Imagine a handwritten birthday card from your grandmother with the neat, devoted cursive writing that only grandma can create. Now imagine a birthday card written in the scrawling, proud script of your young child who just learned to connect letters. Handwriting can elicit such emotion and feeling among readers. Now Episcopal third graders are bringing back the art of letter writing. This spring, students participated in a pen pal project with St. James Place residents. Not only are they making meaningful connections, but they are also brushing up on cursive writing.
“My hopes and dreams for this year are to feel more confident in Math and to do well writing in cursive.” Molly
“My hopes and dreams for this year are to do well on Rocket Math and to work hard on my cursive writing.” Wynston
Each August, the third grade teachers have students set goals for themselves. Teacher Lauren Bilskie says every year students express interest and excitement about learning and perfecting cursive writing. “Learning cursive is sort of a rite of passage for our students,” says Bilskie. She says students are eager to learn the way each letter connects and it’s always an exciting day when they learn to link the letters of their own name with curves and loops.
Once students have the method down, Bilskie says they need practice with cursive writing and reading. Finding opportunities to practice cursive can be a challenge with students more accustomed to keyboards and touch screen devices. Fortunately, a national news story highlighting a pen pal program between senior living residents and students at a Dallas Episcopal school recently inspired Bilskie to create a similar program here. Knowing that several students have family members living at St. James Place, Bilskie felt the residents there would be the perfect match for these young writers. When she reached out to officials at St. James, Director of Active Lifestyles, Tanya Dickson, had actually heard about the same story and was ecstatic about the opportunity to connect students and residents.
The pen pal program was such an easy program to establish that Bilskie says she can’t believe they didn’t think of it sooner. Students started their written friendship by writing to a resident in cursive and asking them about their third grade teacher and their favorite school subject. The cursive responses came pouring in. Residents were excited to correspond with the young students with some even writing back with colorful, decorated notes. “This has made cursive so meaningful for all of us,” says Bilskie.
With this year’s success, Bilskie and her fellow teachers hope to organize the program again next year, with a few additions. Bilskie says they plan to start earlier in the year and may organize a trip to St. James Place so that the pen pals can meet in person. In the meantime, the correspondence may continue over the summer with students writing to their new friends about beach trips and camp adventures.