Since we use technology so much
now—in school and at work—is cursive really important?
Isn’t it something we could do without?
Even though we live in a digital world,
learning cursive is still worth it. Here are six reasons why:
Writing in cursive brings more involvement from
the brain, and the extra involvement helps it develop.
In “Why Writing by Hand Could Make You Smarter,” William R. Klemm, Ph.D., writes, “The benefits
to brain development are similar to what you get with
learning to play a musical instrument. Not everybody can
afford music lessons, but everybody has access to pencil
Learning cursive encourages language
development by connecting the letters together in
writing, which encourages connections between letters
When you read, you connect the sounds together. So why not
connect the sounds together when you write? You can do
that in cursive like you can’t in print.
In “Brain Development Could Suffer as Cursive
Writing Fades,” Leah McLean reports that cursive
handwriting stimulates intelligence and fluency in
language more than writing in manuscript does.
Sure, we have computers and smartphones and
tablets with us most of the time, but not always. And
accidents happen—like dead batteries, broken screens, etc.
Writing in cursive or in a combination of manuscript and
cursive is faster than writing in manuscript.
If students don’t know cursive in the first place, the
only tool they have is manuscript writing (which requires
raising the pen from the paper to make each letter
separately instead of smoothly flowing word by word).
Cursive helps ideas flow faster, too. Katy Steinmetz reports
in “Meet the Mother—Daughter Team Set on Saving
Cursive” that students get more ideas for writing
assignments when they write by hand instead of using a
keyboard. So if they’re writing in cursive, they’ll be able
to come up with ideas faster and write them down more quickly.
It’s a win-win writing situation.
Imagine opening a card or letter—one written
in print, and one in cursive. Which one seems like it took
more time? Which one would you spend longer looking at?
The way writing looks can even influence grades.
Jaclyn Zubrzycki reports in
Education Week that according to Professor Steve Graham,
teachers give lower scores to tests with less-legible writing.
Everyone’s signature is unique, and
the way someone writes their signature can even tell you
something about them. (That’s part of why
there’s a field devoted to handwriting analysis,
With manuscript signatures, there’s less room
for creativity and personalization—and more room for
easier forgery. Perhaps that’s why so many official
documents require both a printed and a cursive signature.
There’s nothing quite like getting
a card in Grandma’s one-of-a-kind
cursive, flipping through an old family journal, or
studying your family tree.
But not learning cursive means not being able to read
those precious pieces that connect us with family.
That generations-old recipe? Someone who knows
cursive will have to “translate” it.
Does that really happen? Don’t students just
“pick it up” through the years?
In “The Case for Cursive,” published in The New
York Times, author Katie Zezima tells the story of a
22-year-old college student and her cousin
flipping through their grandmother’s journal not
long after she died—and not being able to read it.
Pieces of American history are lost when we can’t read
cursive, too. Yes, the Constitution and Bill of Rights can
be found in print online. But shouldn’t we be able to
stand in front of those documents (and others like it) and
be able to read them?
The coordination between the hand, the eye,
and the brain—plus the concentration required to learn
cursive—helps improve motor skills.
William Klemm, Ph.D., writes in “Why Writing by Hand Could Make You Smarter” that
“cursive writing helps train the brain to integrate visual,
and tactile information, and fine motor dexterity.”
If you teach cursive first, you’re taking full advantage
of its benefits on development.
And learning fine motor skills through cursive can have surprisingly
long-term results. In “Is Cursive’s Day in Classroom Done,” experienced educator
Jeffrey Mims, Jr., says that “cursive writing could be important
for children who grow to be a surgeon, a painter, or some other professional
requiring laser-like precision with their hands.”
This is one reason to teach cursive as listed above,
but it’s also a good reason to teach cursive first.
Learning cursive encourages language development by connecting the
letters together in writing, which encourages connections between
letters and sounds.
If students learn cursive first, they’re used to connecting
letters and sounds—making it simpler to learn to read and spell.
Cursive also helps make learning to read and spell easier by making
letters more distinct—and less easy to confuse. For instance,
b and d look very much alike in print, but they’re more unique
in cursive. So if students already know the difference between b and d
from learning cursive, they won’t have to focus on keeping them
straight when it comes to learning to read and spell.
When you learn something new—practicing and
practicing until you’re good at it—wouldn’t it
be hard to let go of everything you know and learn a whole new
way of doing it?
That’s what happens when students learn manuscript first.
Education expert Sam Blumenfeld says in “The Benefits of Cursive Writing,” “If you teach a
child to print for the first two years, that child develops writing habits
that will become permanent. Thus when you try to get your child to switch
to cursive in the third year, you will find resistance to learning a whole
new way of writing.”
Blumenfeld also says that if students learn print first, they may never
be able to write well in cursive. (On the other hand, he explains that students
who learn cursive first can easily learn to write in print later.)
According to “Learning Cursive in the First Grade Helps Students,”
when writing is automatic, students don’t have to split their
focus between remembering how to write and remembering how to spell.
And because they’re able to write more quickly, they can also
capture more ideas on paper.
There’s something about being able to write in cursive,
a “grown-up” form of handwriting you see in old manuscripts,
wedding invitations, and one-of-a-kind signatures.
When students learn cursive first, they can feel proud in their ability
to do something that most of their peers (and many students much older
than they are) can’t do.
It seems like manuscript was always taught
before cursive—but it wasn’t.
Mary Margaret Freeman reveals in “Why Cursive Writing Is Disappearing
from our Classrooms” that cursive was taught first
until 1922, when educator Majorie Wise thought children would
be able to write manuscript more easily.
Until then, generations had capably learned to write in cursive
(quite beautiful cursive, too) while learning to read in print.
If a 4- or 5-year-old hands you something he drew,
it’s probably going to have a lot of circles and curvy lines. Right?
That’s why cursive is easier to learn for most—because it uses the shapes
children make naturally.
In “Teachers Still See Value of Cursive Writing,” teacher Patricia Harpring
says learning cursive is “a big self esteem booster for a lot of children
who have trouble writing with manuscript; it’s great to see them feel good
Does it take practice and skill? Yes. But it’s still easier than
learning to print.
“It is far more difficult to make straight lines and perfect circles
in ball-and-stick [print] than it is to write the fluid curves
and loops of cursive,” says educator Sam Blumenfeld in “How Should We Teach Our Children to Write? Cursive First, Print Later!”
After just four months of a few minutes of teaching cursive each day,
children can write in legible cursive (and be proud of it!).
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