A recent article in The Baltimore Sun discusses the “Debate on whether cursive writing should still be taught” and explains that “Despite technology's effects, some say it is still necessary.” If I'm honest, I don't think much about students' ability to write in cursive, so the question interests me greatly.
By the time students reach the classrooms where I teach, they're already quite good at the act of putting letters down on a piece of paper. They've been doing print and cursive writing for ten years or more in most cases. They're also using computers and most of the papers I read are printed out, not hand written.
But what if they didn't understand cursive writing at all—they didn't learn to read it or write it? Does it matter? I can't decide. I’ve done work with medieval manuscripts, so I understand what happens when a certain way of writing falls by the way. No one writes like a medieval scribe anymore, and the truth is that we’ve all survived and evolved to new ways of writing and communicating. Still I admit that I am a bit nostalgic, and I worry about the decision to let old ways fall out of our practices. It’s a very complicated, and often emotional issue. For so many of us, learning to write in cursive was a rite of passage and pride.
I’m glad that I’m not the one who has to make the final decision. What do you think? Share your feelings in the responses and take a second to respond to our poll!
I feel that handwriting instruction is important beginning at PreK. Lessons should be very short, of course, at that age, and should cover the basic strokes in manuscript handwriting, and formation of some of the alphabet- those letters that are in the sequence of letter name and sound recognition in K. Handwriting is a fine motor skill. It explores spatial relationships and teaches directions, e.g., top to bottom, left to right, slant down to right, slant down to left, etc. Students practice moving across center, a kinesthetic skill, and focus of the eye on what is being written and tracking the eyes left to right as is required to read. Students are also exposed to geometry- line, parallel lines, intersecting lines, perpendicular lines, curves, circles. As the years go on and students begin cursive writing, they learn to connect letters. In manuscript and cursive writing, there is attention to detail in proper letter formation, spacing, and legibility. There is a bit of the artist in us all. Students can explore styles of manuscript and cursive writing in the later grades. There is something special about putting thought into words, and words onto paper using your own hand.
I agree that cursive should be taught, however it was not practical for my son. He has fine motor issues and a learning disability in spelling/decoding. He spends so much time doing his homework every night, I could not watch him stress over cursive writing. Sometimes you have to make individual decisions. I am a teacher, so I wrote a note to his teacher that he will not be doing cursive for homework. He practices with the class but is not required to write any assignment in cursive. I don't know how she felt about this, but I took a stand and made the decision. It's about being an advocate and doing what is right for your child. I feel bad for all the other kids out there who painstakingly labor over cursive and take hours to do their homework.
I had the pleasure of working with some high school youths a couple of summers ago with a job that actually paid them wages. I was blown away when I took them to the bank and they were asked to endorse their checks. These students actually could not wrte their names in cursive! They each manuscripted their names. Need I say how important it is to teach cursive writing in school. The fact that those students could not write their names is a sure sign that cursive instruction is needed.
I'm not really sure where I stand on the issue. When asked if I'd LIKE my kids to be able to write cursive, the answer is yes. But when asked if they NEED to be able to write cursive, I think my answer is no.
My in-laws and I have been debating this quite often. There is no need to write in cursive. If you are able to take notes that are legible to you, and if you can write things that are legible to others, then it doesn't matter if it's cursive or block letters.
To the specific point about signing checks: There is no legal requirement that signatures be written in cursive. Printed signatures are legally acceptable. In fact, many famous artists and architects print rather than sign their names; see, for example, some of the signatures on this page: http://identifyartistsignatures.com/category/first-name/h-first-name/. In the modern era, many "signatures" simply require clicking a checkbox or typing your name in a box; you don't need to actually sign anything.
Personally, I can write in both block and cursive, but I prefer to write in block letters. I think it looks neater. The benefit of writing cursive is speed... and my experience is that cursive writing by kids (and by me!) is often less legible than block writing, and I think that's partially because of the increased speed.
The flip side is reading: Studies have shown that kids who know how to read block letters only need about 30-60 minutes of practice before they are able to read cursive writing. (My argument with my in-laws often comes down to my contention that, in most cases, cursive letters look the same as or very similar to block letters, often with just a line added to the beginning/end so they can attach to other letters. It only took me about 5 minutes of showing cursive letters to my 4-year-old sons before they could read entire paragraphs of cursive.)
You are correct in that it is not a legal requirement to be able to sign your name in cursive however, in the past your signature replaced the "x" that illerates used to sign documents. Yes, in the land of technology the click is fine however it is still correct to be able to "sign" your name to a document. Some things are still standard and acceptable.
I believe every student has the RIGHT to be able to read and write in cursive and by not teaching it we are denying them the their right. As a middle school reading specialist I have to teach/reteach cursive writing every year. I have always written in cursive and several years ago I discovered my students could not read what I was writing on the board because I was writing in cursive! When I taught third grade we were required to teach cursive but how irritating and disappionting it was to learn that our efforts and time were wasted because subsequent teachers did not require students to use cursvie. Therefore, students forgot how to write in it and could not read it. Our eighth grade students regularly do research reports on the Civil War but many are hampered with their research because they cannot read the letters the soldiers wrote since the soldiers wrote in cursive. Students who struggle with deslexia often have an easier time reading cursive rather than manuscript because the letters are not as easily reversed. I've read studies that have also shown that the act of writing study notes in cursive helps the brain to remember the information better. Apparently, manuscript writing does not have the same brain function that cursive writing does according to the study I read. (Of course in writing this I do not have that study on hand to refer to, unfortunately.) I write in cursive because it is faster and I can write neater in cursive than with manuscript. I believe we are doing our students an injustice by not making cursive writing a requirement. Teach them how so they can at least read our historical documents. I'm sure none of want things to end up where only the elite are able to read cursive and therefore read Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. If they know how to then as adults they then will have the choice to write in cursive or manuscript, but we should not deny them that choice!
While we're talking about handwriting, can we also address how to hold a pencil or pen? From the way my middle schoolers hold writing utensils it is apparent that elementary school no longer chooses or has the time to address the little details of how to properly hold a pencil in their hand or to form manuscript letters correctly, let alone cursive letters. I think it's terribly sad that we are letting go of penmenship all the way around. What will this generation do if they have no electricity or batteries?
Hi Elizabeth Allen,
I agree with you it would be horrible if we stop teaching cursive writing. I think today's generation would panic if they didn't have electricity or batteries. They still have printing and some schools still teach cursive writing.
Look at Bridget Hilferty's comments and you'll feel better about things. She has found a website that teaches cursive writing. It is called Zaner-Bloser.
The Zaner-Bloser National Handwriting Contest is going on now for grades 1-8. Entries should be postmarked by January 23, 2012, which is National Handwriting Day. Each teacher of a Grand National Grade-Level Champion will be awarded a trip to the 2012 International Reading Association Conference in Chicago, IL. Students have an opportunity to win other great prizes.
Maybe one of your students will be a winner this year! Thanks for the great discussion here in our community group.
Executive Editor, ReadWriteThink.org
International Reading Association
In addition to the Zaner-Bloser's contest, please check out the World Handwriting Contest whose scope is worldwide. This contest has several divisions for children and adults.
The World Handwriting Contest is now accepting entries from January 1, 2012 to June 30 2012.
I do think that cursive writing should still be taught in schools. I think it's crucial that kids are able to read cursive and sign their names as well. When I taught 3rd grade, I started writing in cursive on the board on to the kids during the 2nd quarter. By that time, they had practiced enough with their handwriting work that they could (generally) read it well. After they had learned all the letters, I usually required that their work be completed in cursive --- unless there were fine motor difficulties for a student, of course. However, I told my students and their parents that I really wasn't too picky about their writing. How many people (with the exception of our "teacher writing") actually write with true cursive or even true printing, for that matter? Most people use a mix of the two styles. I allowed my kids to develop their handwriting "personalities." As long as I could read it, it was usually fine. I did mention to parents that this policy was my policy and other teachers may not agree with it.
I teach cursive and feel like it is a skill that we should have. I struggle as parents and other teachers do not always find value in it. As an adult I write in cursive to other adults and hope that is not going to die. I do teach it in isolation and when grading essays for tests, I let them choose so that their creativity is not squashed because of hyper focus on letter formation. When posting final work in the room after a grade has been given, I ask that all work be copied in cursive.
I agree with you 100%! Keep up your good work. I think it's great you have all final drafts written in cursive. Children always remember who taught them cursive writing and they really do appreciate it. I learned cursive in the third grade. Thank you to Mrs. Murray wherever you are!
Hi, I voted YES! Letter recognition is the number one predictor for reading success at the age of 5! Handwriting practice, printing, develops letter recognition and is a key element on the road to reading success. Success with handwriting, printing as well as cursive, reguires well developed underling cognitive, sensory and motor skills. Hence, if one struggles with handwriting, he is having difficulty in one or more of those areas as well. And, those areas form the basis for many areas of educational success. If a child cannot read cursive - how will he know what the boss wrote on the note he left on his desk?
You haven't shown that the only way to read cursive is to have been taught how to write it. If you were correct about that, then people who were born with physical challenges that prevent them from writing would never be able to read cursive or anything else. Would you excuse a kid from learning to read cursive (or other writing) because s/he couldn't produce it?
Just as a bit of a thought-provoker, I'd like to point out that any discussion of whether we should teach cursive needs to establish: "What is cursive?" I'm attaching a graphic of some signatures. Are they cursive? Which ones are, or aren't? Exactly why, or why not?
Kate Gladstone has suggested some websites for improving fine motor control in 5-year-olds.
Below are links to some of my very favorite activities for this purpose —
they're all from the handwriting skills blog of a colleague, Nan Jay Batchowsky
(creator of the Barchowsky Fluent Handwriting program)