It is the year 2019 and the debate on whether or not we should teach cursive handwriting is still going strong. It is a little controversial in the education realm because there are two strong sides to this.
Do we need to be teaching it?
Is it an important skill when teaching handwriting for kids? Do we really need it in the day and age of computers and technology where so many tests are even being done on computers? It is no longer found in Common Core as emphasis and priority was given to technology.
What is cursive writing? It is known as the loops and whirls in writing, the joined up handwriting that flows better and gives better speed and fluency with writing. Well, let’s say that it is meant to give better speed and fluency in writing. So, should we spend time teaching it at school?
BENEFITS OF CURSIVE WRITING
Let’s look at some of the cursive handwriting benefits as presented by “experts” or people who just have strong opinions on it. And let’s look at some counter-arguments or explanations of the ideas.
Idea one: Cursive connects you to the past.
If you can’t write cursive you can’t read cursive and therefore can’t read such older documents like the Declaration of Independence.
Counter-argument: People have copied the text of these older documents so they can be read in a variety of print and fonts. You could also argue that many older documents were written in Latin, so should we learn Latin so we can read these older documents? I don’t think there are many people out there that would push for Latin as they would push for cursive.
Idea two: Cursive is faster to write.
Counter-argument: I have heard a number of children recently say that it is harder for them to write in cursive than it is to print, so it takes them longer. Even teachers are starting to recognize this. I understand that not having to stop and start with taking your pen off the paper when printing is quicker, but all children develop their own handwriting style and in that build their speed. For me personally, I have a mix of print and loops and write very fast. I developed what worked best for me.
Idea three: Teach cursive handwriting to get a neater signature.
Signing in cursive will improve the attractiveness, legibility, and fluidity of one’s signature.
Counter-argument: Honestly, how many signatures are a neat form of cursive? Do I need to be able to write my name in cursive? I am not sure I could say any of my friend’s signatures are beautiful cursive penmanship.
To me, my father’s signature looks nothing like his name. You can sign three x’s and, as long as you do this each time, it will be accepted. I have never heard a bank or other legal entity say “your signature isn’t a beautiful spelling of your name, please try again.”
Idea four: Teach Cursive handwriting builds improved neural connections.
Explanation: The physical act of cursive writing stimulates the brain in ways that typing cannot. The movement of the hand in the physical act of writing shows brain activity in regions of the brain that are involved in thinking, memory, and language. It also helps with comprehension and engagement. Taking notes in cursive showed that students were actually learning and understanding more than the students who typed notes as they listened to a lecture. I know that another great way to build neural connections is by reading, I’ve got a post on the importance of reading.
Idea five: Increased self-respect.
When you can write in cursive the clarity and fluidity improves student’s confidence and aids in their ability to communicate with the written word. Handwriting is a vital life skill.
Counter-argument: Yes, I would agree that handwriting is a vital life skill. But I would say that being able to write at all is a great skill – whether in print, cursive or a form of it. I learned modified cursive – have I missed out on a life skill? I do not know all the loops and whirls. Sure, I know how to join up some letters, but others are disconnected. Have I therefore been denied access to different parts of my brain? I honestly don’t think so. I feel that in learning to print, and then even in a modified cursive, I have triggered learning and working memory, and it has assisted with my ability to spell and write fluently.
Idea six: Cursive is of particular value to children with learning challenges such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, and difficulties with attention.
Explanation and counter-argument: There is the belief that cursive helps students with dyslexia because cursive helps with decoding through hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. Supposedly cursive is better for preventing reversals (like reading d as b). It also reduces word-spacing problems. But students who have dyslexia are still more likely to reverse letters in cursive as they are in print. For some having the spacing between the letters in print allows clearer images of the letters because they are not all running together. A simplified or modified version of cursive can be better for students with dyslexia and dysgraphia, but honestly, teaching them typing (keyboarding) shows the best assistance in reading and writing for these students.
Idea seven: Cursive is neater and more legible.
Counter-argument: I have seen printed handwriting that is both extremely neat and legible and completely illegible. I have seen cursive that is both legible and illegible. It is honestly up to the student the time they take to develop their own handwriting. Some students write in really large letters, some so small you almost need a magnifying glass. I have seen students write completely in capital letters.
This is honestly the age of computers, tablets, phone and the such
We need to help our children use these tools for success. So many forms are now filled out online and students need to be able to complete these with success. For the proponents of cursive who say that cursive assists with forms, I would ask what forms? If filling it out by hand they ask for printing or block letters – never in cursive.
TEACH HANDWRITING AS A SKILL
I do believe that we need to teach handwriting (printing etc) as a skill and work on fluency but do we need to be teaching cursive handwriting? Being able to write by hand enables you to get ideas down on paper quickly. I am still very much a pen and paper girl when it comes to writing lists, ideas, outlines, etc. I will then transfer them to computer or phone etc. Yes, I might be doubling up on my work, but I find I function so much better that way. I am grateful that I have neat writing (though I have scrawl with the best of them) and can write quickly. Older generations learned cursive so they tend to argue for learning it. I hear how not teaching cursive means it will become a lost art form.
People are not daily writing in beautiful calligraphy, but we can appreciate it as an art form. Younger generations are looking at computers and typing, realizing that they are skills they need to have to stay relevant and accessible. My children are not at an age where we are needing to think about learning cursive. I do debate with myself if it is a skill they need. Right now I am leaning towards teaching it as an art form, giving them the opportunity to learn it, but we will focus on fluency and legibility of their everyday handwriting.
CURSIVE HANDWRITING PRACTICE
Does your child learn cursive? Do they need to do cursive handwriting practice at home? It is a learned skill after all. How much time do you spend on it?
Maybe you are homeschooling and you are debating, like me, whether or not you want to teach cursive. If you are leaning towards teaching it, or need some practice, here are some links to some good cursive handwriting practice sheets:
I have been having some fun with cursive translators online. These are fun. They help you go from print to cursive. They can be as easy as converting between print and cursive in one step, or they are cursive text generators in that they show you the different cursive text or cursive fonts. I have even shown my girls to see if they can recognize the letters in cursive form rather than print; if they can tell which are cursive small letters or print small letters. For the most part they can. I was impressed. (After all, they are only 4 years old) This is a way of how I like to teach my girls – by using everyday situations to learn. If you would like to know more about that, check out my post on activity based learning.
What are your thoughts on cursive? I would love to hear them. Do you think we should still be teaching it as a form of handwriting or do you think it is taking time away from other educational instruction? I know I lean towards not teaching it, but that is more because I never learned it except in a modified form. That doesn’t mean my mind can’t be changed. Please comment below to share your thoughts.