I still receive regular traffic to my January post about poor handwriting–probably because people are googling “dysgraphia,” seeking information on this particular learning difference/motor skills problem.
That brief post didn’t offer any real insight into the issue—nor, sorry to say, does this one. I’ve never read any serious literature on the topic or consulted any specialists. I’m simply fascinated that some kids—often smart, creative, even coordinated and athletic ones—can’t control their hands and fingers well enough to write legibly. Bad handwriting just seems so easy to fix. Slow down, I tell my current dyslexic student, Big W. Write on the line. Space your letters and words appropriately. Unfortunately, with legit dysgraphia, that sort of advice doesn’t help….
So, anyway, last week my AP Lang students wrote another timed AP practice essay. Before the exam, I told Big W to try to write as clearly as possible. Here’s a page from his essay—apparently, this is the very neatest he can write:
I did eventually work through the circled words and the prose next to the “can’t read” complaint—but my deciphering took me extra time, because, yet again, I had to squint, backtrack, and deduce. (That said, the essay was a darn good one, I must admit. Enjoyed his rhetorical risks: “Fate does not skip a beat”; “The feud ends and Fate takes a bow.” But, my God—what a pain in the
ass eyes to read!)
Just a bit more on Big W. Although he’s earning a good grade in English, he’s shockingly disorganized. His binder is a cluttered mess and his submitted assignments are often crumpled or smudged or mis-stapled…. There may be some correlation between his poor handwriting and his disorganization–that is, I’ve noticed that many students with very bad handwriting also have problems with organization. Messy binders used to drive me mad when I was a newer teacher. Over the past few years, however, I’ve come to accept (and even embrace) the fact that some of these kids are incapable of keeping their stuff in order, a difficult change of attitude for this anal retentive person!
I’m certain other teachers deal with students like Big W every year. Any observations? Anecdotes? Advice?