Old-School Skills That Are Still Worth Learning

Here at Technapex we believe that handwriting is important, and today we were sad to learn that Kansas’ State Board of Education is now thinking of eliminating cursive instruction from their state curriculum. After all, cursive writing is not a requirement in the Common Core State Standards for English, which are soon to be adopted across the nation.

So, does all this matter? In the age of technology, with smartphones and tablets and computers, what’s the point of teaching cursive to a new generation that will most likely type all meaningful documents they’ll ever write?

Turns out, this skill does matter. Last week in Annie Murphy Paul‘s article in TIME, she explained the importance of practicing handwriting and other old-school skills many educators are quick to deem outdated.

For example, Murphy tells the story of high school English teacher Suzanne Kail, who recently documented her findings in English Journal on what happened when she went back to teaching her students the Latin and Greek roots of words. As a progressive teacher, Kail was hesitant to ask kids to memorize root words: “Asking kids to do rote memorization was the antithesis of what I believed in most,” she wrote.

But the root memorization proved effective, as students began to see patterns in root words, which helped increase their vocabulary and figure out the meanings of words in context more easily. Many of them found that knowing the Greek and Latin roots of words helped them on standardized tests, including the SAT. Although Kail wasn’t wild about enforcing rote memorization in the beginning, she ultimately concluded: “The key was taking that old-school method and encouraging students to use their knowledge to practice higher-level thinking skills.”

Murphy goes on to describe other “outdated” skills that still prove valuable in recent studies. They include:

  • Drilling: Turns out drilling kids on math facts such as the multiplication table helps them achieve rapid mental retrieval, and some researchers attribute the achievement gap between American and Chinese students’ math scores to the Chinese schools’ emphasis on drilling math facts.
  • Handwriting: Research shows that when young readers form letters by hand, they  develop fine motor skills and increase their abilities to recognize letters.
  • Argumentation: Studies show that when students construct arguments based on the material they’re learning in class, they demonstrate a deeper understanding of the material.
  • Reading aloud: I could tell you from experience that this one is a no-brainer, as I always found my students to be far more engaged when we’d read aloud in class versus when they’d read silently, but it’s nice to know that research supports this practice. Studies show that when students are read to frequently by their teacher, their vocabulary and understanding of syntax and sentence structure improve.

Check out the rest of Murphy’s article here.

What do you think of teaching these old-school skills in the classroom? Sound off in the comments below, or tweet your opinion to @Technapex or @ce_doyle.

Caity Doyle

Caity is a former English teacher and the editor of Technapex. Caity is extremely passionate about education and is TriplePoint PR's resident edtech expert. When not researching education policy and edtech, she enjoys running along the Bay Trail while blaring the Boss through her headphones, watching the Giants beat the Dodgers, and meeting fellow Italians in North Beach.

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About Caity Doyle

Caity is a former English teacher and the editor of Technapex. Caity is extremely passionate about education and is TriplePoint PR's resident edtech expert. When not researching education policy and edtech, she enjoys running along the Bay Trail while blaring the Boss through her headphones, watching the Giants beat the Dodgers, and meeting fellow Italians in North Beach.