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Before reading, ask students to agree or disagree with each of the statements below. You might poll students and record the number of students who agree and disagree with each statement. (Note: After reading this week’s news story, you might take the poll again to see if students’ opinions change.)
# Handwriting is an important skill to learn.
# People who write neatly are smarter than people who have sloppy handwriting.
# Students should get more handwriting instruction in school than they get now.
# People judge others by their handwriting.
# I should work hard to improve my handwriting.

# fountain pen -- a pen that contains a reservoir of ink that automatically feeds ink to its writing tip (If this is your students’ first exposure, you might share with them one of these pictures of fountain pens.)
# old-fashioned -- something that is characteristic of a past era (period in history)
# cursive -- a type of handwriting that flows smoothly across the page; not printing

# Bryan Lewis, principal at the Mary Erskine and Stewart's Melville Junior School in Edinburgh, Scotland, says using old-fashioned fountain pens has helped boost the academic performance of his 1,200 pupils. Out in the real world, he says, students still need to have proper handwriting skills. “The pens improve the quality of work because they force the children to take care, and better work improves self-esteem,” Lewis told ABC News.
# At his school, students begin to use fountain pens as young as age 7. By the time they reach age 9 (grade 5), they write mainly with fountain pens. Ten-year-old Cailean Gall told ABC that it was hard to learn to write with a fountain pen because he kept smudging, but now he finds it strange to use a pencil. He says he likes using the fountain pen because it makes him concentrate much more on his work.
# Students at the school still do their math work in pencil.
# Is cursive handwriting a dying art? In 2006, handwritten essays were introduced as part of the SAT college entrance exams. Essay-graders noticed that only 15 percent of students wrote their essays in cursive handwriting.
# Many of today’s students have not been taught to write cursive style; they struggle to read cursive too. Instead, they are taught keyboarding skills starting as young as kindergarten. In the upper grades, many students take notes on laptop computers.
# Writing experts say that students who have weak handwriting skills produce simpler, shorter writing samples. Children who don't learn proper handwriting find it harder to write by hand, so they avoid it. Data shows that the better students are in penmanship, the more they write. And the more students write, the more they are able to improve as writers.
# A 2003 survey of primary-grade teachers found that most now spend 10 minutes a day or less teaching handwriting. The goal is to produce legible handwriting instead of perfect handwriting, teachers said.
# Researcher Steve Graham did an experiment with first-graders in Maryland. At the start of the experiment, the students could write 10 to 12 letters per minute. After nine weeks of handwriting lessons (three times a week for 15 minutes) the kids had doubled their writing speed, were writing more complex thoughts, and had better sentence construction skills.