Cursive Writing and Memorizing History and Poetry

This past entry addresses the dying art of letter writing (by hand and snail mail!). Cursive writing becoming a thing of the past looks at cursive writing’s decline in the classroom. Students typically learn cursive writing in third grade and I believe this should continue — but not with a heavy focus on getting it perfect.
Rather, the kids should remember how to do it and legibly. Just like learning new spelling words, they need to learn to read and write cursive. Neatness, like art, is subjective. Some people are good at it and some people aren’t.
Kids today have to learn more than kids did 10 years ago. They have computers and keyboarding added to their list of things to learn plus 10 more years of history. Remember memorizing the American presidents and the years they served? I clearly remember that from 9th grade, but I’ve forgotten the order and years. Is there any point memorizing this? Well, perhaps, it gives us an idea about when the president was in office. For instance, we know Lyndon B. Johnson didn’t serve anywhere near Lincoln or Adams — but somewhere around Kennedy and Carter.
My parents took me to Washington, DC for the first time when I was about 10 years old. We visited the Smithsonian museums where I bought presidential flash cards (OK, I was a nerd … sometimes). I learned them on my own, but promptly forgot them by the time I had to learn them again in 9th grade.
Where the Sidewalk Ends 30th Anniversary Edition: Poems and Drawings
We also memorized poems. I still recall the ones I had to say over and over:
* Shel Silverstein’s Captain Hook from Where the Sidewalk Ends in 2nd grade.
* The Highwayman in 7th grade.
* Edgar Allan Poe’s Eldorado in 7th grade
* Kipling’s If
* Mark Anthony’s Caesar speech in 10th grade
* Shakespeare’s All the World’s a Stage
I hated memorizing poems at the time. But you know what? Some of these have become my favorites. I can still recite Eldorado without help. There was a time when I was into finding poems like The Highwayman and discovered The Shooting of Dan McGrew by Robert Service. It turned out my grandmother was also a fan of his work and we spent a little time discussing his poems. As a result of this interest, I started writing epic style poems. Wish I had them (That’s why I try to pick some of my kids’ work and kept them in a safe place.).
In middle school today, kids learn about one poem per six weeks — depending on the class. The poems are tied to the curriculum.

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