Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

An Investigation into English Handwriting Instruction in Iranian Elt: A Survey Study of Junior High School Teachers

Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

An Investigation into English Handwriting Instruction in Iranian Elt: A Survey Study of Junior High School Teachers

Article excerpt

1.Introduction

Despite the widespread use of computers and computerized devices, legible and eye-catching handwriting remains an important skill that deserves greater attention from educators and teachers. People used to present themselves to others and even to the world through their handwriting and are inevitably judged by it. From our earliest school days, success and failure are often measured in terms of neat handwriting. Handwriting performance is emphasized in the elementary grades, and students with difficulty may have lowered self-esteem and frustration because they are unable to fully express their knowledge in written form. By the end of the elementary grades, handwriting skill becomes more important as the frequency of note taking, composition, and essay test increases (Carlson, McLaughlin, Derby, & Blecher, 2008; Cronhill, & Case-Smith, 1996). When a child with poor handwriting is given a writing assignment, he or she may produce an incomplete response or one that the teacher cannot read. Illegible handwriting can create a barrier to accomplishing other higher order skills such as spelling and story composition (Feder, 2007).

Although there is an overall agreement among scholars interested in handwriting, saying that increasing grows of electronic typewriters and their marvelous power in saving time and energy is the main cause of handwriting death, Suddath (2009) looks at the issue from a different perspective. He believes that technology is only part of the reason because there are a few students in American high school using an in-class computer more than once a week, rather, testing and evaluation is more responsible. He claims that, "if something is not a test, it's viewed as a luxury" (p. 3). In other words, schools do not care how a student holds her pencil as long as she can read. He continued" don't blame computers for my chicken scratch. A shift in educational priorities has left an entire generation of American with embarrassingly bad penmanship" (p. 3).

Handwriting is often judged and seen as a reflection of an individual's intelligence or capabilities as illustrated by several studies in which lower marks were consistently assigned to students with poor handwriting and higher marks given to those with legible handwriting despite similar content (Feder, 2007; Graham, 2000; Suddath, 2009). In fact, it is common for students with poor handwriting to be mislabeled as lazy or lacking motivation, which causes further frustration and disappointment. A number of studies suggest that automatic handwriting is critical to the generation of thoughtful and wellstructured written text and has an impact not only on fluency but also on quality of writing (Graves, 1978; Medwell, Strand & Wray, 2007; Medwell & Wray, 2013). Automatic handwriting requires no cognitive attention, thus leaving more for the composition aspects of writing. Lack of automaticity in orthographicmotor integration can seriously affect young children's ability to express ideas in text (Graham, 1990).

Whereas some studies have been done on handwriting in English language contexts (e.g., Graham et al., 2008; Medweel et al., 2007), in Iranian EFL context, handwriting has not received the scholarly attention it merits. This study is a preliminary attempt to investigate the status of handwriting in an underexplored EFL setting, namely Iranian state schools. It seems that the necessity for teaching handwriting has been neglected in our English teaching pedagogy; in so doing we may have neglected a skill which makes a significant contribution to the composing, despite good evidence of its importance. The purpose of this study is to determine if EFL teachers feel that handwriting instruction is important, whether they teach it to their students, and how they teach it. It is also important to know if the teachers who do take time to teach handwriting to students have varying opinions on the impact handwriting has on students' writing scores when compared to the opinions of teachers who do not incorporate teaching handwriting into their instruction. …

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