Write or Wrong: The Death of Handwriting?

Ağustos 17, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Voa Learning English 

Do American children still learn handwriting in school? In this age of the keyboard, some people seem to think handwriting lessons are on the way out. We asked a literacy professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Steve Graham says he has been hearing about the death of handwriting for the past fifteen years. So is it still being taught? He said: “If the results of a survey we had published this year are accurate, it is being taught by about ninety percent of teachers in grades one to three.”

Ninety percent of teachers also say they are required to teach handwriting. But studies have yet to answer the question of how well they are teaching it.

Professor Graham says one study published this year found that about three out of every four teachers say they are not prepared to teach handwriting. He said some teachers teach handwriting for ten or fifteen minutes a day. Others teach it for sixty to seventy minutes a day.

Many adults remember learning that way — by copying letters over and over again.

Today’s thinking is that short periods of practice are better. Many experts also think handwriting should not be taught by itself. Instead, they say it should be used as a way to get students to express ideas. After all, that is why we write.

Professor Graham says handwriting involves two skills. One is legibility, which means forming the letters so they can be read. The other is fluency — writing without having to think about it. The professor says fluency continues to develop up until high school. But not everyone masters these skills.

Teachers commonly report that about one-fourth of their students have poor handwriting. Some people might think handwriting is not important anymore because of computers and voice recognition programs.

But Steve Graham at Vanderbilt says word processing is rarely done in elementary school, especially in the early years. American children traditionally first learn to print, then to write in cursive, which connects the letters. But guess what we learned from a spokeswoman for the College Board, which administers the SAT college admission test.

More than seventy-five percent of students choose to print their essay on the test rather than write in cursive.

And that’s the VOA Special English Education Report.

(Adapted from a radio program broadcast 29Oct2009)

Students’ Writing and the Web: Motivator or OMG?

Kasım 11, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Education Report, Voa Learning English 

Web browsers first appeared on computers in the early nineteen nineties. Since then, the Internet has greatly changed the way people communicate. But some teachers think the changes are not all for the better.

Eleanor Johnson is an English professor at Columbia University in New York City.

Professor Johnson says she thinks text messaging has made students believe that it is acceptable to make bad spelling and grammatical errors.

She says her students have increasingly used less formal English in their writing. She says words and phrases like “guy” and “you know” now appear in research papers.

And now she has to talk about another problem in class — incorrect word use. For example, a student uses “preclude” instead of “precede” when talking about one event coming before another. Preclude sounds like precede but it means prevent.

Professor Johnson suspects a strong link between the rise of instant and casual communication online and an increase in writing mistakes.

But she admits there may not be much scientific evidence, at least not yet.

David Crystal is a British linguist who has written more than one hundred books, including the book “Language and the Internet.” He says the actively changing nature of the Internet makes it difficult to stay current in studying its effects. But he believes its influence on language is small.

He says the main effect of the Internet on language has been to increase the expressive richness of language.

Erin Jansen is founder of Netlingo, an online dictionary of Internet and text messaging terms. She says the new technology has not changed existing language but has greatly added to the vocabulary. “Basically it’s a freedom of expression,” she says.

And what about teachers who find these new kinds of mistakes in spelling and grammar in their students’ work. What is her message to them?

Ms. Jansen says she tells them not to get angry or upset, but to get creative. Teachers and educators want to get children to communicate.

But Erin Jansen and David Crystal agree with Eleanor Johnson on at least one thing. Teachers need to make sure students understand the rules of language.

And that’s the VOA Special English Education Report. We want to know what you have to say about the effects of the Internet on language and writing. Post your comments at voaspecialenglish.com.

Getting Schools Not Just to Go Green but Teach It, Too

Kasım 9, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Education Report, Voa Learning English 

Charter schools operate with public money but without many of the rules that govern traditional public schools. In the United States the rules for charter schools differ from state to state. But in general these schools have greater freedom to decide what to teach and how to teach it. A charter school might be independent or connected to the local public school system. It might be started by teachers, parents, community groups or, in some cases, a profit-making business.

The “charter” is a performance contract. It establishes the goals of the school and other details like how student performance will be measured. Forty-seven million students attend traditional public schools. But more than a million students attend charter schools.

And now a group of charter schools have formed the Green Charter Schools Network. The idea is to have environmentally friendly school buildings but to also go further than that.

The schools teach students to become involved in community issues that affect them and the environment. For example, young children grow crops in a school garden and learn about healthy eating. Older students help recycle waste from the cafeteria. And local schools share what they grow in community gardens with people in need.

Jim McGrath is president of the Green Charter Schools Network. He says there are about two hundred “green” charter schools across the United States.

He says the plan is to also include traditional public schools as well as private schools. He says every action we make has an effect on the earth. And we all need to be change agents so that we do not destruct our natural resources for future generations.

The Green Charter Schools Network holds its first national conference this October in Minnesota. It will include companies and organizations like Waste Management and the United States Green Building Council. Supporters of green schools say their goal is to expand the movement across the country.

And that’s the VOA Special English Education Report.

Is your school doing anything special to “go green”? You can tell the world by posting a comment at voaspecialenglish.com. You can also read and listen to all of our reports and watch captioned videos. Plus, we now offer a verb phrase of the day by SMS. The service is free but standard message rates may apply.

Sonraki sayfa »