Didactis » Handwriting at School

"Children have come to write in italics without any forcing, in a natural way, starting from lowercase block letters simply by adding ligatures. It didn't seem real! "Antonia Romano and Sabrina Martinelli, teachers.

The experience at the Comprehensive Institute of Terranuova Bracciolini (Arezzo)

The collaboration in this school began in 2008 with a short calligraphy course aimed at children of a fifth grade class. From there the idea of a pilot project was born for the introduction of a new model of cursive writing to be proposed starting from the first elementary grades. The project became executive thanks to the manager Alberto Riboletti, the teachers Sabrina Martinelli, Antonia Romano, Patrizia Briano, Sira Margiacchi, and the Municipality of Terranuova Bracciolini which financed it. 

In 2012, after completing the third grade, the pupils of the classes involved achieved more than satisfactory results. I believe that extending the course until the end of the eighth grade is useful for children (if not indispensable) because the learning of writing must be accompanied by continuous attention to the forms, so that their gesture matures in a clear and well-structured way even in speed that they acquire over the years.

First Year 
The project was launched in November 2009, when the school year had already started. Four elementary classes and the four teachers mentioned took part in it. The teachers had already submitted the uppercase and would soon be introducing the lowercase as well. Some of them had also already decided to work with squared notebooks. It was therefore decided to start in each class with one hour of lessons per week. During this hour, which we have called “calligraphy hour”, I started introducing the lower case according to the Italic model. Compared to the lower case that the teachers would have proposed, the model I proposed had the advantage of presenting few variations: a different form of a and the execution of most of the letters with a single stroke. I would have shown italics in calligraphy class, but the children would only use it in class from the second year. My first year lessons therefore mainly concerned the rhythms and shapes of lowercase letters.To keep alive the link between writing and drawing, between writing and artistic expression, each child was asked to create a specific booklet for calligraphy exercises , working with markers on fifth-lined sheets, and then - at the end of the year - also creating the cover with writings and drawings on sheets without lines.

Second Year
Thanks also to the introductory lessons of the first year, the children switched to cursive without great difficulty. There was no shortage of children afflicted with dyslexia or attention difficulties in the classes, and of course there were left-handers. In addition, each child held the pen differently and the height of the desks, although it allowed the children to rest their feet well on the ground, was often not suitable for promoting the correct posture for writing. Since most of these problems do not concern my specific knowledge, it was soon decided to involve Laura Bravar, a testist at the Child and Adolescent Neuropsychiatry Unit of the IRCCS "Burlo Garofolo" of Trieste. However, it must be said that this model is made on purpose to help children with problems: thanks to its clarity and simplicity (to get italics just add ligatures to the lower case, without introducing new graphemes and without introducing capital letters for italics) writing and therefore offers the possibility of maintaining order and concentration in other subjects such as mathematics.

Third Year 
Most children developed very clear and well-paced writing. Some of them, eager to write small, had problems with the lines (little definition of the body of the letter compared to ascenders and descendants, for example) and therefore some classes have decided to replace the fifth lines with the second ones, or to have them adopted only by children who needed them. Writing too small does not allow the shapes to be executed well and in addition proves to be a way to hide these difficulties of execution, so it is preferable to encourage medium to large writing at least until the shapes are done correctly and with a fluent writing. 

Difficulties encountered
First of all, a meeting was immediately necessary with the parents, who complained that they did not know the new writing model proposed. The meeting was of great help and the parents not only understood, but began to experience this project themselves with involvement and enthusiasm. We learned from this that they must be involved upstream, before the start of the project, and that they too could be offered useful lessons to understand and learn this new model. 

From the first year there was the problem of textbooks that do not have examples of italic cursive writing. Throughout the school year I continued to write texts and send them to teachers who gave them to the children in photocopies, but it was soon realized that it was necessary to create a digital font to be made available to teachers so that they could easily produce texts for the learning by children. 

On the other hand, some erroneous habits in children's writing are often due to inaccuracies in the writings of the teachers, which they take as a model. It is therefore important to periodically check and possibly correct both children's and teachers' writings.

The point of view of the teachersi

"The pilot project for the introduction of a new model of cursive writing intrigued me a lot, at first I was a bit skeptical, but then I had to change my mind ... I liked it! During the calligraphy hour I noticed that the children were working with a lot of serenity, they had fun, everything seemed easier, the novelty scared us adults more. What surprised me the most is that the children came to write in italics without any forcing, in a natural way, from the script simply with ligatures. It didn't seem real to me! My biggest concern was italics, especially capital letters. Have you ever tried to write ak or kappa in uppercase italics? This experience was very positive, not only for children but also for children. teachers. Learning, even if not perfectly, this new handwriting has also improved my handwriting. "
Antonia Romano, teacher.

"Children, enthusiastic about writing and practicing with markers, learn to write italics naturally, without forcing. From the 'script' by adding simple ligatures, they get to write in italics without distorting or changing the letters and therefore also the presentation it's unique."
Sabrina Martinelli, teacher.


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