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Cursive Writing. What's The Big Deal?

Posted by on in Early Childhood
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Today I'm making a brief comment about Cursive Writing, or lack of, in schools. Along with homework, this topic appears to be in a growing debate. With time scarce and deep, rigorous knowlege standards at the forefront of education, and rightly so, cursive writing has taken a big hit. Teachers and parents are truly caught in the middle. Opponents and proponents each make an eloquent case for their belief. And that's just fine. Let the debate begin.

In the meantime, I want to weigh in on the subject. I wonder how you feel about this. If you are a teacher, do you have time allocated in your curriculum to practice handwriting? If so, how much time do you spend? Are students only typing or are they encouraged to write in cursive?

What's the big deal with Cursive Writing? Nearly every day I read an article lamenting the loss of Cursive Writing. Perhaps you've seen various Facebook posts showing student papers coming home marked "Stop writing in Cursive." Why? I find this difficult to comprehend. Not all assignments can be done by keyboarding. What do you think about this?

I agree it's important for children to learn typing and keyboarding skills. This is obviously, a digital age in America. But typing and keyboarding are certainly different than the motor skills involved in handwriting. Fine motor skills combine with movement. Beautiful cursive is an art form, in my opinion. Cursive writing beautifies the written word and is a lost art. Fine motor skills are needed by young children and writing contributes to fine motor growth. 

Common Core did not focus on cursive writing, except an honorable mention in kindergarten and first grade. That made no sense to me, if accurate. When I teach the alphabet and basic writing, I start in block manuscript, of course, teaching by pointing out sticks, tunnels, circles and curves in letters. Moreover, I always advocate teaching upper and lower case letters at the same time, so a student can see that an A is an a, whether in upper or lower case. I move to cursive when the child has mastered basic manuscript. Cursive writing generally is taught by second or third grade, depending on school curriculum and state standards. It is certainly not measured on a standardized test.

Some years back, we saw growth of D'Nelian handwriting. All over America, letters posted in wall charts around a classroom featured the switch from block to D'Nelian. It was thought that the letter curves in D'Nelian were a natural, viable link directly into cursive writing. Ironic, because manuscript or block printing more closely matched the letters in books, upper and lower case. D'Nelian was a derivative of what was known as the Palmer method and was thought to be the natural way to teach handwriting.

When I was a child in school I recall regular sessions for practicing cursive. I loved forming the letters and sentences. My writing was quite beautiful then. Over the years, I wrote countless cards, letters and of course my signature on documents was always written in cursive.

Nothing matched my mother's writing. Unreal, but I still have a copy of her Berry's Writing Book, 1909. In her practice book, pages and pages are devoted to forming perfect circles, lines, curves, then letters, and ultimately sentences and paragraphs, in natural progression. All that practice made a difference. Today, the amount of time spent would be simply unimaginable.

As my kids grew up I noticed less and less cursive, more printing in manuscript, followed by typing and keyboarding. As a computer literate generation focused on laptops and tablets, the demise of cursive was imminent.

Rae Pica, in her book What If Everybody Understood Child Development devotes a chapter to this topic. "Should We Teach Handwriting in the Digital Age?" Pica believes it's more than nostalgia, but a necessary component of gross and fine motor development and offers compelling rationale for continuing this instruction in the Common Core era. I strongly encourage you to read her book and this persuasive chapter.

I can't imagine a time when children no longer know how to write in Cursive. It is not only beautiful, but a developmentally appropriate practice for young children. 

I would love to hear from you about Cursive. People are indeed talking about it. I have no answers today, only more questions.


Leaving footprints on your reading hearts, Rita








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Modeling the art and craft of teaching reading for 45 years, Mrs. Wirtz taught language arts, speech and reading at all levels preschool-adult, including penal. She served as Pre-school and K-6 Principal. Rita was also a Curriculum Consultant, ESEA, Title I Program Evaluator and literacy trainer. At the university level she taught school administration in the Bilingual Cohort at CSUS and National University, Sacto. Mrs. Wirtz also taught all reading courses for Chapman University for many years in Sacramento and Placerville, Ca., and mentored student teachers. On the national level she was a well known motivational Keynote Speaker and Seminar Leader. Most importantly, Rita walked the talk, teaching with teachers in more than 500 K-12 and special needs classrooms. Rita authored books, publications and Pre- YouTube, videos were filmed by San Diego County Office of Education. Calif. ASCD authored companion book guides, and Calif. school districts correlated her basic skills instruction with State Standards. Mrs. Wirtz' newest book is Reading Champs! Teaching Reading Made Easy, a review of the basic building blocks of English and Reading. Find Mrs. Wirtz on Twitter @RitaWirtz, Facebook and website- www.ritawirtz.com.

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