The Joy of Teaching – An Evan-Moor Blog

Sharing creative ideas and lessons to help children learn

January 8, 2018
by Evan-Moor
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How to Incorporate Critical Thinking into Your School Day

Critical thinking on chalkboard

Students need to develop higher-order thinking skills such as inquiry, evaluation, and analysis to be successful in the classroom, on assessments, and in the real world. But how do you incorporate critical thinking activities into your already stuffed curriculum? Here are a few ideas that will challenge your students to use critical and creative thinking skills — and not overwhelm your schedule.

1. Extend Your Lessons with a Question
One simple and quick method to incorporate critical thinking activities into your day is to extend your lessons with a question. Questions should move beyond recalling and understanding of content into application, analysis, evaluation, and creation of learned skills. Here are some sentence starters incorporating Bloom’s Taxonomy levels of analysis, evaluation, and creation.

  • Analysis: How would you categorize…
  • Analysis: What could you infer from…
  • Evaluation: How would you compare…
  • Evaluation: Which do you think is better…
  • Creation: What might have happened if…

Book Cover of Daily Higher-Order Thinking Grade 32. Daily Challenge Question
Provide a daily challenge, which is ideal for morning work and to engage students in learning.

  • You can design your questions from lessons taught the previous day, using Webbs Depth of Knowledge wheel for keywords that require your students to think deeply. Students may record their responses in a journal or on a separate paper. (Levels three and four in the DOK wheel provide the most in-depth evaluation.)
  • Evan-Moor’s Daily Higher-Order Thinking classroom resource provides 30 weeks of daily challenges that focus on a behavioral verb. Students are required to use information they already know and apply higher-order thinking skills to solve a problem. These challenges can be completed independently or in small groups.

3. Critical Thinking Task CardsHigher-order thinking Task Cards
Create a task card box for center activities or early finishers with assignments that develop students’ higher-order thinking. Develop one concept/question for each task card with a focus on analysis, synthesis, inference, and application. Topics should include a diverse array of subjects spanning the curriculum and connect thinking skills with real-world situations.

These task card sample topics are from Daily Higher-Order Thinking, Grade 3:

  • Fill in the blank: I was carved by a river. I have very steep sides. If you speak to me, will respond with an echo. I am a _ _ _ _ _ _.
  • Unscramble the sentence: I wind blows the my fast hair run when
  • Use four digits to create three 2-digit numbers that can be rounded to 40. (Do not use a digit more than once in a number.)
    1, 4, 6, 3
  • Generate a word problem with these facts
    The blue whale is the largest of all the whales. It grows up to 100 feet (30 meters) long. The dwarf sperm whale is the smallest whale. It grows up to 9 feet (3 meters) long.
  • Imagine you are a sea creature on the bottom of the ocean. What sorts of adaptations, or body features, would you have that would make it easier to survive in the deep?

There are many different ways to encourage your students to think critically and creatively about the world around them. How do you incorporate critical thinking into your school day?

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Heather Foudy is a certified elementary teacher with over 7 years’ experience as an educator and volunteer in the classroom. She enjoys creating lessons that are meaningful and creative for students. She is currently working for Evan-Moor’s marketing and communications team and enjoys building learning opportunities that are both meaningful and creative for students and teachers alike.

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Globe with geography games and activities title

January 2, 2018
by Evan-Moor
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Geography Games and Activities for Home

Globe with geography games and activities titleGeography games and activities are a great method to promote global awareness within your home. Here are some simple activities that introduce your child to the world – including geography concepts and cultural awareness — without breaking your travel budget.

1. Encourage free exploration of maps and globes around your home.

  • Try putting together a map puzzle. Younger children will have success with larger puzzle pieces.
  • Invite your child to pick a place on the map or globe and plan a make-believe trip. Have him or her design a travel itinerary with places to visit, clothes to pack, and transportation.

girl eating sushi2. Explore food around the world by introducing multicultural recipes. Make it a party and invite friends to bring a dish from a specific country or culture.

3. Help your child draw a map of your home to introduce spatial awareness. Be sure to have your children label each room and include drawings of furniture.

4. When you travel, discuss the route you will drive and draw a map.image of map with push pins in it

  • Introduce terms such as north, south, east, and west as well as abbreviations such as S.W., S.E., N.W., and N.E.
  • Encourage your children to read a map in the car or look at your vehicle’s GPS monitor as you drive.

5. Read books about different places and people. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Beginner’s World Atlas (National Geography Kids)
  • The Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the World (Lonely Planet Kids)
  • Kids Around the World Cook!: The Best Foods and Recipes from Many Lands by Arlette N. Braman
  • Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China by Ai-Ling Louie
  • Once There Was a Story: Tales from Around the World, Perfect for Sharing by Jane Yolen

Skill Sharpeners Geography Book Cover6. Introduce geography activity books such as Skill Sharpeners: Geography! These colorful activity books are a wonderful combination of fun and learning. The interactive activities allow children to explore the world while learning important map skills and geography concepts.

Promote free observation and inquiry within your home while teaching your children to be globally minded. What activities do you enjoy that build children’s geography awareness?

 

 

 

Skill Sharpeners Geography enrichment cover titlePin it here.

 

 

 

 

 


Heather Foudy is a certified elementary teacher with over 7 years’ experience as an educator and volunteer in the classroom. She enjoys creating lessons that are meaningful and creative for students. She is currently working for Evan-Moor’s marketing and communications team and enjoys building learning opportunities that are both meaningful and creative for students and teachers alike.

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December 18, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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3 Benefits of Homeschooling While Traveling Overseas

My homeschooling adventures began ten years ago when my daughter was six years old. At the time, I had no idea that my personal life and career were going to change radically, requiring my daughter and me to travel frequently. We have experienced many life lessons on this homeschooling adventure. Here are 3 of the most surprising ones:

1. A new understanding and practice for connecting socially

I am frequently asked, by people who do not understand homeschooling, if my homeschooled daughter is missing out on social situations. I found the opposite to be true. Because of our travel, my daughter learned to communicate and interact with individuals of varying age, race, and gender. In my opinion, our travel provided unique opportunities for my daughter to learn social skills and provided her with the confidence to approach any individual. As she grew older, my daughter learned to be interested in conversations that were not age specific. She would also show immediate compassion for a person younger in age and have no qualms about intermingling socially with an older age group. Today, with ten years of experience in connecting with a variety of people, I can confirm she has developed a high level of social intelligence.

2. Language, geography, culture, math, history, and other subjects become relevant in practice with tangible action

Access to good educational material such as Evan-Moor resource books is necessary in assuring that a level of the curriculum is maintained for a child’s learning expectations. However, with travel, the brain is allowed to connect concepts within a subject matter to the surrounding environment, helping learning to come alive.

Here are a few examples of how to extend learning while traveling:

  • Start a journal with your child and have him or her use it for writing, drawing, or pasting pictures to express what he or she discovers while traveling.
  • Allow your child to manage the money for a day. Math lessons regarding money are best learned when the homeschooler is allowed to manage the day’s travel budget. Although the language of money is a universal one, we have to learn to communicate it in different currencies as well as accepting differing ideas regarding money.
  • Cook and prepare locally inspired food. Sourcing and preparing food in the country of travel allowed us to learn the extensive range of a food’s ingredients in a country and learn more about the local culture.

3. Adaptability – a necessary skill for the new world
Homeschooling while traveling overseas forces lessons in flexibility upon us. It provided multiple opportunities to create and design varied learning experiences. As we travelled, we learned to adapt ourselves to our changing environments rather than expect others to accommodate us.

There are still so many more lessons to be learned. Travel is on our life agenda. I believe this means that we will be learning for a very long time.


Lara Jay Hequet is a life entrepreneur, certified and qualified in many fields of knowledge. She is a single parent to a fifteen year old daughter who is ‘lifeschooled’ for the last ten years. Together, they travel the world creating life stories and capturing stories of other wonderful people via film and the spoken word.

She is the founder of wowageing.com, a community of people who choose to Live Older instead of growing older. She intends to inspire and support unique individuals and their parents in the art of homeschooling.

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December 4, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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Every Snowflake Is Different: Snowflake Crafts and Writing Prompts for Your Classroom

Inspire creative writing in your classroom this month with paper snowflakes, lovable snowmen and winter writing prompts!

What is a winter wonderland without snowflakes? Turn your classroom into a beautiful paper blizzard with a fun and easy snowflake project for your students. All it requires is paper, scissors, and a little creativity. While making snowflakes can be simple enough, add a short writing prompt to encourage thinking. Let’s start with the snowflakes!

Snowflake Paper Craft Activity

How to make a snowflake with a circle:

  1. Start by cutting out a circle in your paper.
  2. Fold your circle into a semicircle with the curved edge facing you.
  3. Fold the left side over onto the right, forming a cone-looking paper.
  4. Cut out pieces from the outside of the paper. Be careful not to cut all the way through. You can also punch holes in your paper with a hole puncher.
  5. Unfold and behold your snowflake.

How to make a snowflake with a square:

  1. Start by cutting out a square with your paper, with the pointed side facing you, like a diamond.
  2. Fold the left point over to the right.
  3. Fold the bottom point to the top.
  4. Cut away from the edges. Be careful not to cut all the way through the paper.
  5. Unfold and behold your snowflake.

See this page for picture instruction.

Snowflake-inspired Creative Writing Prompts

Now that your classroom is decorated with beautiful paper snowflakes, ask your students to look around at the designs. Ask them what they notice when they compare the snowflakes. Hopefully, with maybe a little hinting, they’ll notice that no two snowflakes are exactly the same. There is an estimated 1 in a million trillion chance of finding twin snowflakes.

Suggested writing prompts:

  • Like a snowflake, how are you different than those around you?
  • What makes you a special snowflake?
  • If you were a snowflake, where would you want to fall?

Snow man bulletin board with snowflakesSnowman Bulletin Board

Download this snowman bulletin board and make your classroom transformation complete. Option: add students’ paper snowflakes and creative writing samples.

Winter brings the perfect opportunity for your students to express their creativity in beautifying the classroom with decorations. It also allows for a chance for kids to embrace that everybody is different in their talents, looks, and personalities.

 

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Christine Wooler has experience working with children as a youth soccer coach and babysitter. She is currently a senior in high school and working as the copy editor of the school’s yearbook. She plans to study English and Journalism in college.

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November 29, 2017
by Evan-Moor
1 Comment

How to Teach Evidence-Based Writing in 5 Easy Steps

Evidence-based writing is an important component in today’s writing curriculum. Students are expected to support their writing with text-based evidence and clear arguments. These writing lessons can become overwhelming and laborious for teachers and students alike. Keep confusion to a minimum by strategically scaffolding your writing lessons into bite-sized steps. Here are some strategies to help you scaffold your evidence-based writing lessons.

Strategies for text-based writing Looking for evidence for text-based writing poster

1. Identify the purpose 

Have students answer the following questions

  • What are we going to read about?
  • What are we going to learn about?
  • What are we going to write based on this article?

2. Read the article closely

  • Read aloud with the class modeling think-alouds. It is important for students to hear and understand your thinking process as you are reading.
  • Point out interesting information and underline it.
  • Re-read parts that are difficult to understand and highlight information relevant to the writing prompt.

compare and contrast graphic organizer for citing textual evidence3. Organize the information

Graphic organizers are the perfect visual tool to organize information. Explain to students that the graphic organizers guide students through the planning process of writing their paragraphs.

 

 

4.Write

  • Use a visual tool on the board to demonstrate to students how the information within their paragraphs is related. The hamburger model is a popular visual to demonstrate these connections. This model demonstrates how topic sentences and details are related.
  • Read examples of well-written samples and discuss the elements that create a quality text.writing hamburger visual

 

Evan-Moor Sentence Starters charttypes of conclusions poster

5. Feedback

  • Resist the urge to mark every missing detail in red. Before you grade your students’ papers, decide what the key concepts of the lesson are and focus on those (especially for young writers).

Text-Based Writing Sample Lessons

Frequent practice analyzing texts and identifying evidence is the best method to improve your students’ analytical writing abilities. Evan-Moor’s Text-Based Writing: Nonfiction is a comprehensive classroom resource that gives students continual practice with citing text evidence. Each unit provides a nonfiction reading article, vocabulary and comprehension questions, graphic organizer, and writing page to guide students through their writing. Get your free sample lessons here.

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Heather Foudy is a certified elementary teacher with over 7 years’ experience as an educator and volunteer in the classroom. She enjoys creating lessons that are meaningful and creative for students. She is currently working for Evan-Moor’s marketing and communications team and enjoys building learning opportunities that are both meaningful and creative for students and teachers alike.

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child watering a light bulb for critical thinking

November 20, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Child’s Critical and Creative Thinking

child watering a light bulb for critical thinkingCritical and creative thinking, like any other skill, must be exercised and challenged to grow. Children are increasingly spending more time in front of screens, while studies are telling us they need more time away from technology to develop their imaginations. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children between the ages of four and five have less than one hour of screen time per day while children six and older have consistent limits placed on their screen time.

When my children were young, my husband and I agreed to limit the time our children spent in front of screens and to encourage creativity, personal interaction, and critical thinking. We still allow monitored television and tablet games during the weekend, but our primary focus is teaching our children to tap into their own imaginations.

Television and the Internet offer so much uncensored content and information. How is your child assimilating and evaluating that information? In this digital age, it is important for children to learn how to screen out the distractions in their environment and critically analyze the world around them. Improving analytical and creative thinking through mental exercises develops the habits of imagining, experimenting, and questioning and builds internal tools within our children to evaluate the world around them.

Alternatives to screen time

  • Games: Introduce new games and puzzlesstack of games and puzzles
  • Reading: Encourage reading (find funny comics such as Calvin and Hobbes, Disney’s Donald Duck and Goofy, Scooby Doo, and Looney Toons.)
  • Art: Set out blank paper and crayons…your kids’ creativity might surprise you
  • Family night: Designate a family reading night (Little House on the Prairie and Indian in the Cupboard are classics).
  • Activity Books: Evan-Moor’s Never-Bored Kid  activity books foster creativity and higher-order thinking with puzzles, mazes, crafts, word games, art projects, and games. Skill Sharpeners: Critical Thinking activity books offer creative and fun activities that challenge your child to use higher-order thinking skills such as analyzing, inferring, solving, and creating.
  • Get your free superhero activity here!
    super hero activity pages super hero activity page

 

Skill Sharpeners Critical Thinking Cover of kids activity book Green Paper Grasshopper activity Blue and red paper superhero Small child cutting out butterflies from activity book Never Bored Kids activity book cover

Education should not be left to the classroom alone. As parents, we are instructing our children every day in our conversations, interactions, and habits. How are you educating your children?

Education is not the learning of facts. It’s rather the training of the mind to think.
-Albert Einstein

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Heather Foudy is a certified elementary teacher with over 7 years’ experience as an educator and volunteer in the classroom. She enjoys creating lessons that are meaningful and creative for students. She is currently working for Evan-Moor’s marketing and communications team and enjoys building learning opportunities that are both meaningful and creative for students and teachers alike.

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paint and paint brushes laid out

November 13, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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The Case for Art in Schools and Ways to Integrate Art into Your Lessons

Art is getting squeezed out of the curriculum. Yet art shouldn’t be an afterthought in our children’s education, but integrated into every subject to inspire students’ creativity, emotion, and higher-level thinking.

Evan-Moor Educational Publishers was founded by two teachers who were passionate about incorporating art into the curriculum. The first book ever published by Evan-Moor, in 1970, Art Moves the Basics Along, incorporated basic drawing activities into lessons to motivate children to learn. We still believe that art is an important component of today’s curriculum!

Here are three top reasons to preserve art lessons in schools and suggestions for integrating art activities to inspire children to learn:

Why We Should Keep Art Lessons in Schools

  1. The arts are an important component of learning and brain development in young students. Art lessons develop students’ essential thinking tools, such as pattern recognition and symbolic and abstract representations, while supporting core content areas.
  2. Art influences all areas of the curriculum. The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth Study revealed that access to arts in education improves children’s psychological, social, and academic outcomes, especially for low-income students.
  3. Art can improve students’ motivation, concentration, and collaboration with peers and build lasting connections between students and their community. Integrate the Arts, Deepen the Learning demonstrates how one school developed their students’ critical thinking and collaboration skills through thoughtful integration of the arts into their curriculum. Student engagement increased significantly within the school with the infusion of art-related lessons and content.

Ways to Integrate Art into Your Curriculum

Even if your school does not have an art instructor, you can still find simple ways of incorporating art into your busy school day. By taking the time to complete an art project, you can encourage creative thinking and expression within your classroom.

For example, combine your math lesson on repeating patterns and geometry with an art lesson on tessellations. (A tessellation is a repeating pattern of geometric shapes.) Download your free tessellations art activity here (from How to Teach Art to Children). This art lesson includes a brief study of the famous artist M.C. Escher and additional literature references about his work.

 

If you are looking for simple, age-appropriate art activities, How to Teach Art to Children and ArtWorks for Kids are great options with hundreds of art project ideas. These resources include step-by-step instructions, teach the elements of art, and include accompanying literature describing the famous artists who used these techniques.

From: How to Teach Art to Children

From: How to Teach Art to Children

From: ArtWorks for Kids

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do you incorporate art into your lessons? Please share.


Heather Foudy is a certified elementary teacher with over 7 years’ experience as an educator and volunteer in the classroom. She enjoys creating lessons that are meaningful and creative for students. She is currently working for Evan-Moor’s marketing and communications team and enjoys building learning opportunities that are both meaningful and creative for students and teachers alike.

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November 7, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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Patriotic Lessons and Activities for Veterans Day

Veterans Day lessons and activities teach our students about the sacrifices and patriotism of American soldiers who have served our country. American history lessons are important to help students understand the meaning and significance behind this holiday.

November 11 marks a national holiday that honors the men and women who have served in our armed forces. It was originally called Armistice Day to commemorate the end of WWI and the signing of the armistice in 1918 “on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.” It was renamed Veterans Day in 1954 to include veterans of all wars.

Honor veterans in your community by engaging in one of these Veterans Day activities:

  1. Invite a local veteran to come to your classroom and share his/her experience.
  2. Write thank-you letters to local veterans within your community.
  3. Teach about the origins of the American flag and what it symbolizes. Download this free unit for grades 1–3: Name That Flag
  4. Give students a brief history of Washington D.C. and take them on a map tour of our nation’s capital. Download this free unit for grades 4–6: Our Nation’s Capital.
  5. Brainstorm and write about ways students can serve their community and country.

Cover image of U.S Facts and Fun activity bookName That Flag lesson for grades 1-3

U.S Facts and Fun cover image of workbook for grades 4-6Our Nation's Capital lesson for grades 4-6

Carve out some time in your classroom to reflect on the service and sacrifice of our veterans.

Save this Patriotic Lessons and Activities pin on Pinterest.


Heather Foudy is a certified elementary teacher with over 7 years’ experience as an educator and volunteer in the classroom. She enjoys creating lessons that are meaningful and creative for students. She is currently working for Evan-Moor’s marketing and communications team and enjoys building learning opportunities that are both meaningful and creative for students and teachers alike.

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pumpkin pie classroom activity directions

November 1, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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Pie, Please! – Creative Writing Prompts for November and Thanksgiving

pumpkin pie classroom activity directionsKeep students writing in November with Thanksgiving-themed creative writing prompts. These topics can be used as journal free writes or paragraph-writing practice.

Free Creative Writing Activity – Pie, Please!

In this Thanksgiving creative writing activity, students are asked to imagine their favorite kind of pie and describe what happens next when they see the pie sitting on the counter, just waiting. Ideal for grades 2–6.

Story Starters:

  • Five things I am most thankful for
  • Compare the first Thanksgiving to the way your family celebrates
  • Pretend you are living in Plymouth Colony and write a letter to a friend in London
  • If I could speak to Squanto, I would ask…
  • If I were a child on the Mayflower…

Quick Write Topics:

  • If I were an animal, I would be…
  • The food I like the most
  • The food I hate the most
  • How to grow a pumpkin
  • Grandma’s house

These creative writing prompts are from Giant Write Every Day: Daily Writing Prompts, grades 2–6.

 

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Image of Theresa WoolerTheresa Wooler has more than 10 years’ experience in K–6 classrooms as a parent volunteer and homeschool educator, has taught high school English, and is currently involved in education through Evan-Moor’s marketing communications team

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Beginning cursive instruction paper

October 31, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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Cursive…Is It a Necessity or a Waste of Time?

Beginning cursive instruction paperMany argue that cursive is an obsolete skill in today’s technology-driven world. What is the best way to approach handwriting instruction in schools? Should cursive instruction be replaced with technology?

Handwriting, both manuscript and cursive, are important foundations in children’s development of thinking, language, and memory. Studies have repeatedly proved that writing verses typing stimulates the connections between the right and left hemispheres of the brain in areas of memory and language. In a 2014 study from The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking, students who hand wrote their notes outperformed their typing peers on conceptual questions in three separate studies. However, is it necessary to teach both?

Hidden handwriting benefits

“I don’t want my children wasting their time on something they will never use,” is a common phrase I hear. However, what these parents are not taking into account are the hidden benefits to children of written expression.

All children develop their own type of writing by the time they enter middle school. The method they choose for taking notes and writing is the fastest and most efficient method for them. Differentiation within education allows children the freedom to study with the learning method that best suits their brain development. If we eliminate cursive in support of more technological pursuits such as coding, we will be handicapping a generation of young learners.

Teach it and let the students decide

Schools should make a little time in their curriculum for cursive instruction. Just as we support music, art, technology, and physical education within our schools, we must include this learning tool as a foundational stepping stone for students to make discoveries about themselves and how they learn.

In your child’s school, typing should not replace handwriting instruction. Studies show that these two skills activate very different parts of the brain. In a study conducted by Virginia Berninger, a psychologist at the University of Washington, they found that neural development increases in language, memory, word recognition, and emotion with handwriting verses typing.

Easy methods for teaching handwriting

Cover of cursive handwriting bookIf you are looking for simple and easy resources to practice handwriting at home or school, check out Evan-Moor’s Daily Handwriting Practice. Available for grades K–6, Daily Handwriting Practice is available in four titles: modern manuscript, traditional manuscript, traditional cursive, and contemporary cursive. Daily writing exercises help students master handwriting skills in 15 minutes a day or less.

What does the research say?

Campaign for Cursive research

What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades

The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking

 


Heather Foudy is a certified elementary teacher with over 7 years’ experience as an educator and volunteer in the classroom. She enjoys creating lessons that are meaningful and creative for students. She is currently working for Evan-Moor’s marketing and communications team and enjoys building learning opportunities that are both meaningful and creative for students and teachers alike.

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