Cursive and Adult Literacy

cursiveWhen literacy is taught to adults, there is just as much focus on the reading as the writing aspect. Writing has been taught in two mediums in the past, the ability to write print as well as cursive. There is now a debate going on to completely eradicate cursive writing. We are here to look at both the pros and cons and let you decide for yourself whether the form should be eliminated.

Cursive has many benefits associated with it. As new studies emerge on cursive, they are proving that it may indeed be more useful for people to learn the writing form because of the impact it has on the brain. It helps in motor control, sensation, and thinking. This is beyond what simple computer typing does (classified as print).  It has also been found that the certain form of writing is better when used if one is thinking about something, writing, or planning. The act of writing helps to get the thoughts out faster because the style is much more fluid. Another important aspect of cursive is that it was used for most important documents in history: Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, Bill of Rights, and so on. Wouldn’t it be a shame if only specialists in cursive (similar to specialists in reading hieroglyphics) could read these documents and interpret them for the rest of the population?

While cursive has pros, the cons follow right behind it. Cursive takes a lengthy time to learn, and some people just do not have the time to learn cursive. Personally, I was lucky to have learned it at such a young age because a lot of my friends who are now learning cursive have noticed that it is extremely time consuming for them. This is a problem that it takes so much time to learn. Since many people that are learning cursive are also adults, it doesn’t help that they have jobs, and maybe even a family to take care of. Print is easier to learn and is also more readily comprehended by people. The other thing is that cursive is just not as useful as it was in the past. Since most of us use computers, phones, and more writing is in print not cursive, there simply is no need to learn something that will not be useful to a person in the future. They could spend time learning something that would actually benefit them.

Only time will tell if cursive becomes another form of abandoned writing or becomes embraced by the population. There simply is not a demand for cursive anymore as there was once in the past.

For more information about this debate I encourage everyone to look at this video:



Most common mistake when teaching writing

What’s the difference between revising and editing a piece of writing?  Many people, including tutors and professionals, confuse the two.

Revising is the process of expanding and clarifying what is written and should be done before the piece is edited.  The writer may revise a piece several times.  The tutor uses questions to get the learner to do the work.  Strategies could include the following:

  • Ask what the piece is about, who the audience is and how this should affect the audience.
  • Have the learner read the piece to you and then discuss the content.  Ask if the topic is clear and can any details be added, changed or taken out to make the ideas clearer.
  • Are the ideas put in a logical order?
  • The tutor reads the piece aloud as the learner listens critically.  You might ask, “Does this say what you want it to say?” “What do you like best about it?”  “Can you do anything to improve it?”

When you make suggestions, use the form of questions, such as

  • What would happen if …..?
  • How would it sound if…..
  • When this happened, what else did you notice?

Editing involves correcting the grammar, spelling, sentence structure, punctuation, capitalization, etc.  In other words, editing works on the mechanics.  We don’t want to overwhelm the learner—just work on one or two errors or one general principle at a time.  It is very important to encourage the writer that the message is more important than spelling, grammar or penmanship.  Show the learner that you value and understand what (s)he has written by responding to the message before correcting minor errors. This may give the learner the courage to actually use writing.

Regardless of whether the writing is a personal letter, essay or term paper, the process is the same.

-A lesson in writing compliments of Olive Burkard,
Certified ProLiteracy Trainer, Lake County Library System

Tiffany Baricko: Another approach to writing

Many students are not comfortable when it comes to writing, but it is an essential skill that I feel is getting worse.  As teachers, we need to turn that around and help our students build a stronger foundation to writing, which will improve their overall literacy.

My approach to writing applies what I’ve learned over the years about writing and turns it into a less intimidating step-by-step process.  I have not recreated the wheel, nor developed a revolutionary new way to write, just took the information that’s been out there and repackaged it for my students.  Normally I present this in a workshop to small groups of students.  If you research the writing process, you will find a lot of variation, but essentially, you will have the five steps that I teach to students: Brainstorm, Outline, Purpose, Draft, and Revision.  After seeing students struggle with starting their paper, focusing their topic, and supporting their main points, I put together these five steps with bullet points in a graphic organizer style diagram.  I also compiled other supporting resources to assist them with the steps.  For visual learners, this is a great way to help them understand and for the pragmatic, step-by-step thinkers, it turns a seemingly overwhelming task of writing into a more logical process.

While much of what I utilize I created in Word’s Smart Art feature, there are also some great graphic organizers out there that I like to incorporate.  Brainstorm Webs and Constructing Support diagrams can be very helpful in the first three steps of the writing process.  For the introduction and conclusion paragraphs, I like to use a graphic that I put together to help students.  I describe the introduction as an inverted pyramid with broad information in the beginning (top) and a narrow or specific thesis statement at the end (bottom).  I demonstrate the conclusion paragraph as four to five boxes that lead from one to the next.  Each is a separate component that comes together for the conclusion paragraph, one of which is a rephrased thesis.  After introducing this, I spend some time discussing the importance of focus and organization and how they can actually apply these steps.

This approach is easily adaptable to students at various writing levels; from students working on GED essay practice to students putting together a paper for their college course.  While I vary my workshop to best meet the student’s needs, I always utilize a modeling approach and engage the students in the process.  In a one hour workshop, the students go through the first three steps in writing a sample paper as a group with me – no passive learning here. Overall, I believe the students respond well to this because it gives them a roadmap to follow in their writing process.

Aside from my graphic organizer approach to writing, I also share with students some great online resources.  One is  This website has been developed by Pasco-Hernando Community College faculty to provide their students an easy resource to help write papers.  It includes tips on the writing process, grammar, punctuation and MLA or APA style formatting.  Another site I have found is, particularly for the comprehensive list of transition words and phrases to help students in their writing.

Writing can be such an essential tool for our students, not only in the classroom, but when they leave our classrooms and need effective communication skills in the workforce.  As literacy teachers we need to make sure that writing skills are as big a part of our lessons as reading skills.

Adult Learner Essays Wanted!

The Florida Literacy Coalition is proud to announce the launch of the 8th Annual Adult Learner Writing Campaign.  Students from throughout Florida are invited to submit original short stories, poems, or autobiographical narratives to be included in a published book that will debut at the 2012 Florida Literacy Conference.

The goal of this book is to allow adult learners the opportunity to build confidence while also improving their reading, writing, and critical thinking skills.  Organizational representatives can use this book as a way to promote how their programs are having a positive influence within their communities.

Adult learners and their tutors/teachers are encouraged to work together in writing, typing, editing, and submitting a written piece. We ask that completed essays be submitted along with the completed online form.

Submissions should be no longer than 475 words. Space in the book is limited and entries will be edited for readability. Authors can choose to remain anonymous or have a short biographical paragraph included with their submission.  Only one submission per adult learner is allowed. Each author who is included will be invited to the Florida Literacy Conference and will also receive a free copy of the book.

FLC welcomes essays from current or recent students enrolled in adult basic education, GED, adult literacy or family literacy programs located in Florida.  Please limit to one submission per adult learner.

Deadline for Submissions: March 5, 2012

Click here to see past books and websites for help. If you have any questions please contact Jonathan Cajigas at or (407) 246-7110 x 201.

Megan Bakan: Writing through the Senses

What is one of the more difficult tasks for adult basic education students? Often it is writing.  They (and we) have difficulty thinking of topics and developing them into interesting and detailed compositions.  In order to write we must have something to say.  Sometimes we get writer’s block.  How can we help our students get past this block?  One way is to help them access their knowledge and memories through their senses. If we can access information and memories then we have something to say and something to write about.

How do we gather information about the world?  We gather information through our senses.  We store this information, our memories, through our senses too. We have six basic senses:

1. Vision – seeing
2. Auditory – hearing
3. Gustatory – taste
4. Olfactory – smell
5. Tactile – the texture of how something feels (a bumpy rock versus a smooth rock)
6. Kinesthetic – muscle memory for tasks (how to dial a phone number on a rotary versus cell phone)

The activities, which can be found by clicking the “get it now” button, are adapted from a presentation given by Kathy St. John. Each of them provides the participant with an opportunity to tap into their senses before they begin writing.  Our senses are a valuable storehouse of knowledge; they can breathe life into our writing. Have fun!