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New, effective handwriting curriculum at Desert Mesa
A classroom volunteer at Desert Mesa Elementary School saw the need for a new, more effective handwriting model for students, so she took it upon herself to create one — no matter what the cost.
Jacqueline Sund, a winter visitor who volunteers daily at Desert Mesa, noticed that students were having difficulties forming letters using their old curriculum.
“They didn't have any sense of how a letter went together. My heart goes out to children who are struggling in school. We need to give them the right tools to get it done correctly.”
So she spent six months researching various handwriting models and came up with the her own called the Sunshine Scripting System which she has spent $5,000 of her own funds to develop.
“I had a little inheritance from my mom and I thought, ‘What would Mom want me to do with this money?' And my mother loved children and I thought if I could help kids, I would dedicate this to her.”
Sund and co-creator Bob Vernarelli implemented the program in two kindergarten classes and one first-grade class on campus as well as in a few classes in Seattle.
Sund, who has her doctorate in education, explained that the concept is to include a number of uppercase cursive letters into the printed alphabet, to decrease the amount of letters that children have to learn. She explained that they also grouped the letters that have common features to help the students develop their motor memory.
The program has been shown to be 15 to 24 percent more efficient than other printing styles because of the reduction of strokes required to script the letters, she said.
“Researchers have found the neurological connections made in the brain when children are writing by hand have a direct tie to math and reading ability,” said Sund.
“Students who were shown to have fine motor skill development in preschool and kindergarten recorded significantly higher scores in reading and math in the fourth and fifth grade.”
Sund noted that they wanted to create an inexpensive program for teachers and districts that would be offered as a subscription.
“I'm not interested in making money on this. At some point in time I have to be a realist. I can't keep financing it forever, but our idea is that we would offer this as a $30 subscription fee and once the district pays it, it's theirs forever. The materials are inexpensive and the school can reproduce the materials — we're not in the publishing business.”
Sund added that Vernarelli told her that even if they never made a nickel, she would still be willing to devote the time to develop the program if it helped kids.
Most handwriting programs can cost up to $1,100 just to implement it in one kindergarten classroom alone, she explained.
Sund said that Desert Mesa Principal Eula Baumgarner has been very supportive of the implementation of the program on their campus.
“It just makes sense,” Baumgarner said, explaining that Sund is dedicated to seeing the program through and spends one-on-one time working with students that may need extra assistance.
Baumgarner added that Sund has also taken all of the children's suggestions into account as well as the teacher's thoughts about the program.
“We wanted to be responsive to what we saw that the kids needed,” she said. They went in and revamped the program to make it more kid-friendly for students in preschool, kindergarten and first-grade.
First-grade Desert Mesa teacher Jennifer Henderson said that the students in her class have gone through the program this year and love it.
The program they had been using prior to Sunshine Scripting Systems was hit or miss with students, and Henderson was finding that while their letters might look all right in the end, the process it took to get them there was arduous.
“It seemed more kid-friendly and age appropriate ... and the cost is not prohibitive and teachers have to provide a lot of what they do themselves,” Henderson said.
Henderson added that the program is easy to use, especially with a few hearing impaired students in her class.
“That's why I think this program has a lot of merit ... Once they get started and they get the concept, it's going to be self-directed and it won't rely on the teacher being right there all the time,” said Sund.
To learn more about the program, visit www.SunshineScriptingSystems.com or contact Sund at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-360-239-9853.
Sarah Womer can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6858. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSSarahWomer or on Twitter at @YSSarahWomer.