So, my girls have been asking me to learn cursive. This has surprised me as I haven’t raised it with them. I never learned to write in cursive. In Australia we do “modified cursive” so there aren’t as many loops and whirls. In the past I haven’t really seen the need for it in this day and age of computers and typing, but I have been researching cursive and whether or not we should teach it. And what about typing? Shouldn’t that be more important? And when should we start teaching it?
It is true that the keyboard has taken over in recent years – we have tablets, smartphones, computers, and online learning. There are a lot more opportunities for online learning, online textbooks, etc than even 10 years ago. Does it mean an end to pen and paper? I certainly hope not! (I still choose to use them over the computer if I can.)
But do we need cursive? Is there any validity to teaching it? Not every State requires it. There are arguments for and against teaching it. I have found my position on cursive to change. I have never been against it – just not fully for it. Handwriting is something I think everyone needs to do – just wasn’t fully sure about cursive (maybe it is that capital G that threw me).
BENEFITS OF CURSIVE
Let’s take a little nerdy look at the benefits of cursive. I love looking at how the brain works, and I was pleasantly surprised at what handwriting and cursive can do for us.
- Improved neural connections. Cursive handwriting stimulates the brain in ways that typing cannot. It improves the way the left and right cerebral hemispheres interplay, it helps build neural pathways, and therefore increases mental effectiveness.
- Increased writing speed. There is something almost magical about not lifting up the pen or pencil that makes it faster. Even in modified cursive you are not lifting the pen as much.
- It improves fine motor skills. Cursive (or all handwriting) requires the integration of several senses simultaneously. Handwriting requires coordination of all five fingers to hold the pen. The motor skills needed to coordinate our fingers activates multiple areas of the brain: there is fine motor movement to control the pen, directional awareness (center, up, down, left, right) necessary for letter formation, kinesthetic awareness of the flow of the pen and hand across the paper, and visual recognition of the shapes of the letters.
- Spelling is better because there are visual, kinesthetic, auditory, and motor functions involved in letter formation and creating a word.
- Studies show that children who suffer from dyslexia benefit greatly from learning cursive. It can also help dyslexics distinguish easily confused letters such as “b,” “d,” “p” and “q.”
And I could probably go on. There are proponents who feel we should actually teach cursive before print. I do see their points and understand them the more I research this.
BENEFITS OF TYPING
So, what about typing? Shouldn’t there be more of a focus on it? Touch typing, or keyboarding (as it is also called) also has many benefits. It really does support students not only in education, but also in future careers. Typing used to be considered an office skill. But not anymore. Older students are expected to type papers for submission. Online students need to be able to do more than just point and click.
Let’s take a look at some benefits of typing:
- Typing quickly can save you time. For many children, when they learn to type correctly, they are faster than with handwriting.
- Typing is a life skill children will never forget. There is a lot of muscle memory involved in learning to type so, just like riding a bike, once learned you won’t forget.
- It can help children with dyslexia, ADHD, and dysgraphia. Some children with dyslexia find it easier to type than to write because of the tactile element. For ADHD children, typing can eliminate the messy aspect of handwriting. Children with dysgraphia will almost always produce better written work when typing on a computer keyboard.
- Once learned it can help focus on content. If you are able to type correctly and quickly, it becomes an unconscious practice and that means you can focus more on the content than on the writing.
- It makes drafting and editing easier. This can be great for some children in that they can do it all on the computer, can see their edits more easily, and can complete it quicker (than handwriting it out then typing it up).
Again, there are many more benefits we could list. I think we would all agree that typing is becoming a necessary skill even at a younger age.
CURSIVE OR TYPING?
So, what should we be teaching in light of all those great benefits? We teach both. Cursive is needed, as is typing. Even in a digital age handwriting is needed. I don’t foresee an immediate or near future where all needs for handwriting are eliminated. As we are becoming more and more based on technology, it is hard to find ways to keep cursive as part of the narrative – especially when people feel that we don’t have enough time to teach everything “needed” already.
We should incorporate handwriting into our life daily. And we should likewise be incorporating typing. It is a both/and situation.
So, we will be learning cursive here at home (even me – it will be fun to learn the traditional way and not the modified version I have learned). We will get a curriculum or workbook to help us so that we are doing it right.
And we will also learn touch typing so that the girls can do it correctly (I can’t, but I am fast in my own, crazy way).
Let’s not put one aside for the other. And let’s definitely not eliminate cursive.
The following are some good cursive curriculum you can use to teach your children cursive: