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Learning to Write and Its Effects on Communication

From the early days of Head Master Virgil Hillyer, author of “A Child’s History of the World,” to the Reflection speeches of today, learning to write has been central to the Calvert School mission for nearly 125 years.
Throughout the School’s rich history, Calvert has supported more than 46 alumni authors as they gained the foundation needed to write their stories, and now, Calvert students and teachers alike continue to emphasize penmanship, self-reflection, and Calvert Script while learning to write.
"Writing is the most important of all studies for the beginner as it involves spelling, penmanship, punctuation, capitalization, and also reading as well as composition,” Hillyer once said. “In other words, it combines six studies in one.”

Learning to Write in Elementary School

In the Lower School, our youngest girls and boys begin their lessons by physically learning to write the alphabet, also taking note of upper and lowercase letters, left-to-right alignment, and pencil grip. As they move out of Fifth Age and into Sixth, the students continue practicing handwriting and fine motor skills while their teachers begin teaching penmanship.
In Seventh Age, penmanship lessons expand to include personal compositions and learning to write in cursive, specifically a formal style of handwriting called Calvert Script.

What is Calvert Script?

Calvert Script is a style of handwriting that simplifies traditional cursive and has been taught to Calvert students for decades. One of the hallmarks of a Calvert education, Calvert Script depicts capital or uppercase letters using the same characters seen in print handwriting. Lowercase letters are similar to traditional cursive, and all characters are structured straight up and down rather than italicized (slight upward right slant).
Once they have a firm grasp on Calvert Script, Lower School students learn about writing in a less physical sense, transitioning from learning to hold a pencil or shape a letter to how and why certain letters behave the way they do. After meaning and purpose are assigned to such words, the students begin to use them to communicate and craft messages.
In the Lower School, this starts with the boys and girls expanding their vocabularies to write short personal compositions, narratives, poems, and more, all of which are safely stored in their folder papers, traditional Calvert portfolios. These folder papers follow the students as they rise through the Lower School, and they grow in tandem with the students’ composition skills as the boys and girls are exposed to increasingly complex readings and diverse topics such as science, history, and foreign language.
Over time, penmanship, handwriting, grammar, and composition transform from four independent skills to one set of vital communication tools, culminating in each student’s Middle School Reflection speech.

The Middle School Reflection Speeches

As part of their final year at the School, Calvert Eighth Graders are each challenged to write a speech that recounts a special memory or expresses a meaningful message to their peers. A key part of Calvert’s leadership curriculum, the Reflection speech requires each student to select and describe a narrative, work one-on-one with teachers to fine-tune its message, and deliver the finished speech in front of their friends and classmates.
In many ways, these Reflection speeches mark the climax of each students’ time at Calvert, combining the composition lessons learned in Lower School with the subjects and opportunities of their 10-year journeys. As Hillyer described, writing encapsulates at least six different skills – and while modern Middle Schoolers often trade penmanship for keyboarding, they maintain the strong foundations of grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and composition gained during those early Lower School lessons.

Meet our Calvert School Alumni Authors

Here at Calvert School, we are proud to provide students with the tools they need to write their life stories – and for many of our alumni, that involves literal writing. The School has fostered more than 46 alumni authors, including notable figures Scottie Fitzgerald ’33 and John Waters ’58.
Calvert School is a coed independent lower and middle school.