get by the wayside,” even in provinces where it’s a required element of the curriculum.

Teresa Rothwell, a teacher in Caledonia, Ontario, says she taught cursive in the past when it was optional, but she thinks it’s something most teachers don’t include in their lessons. She says it’s important that teachers have time to adjust and develop materials for a new curriculum, including changes beyond italics.

“It’s not a reference manual where you just open it up and it tells you what to do,” he said of the curriculum. “You really need to be familiar with it to do a good job.”

CLOCK | Exploring the dying art of cursive writing:

Return to Mandatory Curriculum Ontario Teachers Could be the

Cursive writing makes a curriculum comeback in Ontario

Years after several provinces removed cursive from school curricula, Ontario is making it mandatory again.

Lecce says he is confident educators will rise to the challenge.

“We’re talking about literacy skills, we’re talking about the ability to communicate confidently, it’s something worth investing in,” he said.

“And if that means we all have to work a little harder in the days and weeks ahead to prepare for September, I know. [educators] it will, because I think they care deeply about the success of young people around those foundational skills.”

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