93 Comments

  1. When I taught 3rd grade I really struggled with this. The whole "digital world" idea would always be in the back of my mind. I kinda broke the rules and refused to grade their handwriting on prettiness, but graded on effort. I also refused to take up instruction time (believe me kids would rather be doing science or reading than handwriting) so I would take the one day a week that we did not have a "special" and teach it then. Still thinking it was stupid I had to spend time on it, I would rather keyboarding.

    BUT that negative view of cursive has changed. Now I am a 6th grade teacher. I do not have perfect handwriting and use a mix of cursive/printing (actually my writing at one point was so bad I bought a handwriting workbook when in edu school & its much better now). I usually write "Getting started" instructions on my board and it never fails, someone will ask me what it says. If I throw a cursive letter in there, they cannot read it. I find it sad when I ask them to sign their name on something and they cannot.

    So my view on it has changed. No I do not think a lot of time should be taken away from instruction on it, but it needs to be taught so these students can read things in life. I think it is important. Do I think perfect cursive and writing over and over is a good idea? No. But there needs to be a background on this.

        • That is what I was afraid of. I teach with Edmonton Public Schools (but I'm on mat leave now and working on my masters in Teacher-Librarianship) and my experience in computer rooms is that there are many students who could use keyboarding skills. Not only that, they could use some explicit instruction on how to work their way around websites and word processing programs.

          This may be the digital generation but I think most of them just know how to play games.

          • George

            Many do not know how to type because of exactly what you are saying; we use technology too much to play games. Even the typing games that I see, the kids don't use any "proper" technique but learn the fastest way to win.

            My belief is that if kids are given the chance to write what they are interested in on a continuous basis, they will improve their skills. Does proper keyboarding matter as much with cellphones and iPads? No one teaches kids how to correctly text but they pick it up quickly because they are writing to each other. Give them something they love to write or give them the chance to write to each other, and the skills will improve.

          • George, I completely agree with you on this one! When my Grade 1 and 2 students first started blogging, it was painful! I was lucky if they got a sentence written in 15 minutes. Now though, it's a different story. Students can actually type more for me than they can write. They don't use proper form, but they've had a lot of experience with multiple keyboards (from the iPad to the iPod Touch to Palm Treos to computers), and they know where to find the letters. They're really fast! I've never learned proper form (I still only type with three or four fingers, but I can type up to 85 words a minute). It is about exposure, and I think it's wonderful that you're exposing your students to this.

            As a Grade 1 and Grade 2 teacher, I don't spend time teaching my students how to "print," and I have issues with doing so, as it's not a curriculum expectation. I do model how to print correctly though, and I do help the students that struggle form the letters properly, so that they're legible. I would feel very much like you do when it comes to "cursive writing" too. I think it's important that students learn how to read it, but I don't think that they need to learn how to form the letters perfectly. As an adult, I can say that I spend the majority of my day writing on a keyboard, and I don't doubt that today's students will be finding the same thing too.

            I love reading the variety of comments here. There's definitely a lot to say on this topic! Another great post, George!

            Aviva

  2. Mrs. Jane Hatzinger

    I loved this post because it is a conversation I have each year with a friend of mine that teaches 3rd graders cursive in the spring. Cursive is so time consuming and has little return in my opinion. It always boils down to the same "reasons" :

    1. Writing Checks – (really?, not online banking yet?)… I actually hand printed out a check and printed my name and it was cashed.

    2. Signing your name on the SAT/ACT test – so many teachers at my school agree with this reason even though printing your name will not affect the outcome of your test,( google it )

    It is shocking how passionate many teachers are about continuing to teach cursive.

    I let it go each year because I suspect the real reason is simple : we've always taught cursive and it is hard to let go of what we've always done. I think you proved your point about doctors and handwriting at the end of your post very well!!

    Latin is dead and Cursive should be also.

    • Chris

      This may be too late to post as you may never read it, but I feel your response "Latin is dead and Cursive should be also." to be unintelligent and not based on any sort of fact. First of all teaching Cursive instills patience and disipline. Having worked with occupational therapists, some children struggle with forming printed letters but excel at Cursive writing. Both forms of writing need to be taught. What is arguable is how much time should be spent teaching it. Latin by the way is not "dead" it is the foundation of all Romance languages. Finally, it isincorrect grammer to begin or end a sentence with a preposition or congunction.

  3. From my limited experience I would venture to say doctors have the worst handwriting. Also, they would typically be considered to be highly intelligent.

    I agree that the time spent teaching cursive is a wasted time for our students. It seems almost criminal.

    How would you advise going about teaching how to read cursive with out wasting time teaching how to write it? How much longer will that even be needed? What important information will still be written in only cursive in the near future?

  4. When I was in 4th grade, we were still working on cursive hand-writing. By chance, we also happened to get a commodore 64 computer that year, and I got full-time access to my first computer at home.

    I looked at the keyboards on the two computers and realized my cursive skills (which were pretty dismal) were going to be of no use. As soon as I was no longer required to write in cursive, I stopped.

  5. Great post — As an elementary and middle school administrator, I have struggled with this topic for several years. Serendipitously, @cbrannon and @jrichardson30 had a great conversation about it last night as well (were you eavesdropping?). The goal should be for kids to be able to capture their thoughts on paper (or screen) in the most efficient manner. In the end we should be concerned with providing each student with the tools to allow them to communicate in the most effective and efficient manner possible — FOR THEM. Cursive writing is absolutely painful for some students, why should we force them to continually produce work in a format that limits their output and stifles their creativity. If a student is putting all of their effort to the formation of each letter instead of what specifically they want to communicate, no one benefits.

  6. I think cursive writing helps with fine motor skills, and I think that it also helps students develop patience and an appreciation for beauty. I used to write to my grandmother overseas and my cousins would read my letters and make fun of my chicken scratch. They had elegant tiny script in straight lines and I was determined to improve my writing after that. When I student-taught sixth graders awhile back, they remarked how beautiful my script was but couldn't read it. They wanted to learn how to write in cursive and so after a quick poll, the Cursive Club was born. They came in after school and those who already knew how to write in cursive became the tutors– it was a source of pride for them to learn and be able to do it. Maybe cursive writing is not "efficient" in today's environment, but I see it as a type of art and I'd teach it in my free time if my students wanted to learn it.

    • I love the idea of a cursive writing club! With discussions in the staff room and with students there are a number of students who want to learn cursive but I just can't see the time teaching it in isolation in the classroom. As it is there never seems to be enough time to teach everything else. Teaching it in combination with an inquiry based lesson is also a fabulous idea!

  7. Actually I have an idea for an interesting unit. We'd call it "deciphering cursive writing." The objective would be for students to take some war time correspondence from World War II (which was often written in cursive for obvious reasons) and have students "figure out" what was being said, in effect becoming translators for these valuable documents.

    I'm sure you could find a way to teach the reading of cursive script in an inquiry based way, even if the example I've suggested is a bit lame.

  8. With a 5th grader of my own who struggles with fine motor skills and because of which writing is painful, I can totally see the validity in Kate Gladstone's observations. There were MANY times when he was in 3rd and 4th grade that it came down to tears over the cursive and it wasn't about learning at that point. It was about a skill that he saw no value in and honestly, I can't blame him. It eventually got the point that I addressed it with his teacher and she relented a bit by allowing him to print or type his work. In my opinion, the bottom line isn't the style of handwriting, it's the expression and articulation of thought that matters. If any child has an idea they want or need to express "on paper," then I feel they need to be able to do it in a way that is as free from hindrances as possible. So did my child miss out on learning meaningful stuff while struggling to learn cursive, which to him is meaningLESS? You bet! I believe to be able to read cursive and to be able sign your name is acceptable and necessary and can be taught in a short amount of time. To spend a great deal of time trying to teach kids something has very little value in today's world (like cursive), in my opinion, is wasting their time and in some instances, deepening their suspicions of school and if it is even really needed. I am fighting this constant battle with my own son, trying to get him to see that he is good at school, that school is important, meaningful and necessary. He's had these ideas since he was in 2nd Grade! I believe it's the pressure to learn things in isolation-out of a meaningful context that has him totally disillusioned and quickly losing faith in the place where he spends 7 hours of his day…and he's only 10. Honestly, when was the last time you heard a kid really excited about learning cursive? I bet they would much rather cut open a frog or build a roller coaster! I know my kid would and I know he's not the only one.

  9. Julia

    As a parent of boys in grades 3 and 7, I've been continually frustrated by the class time spent learning cursive. Why, oh why are the students not being taught keyboarding skills? With the shift to inquiry-based learning, personalized learning and collaboration, teaching cursive seems such a holdout from the days of rote memorization. How can we champion bringing technology into the classrooms while still demanding that the students practise writing by hand between the lines? Keyboarding, until technology brings us something that replaces it, will continue to be the most efficient way for students to get their ideas out and demonstrate understanding, and isn't that the goal of our education system?

  10. TLkirsten

    I believe cursive should be taught at a limited level, but not e.g. graded so we don't torture some students with it. Why? Because I think we have to be very careful about taking access to technology so much for granted. Sometimes I think we live a bit in la la land. And yes, it is still necessary to be able to read it (good idea David!)

    That said, the argument has been made that why is this necessary when they've already learned printing? So, how about we teach children to write in cursive first (and read print). This is what is done in other countries (such as Russia) because cursive is apparently actually easier to learn first than printing (as you do not have to take the pencil off the page as much). Of course, I could be wrong that it is easier…wouldn't be the first time.

    • In fact cursive is NT easier to learn than PRINT, especially for the very young. The basic strokes of the print form require minimal muscle control and get the young writer off and runnning fast from a very early age. My three year old grandson is forming those print letters now just out of the desire to record his thoughts, but I am keen to have him use the keyboard instead so that the thoughts will be recorded faster. Better still that he orally speaks his thoughts and records them and in fact gets to voice recognition.

      The passion for the Cursive is like the passion for the learning of sounds (Phonics) in some preconceived order of need (regardless of the fact that most of the children in the class are already reading and using letters ahead of this ridiculous proposed order) – it is comfortable and easily prepared for by the teacher.

      The real issue sits with letting go of the OLD and facing that the new generation do not need what we thought they did 30 years ago. This is anew generation in a way that has not been before.

      Children are working on iPods and IPads in their classes and see no need for laborious preciously held rites and rituals of educators from the past era.

      To teach children to read cursive is not the same as learning to write it. They are two entirely different proceses. To learn to read it needs to be like everything else – purposeful, embedded and integrated. If, as teachers, we step back and think how that can be made a reality in the busy classroom it becomes easier to devise activities that are purposeful, such as David's idea early.

      Just because many of us have taught certain things in certain ways in the past, it does not now mean that we were wrong. It is about better ways of doing things now and ensuring that the learning meets the needs of the learner and note the rituals and routines of the teacher!

      Having the discussion is how we work our way to better understandings. Thanks for the opportunity

      Carmel

      • I loved your thoughts here Carmel. You got me thinking about how often we tend to think that reading and writing happen in a particular order. In reality they can happen in either order or simultaneously, depending on the child. Won't children learn cursive if and when it becomes relevant to their world? I loved the above idea about a cursive writing club or devising inquiry activities that involve deciphering cursive writing. It's all about relevance to the child.

  11. We have been discussing this at our school, and it has been quietly disappearing. The biggest benefit that I can see to it is the tactile aspect of pen and paper and the fine motor skills. My own preference would be to see this time spent on art projects, or introduce calligraphy to the students as a part of art. You would probably get the same benefit from a multi-cultural unit where you could examine the different ways of writing or doing a unit on Egypt have the students use hieroglyphics to represent themselves if it was their tomb or something along those lines and perhaps a little less morbid.

    The cultural value around handwriting has changed. For the most part we do not have parents standing over the children while they are writing thank-you cards to their grand-parents and making sure that it is in the best handwriting, these have been replaced by emails or typed letters. Keyboarding skills are more important to children and there are better ways to develop fine-motor skills. I do not feel that with a broad curriculum as we have now that the time needed to properly and effectively teach cursive hand-writing can be justified.

  12. We use a handwriting program called "Handwriting Without Tears," which essential helps students K-? learn the formation of letters so that they can write fluidly and legibly so as to not interrupt the flow of ideas from the mind to the page. Students begin to learn/practice cursive formation in grade 3. I do not observe a lot of class time being spent on this endeavor, but I know the formations of letters are introduced at this time. From grade 3 on, some teachers ask students to write final copies of writing assignments in cursive, others allow them to choose the mode they prefer.

    I have mixed feelings about the whole cursive issue. I think if a student prefers writing in cursive, he/she should be allowed to do so. Same thing if they prefer to print. In order to write in cursive, they're going to need to learn the formation of letters at some point. That being said, I don't see much of a need to use cursive handwriting outside of school….

    I actually have beautiful cursive handwriting. :) I do enjoy using it, but find limited opportunities to do so. I use it when composing hand-written sentiments in greeting cards. I use it if I'm away from a computer and need to quickly take notes. (Which is rarely ever.)

    In regards to teaching formal keyboarding at the elementary level, I have a few thoughts on that, too. I ran the elementary computer labs at 4 buildings my last year as a classroom teacher. We spent the majority of our lab time engaged with curricular project work. I didn't spend a lot of time on keyboarding drill programs. The reason for that is because I observed consistently that some students' hands weren't quite ready to tackle home position, and the keyboarding program just frustrated them. Also, why would I spend precious instructional minutes on a drill program when I could instead have the students creating something tied to curricular endeavors using the tools? I have never had formal typing class, yet I type really quickly. I don't use home position. I simply learned how to type efficiently, with what works for me and my hands, because I've been word processing and engaged in computer work since fifth grade when we got our Apple IIGS. :) I think if we continue to allow our students to use the tools in their learning, the speed and efficiency will come. I don't think there's anything wrong with introducing home position and what its purpose is, but I struggle with dedicating so many instructional minutes to that task alone.

    Great conversation……..

  13. I not only teach grade 3 but teach all of the lower years children, and regardless of grade i take some time to teach cursive, not because it is an essential skill,but it does help with the control and formation of letters in regular writing.

  14. Amy

    Shouldn't we as educators teach cursive to give them the tools to make a choice? It is not a waste of time if there are students who would benefit in the long run. What right do we have as educators to dictate which form of writing they must use? Give them the tools that will allow them to make the decision which will touch their lives forever.

    • How much time are we talking about spending? For someone like my child, it would take loads of time to teach-time that could be spent doing something that would engage him in positive way. I hope his teacher would quickly realize that this tool isn't going to be of much benefit to him and is going to be a stumbling block to his writing. If there are other students who take to it and strive to achieve greatness with their cursive skills, then grow that. But for those that don't, move on. I think the choice needs to be made by the student and then the teacher facilitates the learning that works best for that student. I don't need to learn to fly a plane if I am scared of heights and know that it's something I will never do. I just know I was taught lots of stuff-days and days of stuff-during my formal education and I remember very little of it…because I was never given the choice to learn what was important to me.

  15. George, I couldn't agree more. It makes a lot of sense that their skills will improve as they have something they want to 'type' about. Come to think of it, that is how I improved my typing skills.

  16. Wow! This is a great discussion and one that comes up in our staff room every year. As a Grade 7 teacher whose students use laptops almost all day, I favour keyboarding. Having said that, I don't teach it. Most of the kids come into my classroom with some keyboarding skills and a lot of "hunt and peck" skill! Over the course of the year, they all get faster – mostly through a desire to keep up and do all the fun things we do with the computers. I have noticed that children who play piano are better at keyboarding.

    Is handwriting a dying skill? Probably…isn't that part of evolution?

  17. Finally, a very thought-ful discussion on this topic. Thanks George and those that have contributed. We need to step back and think about the purpose of hand writing, in general, in our modern context. It is a form of communication. Some hand writing will be more "presentable" (or beautiful) than others. Okay… so it is a function and a form. Perhaps the cursive form should be optional or extra if students wish to learn it (teachers might point them to resources, tools to assist, a book, a video, etc. to learn it at the child's leisure).

    When students leave K12, will their ability to cursive write be valued financially? Not likely in any way unless their in a niche artistic field. Will people in society think any less of them if they can't do it? Not likely in any context. Will people think more highly of them if they can? Maybe, not likely though. So why spend valuable class time teaching something that isn't really valued outside perhaps the early years in school? Spend time teaching digital responsibility, keyboarding skills (but I think kids generally eventually get this to an acceptable level), information and digital literacy, core knowledge acquisition, etc. These are valued and recognized in our society, not cursive writing…

    Excellent discussion here folks. Very refreshing!

    • Sarah

      I always liked learning cursive writing in school, I had fun with it and eventually developed some kind of printing-cursive hybrid that has served me well for note-taking and writing.When I am writing, I find that I can get more out in draft form or brainstorming on paper than by staring at blank word document in which case, my hybrid cursive is efficient and helpful.

      When it comes to spending valuable instructional time teaching cursive writing in my class, I really struggled with it and initially didn't see much value in it and thought the time would be better spent on teaching typing. I have had many discussion with colleagues who are adamant that cursive be diligently taught and was surprised that so many teachers were devoted to it.

      After struggling with many of my students poor motor skills and barely legible printing I began to wonder if cursive writing could be a way of working on their motor skills without going back and working on printing letters which was what I felt was needed but that would have been somewhat demeaning in Grade 7. I started a cursive writing program that includes vocabulary and time spent coming up with words using a specific set of letters that they have learned so far. It also groups the letters by style and shape rather than alphabetically. My students are enjoying it and I am seeing results with the overall quality (and legibility) of their printing and work. We don't spend a huge amount of time on it but I often start the day with 15 minutes of cursive to "warm up" and 15 minutes at the end of a day.

      • What a great discussion going on here!

        I read your comment Sarah, then continued reading but found I really wanted to come back to your idea and perhaps combine it with others.

        I like the integrated approach to teaching cursive, you presented and would love to see some of your lessons because you've obviously thought through an effective teaching strategy for your Grade 7 students. I would also think that by Grade 7 you can better reason with the students as to the role of cursive in their lives and you'd also not see as many problems with 'fine motor' control.

        There was another comment where a teacher started to use more cursive on the board to give the students practice reading it which I thought was another good way to implicitly teach how to read cursive. (Of course, this wouldn't be for everyone as many of us have 'chicken scratch' rather than good examples of the form!).

        Also, as I think about a whole generation not being able to "sign" their name (to me, this was always a cursive writing activity), I guess the ability for teachers to come to the profession with the skill, will be diminished. That said, perhaps the whole cursive writing will take care of itself through attrition!

        .

        Thanks for the opportunity, George! Getting the discussion out of the staff rooms and into a more public forum, I discovered out things like:

        – printing is not always taught first in educational systems around the world

        – there is some good research on both sides of the fence

        – reading cursive can be introduced within innovative inquiry based lessons

        Gotta love blogging and then RSS feeds/Twitter etc. for sharing the conversations!

  18. I think the French might take issue with the notion that teaching cursive early is detrimental to vocabulary acquisition. They've been teaching cursive before printing for eons, and I don't think anyone has ever accused the French of being deficient in vocabulary! (And they take the teaching of handwriting very seriously, as you can see in this video.)

    That said, as a parent, I'm of two minds on this issue. If schools are not going to teach cursive, then they should indeed teach keyboarding skills. Too often kids at my daughters' school are asked to hand assignments in typewritten, without having been taught to keyboard. I actually blogged about this very issue, and my frustrations surrounding it, on two occasions (see here, for instance).

  19. I was thinking about this post when a Flat Stanley project arrived today. Many times the recipients return Flat Stanley with a letter about his adventures that is in cursive. I was curious to see if my 2nd grade students could read the letter. They read it beautifully with an exception of a few letters. I think with by just allowing them to read the letters via the projector, they would learn the more difficult ones to read quickly. Do be honest, I ALWAYS choose to type something rather than write it in cursive because I get so frustrated with how it looks rather than what it says. I want my kids to be worried about what they are writing. We can always make it look better with edited copies or typed versions. One of my students today was typing her fairy tale and I heard her tell another student. I love typing my stories because it helps me find out which words I misspelled. She was not saying it as a crutch but being grateful for the tool.

  20. I grapple with this question as do my colleagues as we are responsible for cursive instruction in our Grade 4 classes. Parents wonder over it as well. It seems that for many students it is so difficult that children ARE brought to tears. Over the years I have given in and not been so strict about teaching it (almost feeling guilty about it too). However, I realize that most of them will be either printing (as they end up doing in Grade 5 where they have a choice) or use a keyboard.

    I wonder about teaching keyboarding skills. These kids are very adept at texting with just their thumbs….I'm sure that in just a few short years we will be seeing a change in the technology where keyboarding may not be necessary either.

    Great conversation..wish I had an answer!

  21. This is a great conversation, Nancy! All the people chiming in is a reminder to me that it is an important issue on all our minds. At our school, the kids have not been pressured to use much cursive writing, so my 7th and 8th graders are unfamiliar. I write much faster using cursive, so I often have to interpret my comments on students' papers. Using cursive is the one time I feel really old around my students! As Remi suggested above, I suggest making cursive writing/calligraphy an art unit when they get to be in about 6th or 7th grade.

  22. Very interesting responses.

    I think there are two separate debates here: the first is handwriting (of any sort) vs. keyboarding. Can we do away with teaching handwriting at all yet? My guess is no. Until we have a device of some sort in the hands of all, as well as small and portable printing devices that fit into our pockets, we will probably still need to hand-write a little. My question in school has always been why do we spend an inordinate amount of time on handwriting and so little in the way of teaching kids to know their way around a keyboard? Keyboarding should be a priority- and while we're at it, I don't think there should be only ONE way to keyboard. I'd take my speed and accuracy over many, yet I didn't learn to type. I figured out way that works best for me. Give kids some basic guidelines, and then let them do what works for them.

    The second debate, I think, goes back to George's initial question: do we need to teach CURSIVE writing, or will printing suffice? I also use a hybrid of printing and cursive. My youngest prints much more rapidly than she writes in cursive. Does it matter? I don't think so. Yes, we need to learn to READ it, as many primary sources are digitized handwritten letters or documents. Just not so sure that we need to keep teaching cursive- I like Miss Cheska's description of cursive as an art form. If kids want to learn it, great. If not, why should they have to learn it?

  23. Lesley Cameron

    This is definitely something I struggle with, especially since "print legibly" and also "begin to learn the proper shape and slant of cursive writing" are both in our curriculum. Keyboarding skills are also part of our curriculum in Grade 3. I think there needs to be balance of all three. I agree that it is more important for students to be able to read handwriting than write it themselves. They need to do what is best for themselves personally, but be exposed to all, practice all, and decide which is best. Rarely do I sit down a handwrite anything, with the exception of cards.

    On that note, George… cheques, really?!? :) Just kidding…

    After Christmas is when I typically begin introducing students to cursive writing… first by deliberately writing more on the whiteboard in cursive and then introducing to the class with their own practice. It takes fine motor skills to write in cursive well and in my experience, it is often difficult for students (and for teachers to read!) at first. Practice, encouragement, and application to their daily writing is my take after initial instruction.

    As painfully slow of a process it has been, my grade 3 students are keyboarding a substitution story directly from their organizer (not printing a first draft on paper). Definitely takes time, but worth it to begin at their age, I think! If not now, then when do we begin?

    Thanks for another great post, George. Great conversation sparked!

  24. What a wonderful conversation here. When I was teaching looping second/third grade and was "supposed" to teach cursive, I really resisted for many of the reasons shared above. But, what I noticed was that my students were really excited to learn cursive. They seemed to see it as an act of maturity – of growing up. So, I just kept the approach light and fun. We spent a few minutes on it every day and almost treated it as an art project. Our art teacher also spent some time teaching calligraphy, and that made me think of ways to work with the art teacher on integrating cursive instruction/application in art. She was happy to oblige. I never graded the students' cursive, although I did give plenty of informal, formative feedback on how they were doing. Today, with interactive whiteboards, document cameras, digital pens and tablets, digital still and video cameras, it could even be more fun for students. So, I do feel it is still a necessary component of being literate in today's world, but it doesn't have to be drudgery and consume a great amount of classroom time. Keep it fun, interesting, and ungraded. In the end, we all choose how we prefer to write with a wide variety of available tools.

    I'm bookmarking this post for my graduate students, as they always have such heated debates and strong opinions on this topic!

  25. If my handwriting is illegible, it doesn't speed things up. When I was in college, I had many people tell me that I ought to become a doctor because my handwriting was so bad. All throughout college and grad school, I had professors ask me to recopy my essay exams and return them. One professor had me come to his office to retake the test. I guess he thought it was some clever way I had of cheating. After grad school, I developed a kind of fancy print that suits me just fine. The only thing I use cursive for is my signature. Didn't save time. Wasted a lot of time. Best thing I ever did was learn to type. And, honestly, with everything being more and more on the computer, why do we still insist on cursive? I type faster than I ever could write. Even on lined paper I don't stay legible. My handwriting goes in an upward slope from SW to NE. I'd say that me using cursive has been an uphill battle.

  26. This is a topic that hits close to home. As a mom of 3 teens, it annoys me when they struggle to read a note that I may have left (in cursive) or when they ask me how to make a "D" or a "G" for something they are trying to write.

    On the other hand, where do I want teachers' efforts to go when working with my children? I once heard Michael Fullan say that "if you want students who can write in cursive, we can deliver that." What was implied was that parents/society would rather have kids who can think. We get results in the areas that we choose to focus our attention. Personally, I hope that my children and our students are taught to think and problem solve above all else.

  27. What a great discussion. I am a relatively new elementary principal and I too have grappled with the issue of using classtime to teach cursive writing. I have spent most of my time in middle schools where most kids could not read cursive, but with very little communication is cursive it certainly did not impact their learning.

    My own kids started learning cursive this year and absolutely love it…which was quite suprising to me. That said, like others have said, they see it as art, and a fun way to practice their motor skills (well…they don't use that exact language). I am going to share this blog and discussion with our staff.

    Thanks everyone!

  28. I think the problem with cursive writing, as it is taught in countries such as the UK and USA, is that the students learn to print first, then have to unlearn it in order to write in cursive. I've lived in countries and taught children from countries where they never learn to print – they learn to write cursive right from the start (Holland and France, for example). I've also taught English to students whom I know will never learn to write in cursive (Israeli and Japanese for example) simply because their own writing is not in cursive. Personally I don't really care as long as I can read what they are writing. Keyboarding is much more useful, most students can type much faster than they can handwrite and most students can text much quicker too.

    When I arrived in Switzerland a year and a half ago I was given a ballpoint pen with a Swiss flag on it. During the whole time I've been here I've only had this pen and it's still going strong with plenty of ink in it. I estimate that I actually write with a pen for less than an hour a week (sometimes way less). By the way I don't write in cursive.

    At our school we teach keyboarding to 3rd grade students for 10 minutes a day (during registration, for example). By the end of the year they can keyboard at least one and a half times as fast as they can write. As a result they become much more productive – and creative.

    My son who is now at university did all his final school IB exams on a computer (as he has a writing disability). However his scores were much higher than all his teacher predicted. I'm convinced this is because he was able to write at least 2-3 times as much during the exam time as the rest of his classmates who were writing with a pen and many writing in cursive too.

    As a teacher I'd rather have an assignment submitted to me that was typed. Following that I'd rather have something that was printed. I'm sick of trying to read students' horrible cursive writing. I can't imagine why anyone still thinks they should be teaching it.

  29. Both my parents are teachers. I spent my two months of summer vacation practicing my handwriting with my mom at least once a day during some of my early elementary years. I had terrible printing and cursive skills. Then when I was 11 my mom thought my handwriting was not improving very much and plunked me down in front of an IBM electric typewriter and told me I should maybe spend some time learning to type. I learned to type using a really dull drill program. Later in life, I got a job becuase I could type quickly. I had been making just over 9 dollars an hour to making about $17 dollars an hour in an office job. But while I am grateful for my typing skills, I still think that printing and writing by hand helps create the language of culture in our schools. We should strive to teach clear legible printing and writing, but how much time does this take in our classrooms?

    And on the topic of teaching keyboarding – I have only 7.5 weeks to teach a term of grade 6/7 students, on 44 minutes a day. I teach 1 lesson per term of keyboarding. The rest of the time I spend on critical thinking, communication skills, collaborative projects, and developing creativity. Kids see in 1 lesson the value of good keyboarding skills, but I wouldn't sacrifice my other lessons for more keyboarding.

  30. Sandra Balestrin

    Terrific blog post, George, and such wonderful follow-up comments! I'm getting that preaching-to-the-converted feeling, though.

    Perhaps we could each make it our personal mission to get this discussion/link into the hands of the parents of our students. They just might be holding their beliefs more loosely than we give them credit for. Maybe they simply have never taken the time to consider the issue in this light — As educators, we've certainly been looking at it for years. I'd love to see their comments start to come forward. Being a teacher and a parent doesn't count . . . you're biased ;~)

    Quick points:

    – love the war letters idea to teach the human side of history and a bit about reading cursive

    – love the Cursive Club idea — much like the calligraphy art form

    – chin up, George; I still write the odd cheque, too ;~)

    @technolit

    • Sandra — I did respond–as a parent–but my comment seems to have disappeared. (I'm pretty sure it was not offensive, so I'm not sure why.) The point I made is one that I have also blogged about myself (a href="http://northtomom.blogspot.com/2011/01/keyboard-v-cursiveupdate.html">here). For parents, this time of transition is difficult. My kids were asked to hand in assignments printed off a computer starting in grade 4, without having ever been properly taught to keyboard. Cursive also seemed to have been dropped (unofficially, at least) from the provincial curriculum. So for a while, my kids could neither keyboard nor write with any degree of speed or efficiency. Things have changed somewhat this year (grade 6), but it's still an a grey area–and one that gives rise to a lot of frustration–in terms of expectations for kids and parents.

  31. Wow! Catching up on blog posts today, and yours really hit me. I used to teach second grade, and we actually introduced cursive in January of the second grade year. There was some thought that "earlier was better'. I never really questioned it that much – it was just the way the program was set up. My own son had huge struggles with fine motor skills, and handwriting was a continuous battle (umm…. still would be if handwriting mattered in college – he's doing great, even with very poor handwriting!). I did think about the importance of handwriting, given the inevitable transition to keyboarding, but I missed some of the larger implications. I have been learning so much more about brain development lately, but somehow I missed this connection. I posted a link to your post on my Facebook page – probably the fastest way to share it with my colleagues who are knee deep in cursive in mid-February! Thanks! I love knowing that I will learn something and most likely be challenged in my thinking each time I read your blog.

  32. gsmcmahon

    In BC, cursive writing is still part of the ELA curriculum for grade 6 but keyboard skills are not.

    Since my own cursive writing skills are horrific, combined with my memories of sitting in class trying to make my letters fit in the dotted lines and failing, I worked around it. I created a History of Writing Unit.

    This conversation reminds me of the debate on Q earlier this month regarding the number of spaces that should go between sentences. Is it 1 or 2? It is hard to know sometimes if we are holding on to something because that's the way we've always done it or because it is pedagogically sound.

    • YES YES YES…we are holding onto things just because we have always done it! So many things…even governments are making education o=hold onto old research evidence re-worked in ways to give old messages shrowded in new terminologies.

  33. Martha Mackay

    Wow – great conversation! As a 4th grade teacher, this year, I have finally given up on insisting that all work be done in cursive. I want my students to be able to use a keyboard and to please turn in work that is written neatly. I don't care if it is in manuscript or cursive. My students have the option to use either method and most opt out of cursive handwriting even though they have been taught how to use it and have visual aids on their desks and in the classroom.

    I do write in both cursive and manuscript on the board and on the projector. This year I have only one student who is unable to read cursive, but this is a child who has an IEP and does not need to write in cursive due to hand-eye coordination problems. I am trying to help him learn to read it. Thanks for the thoughts

  34. Conrad Kuiper

    The research I have seen suggests that people who use block print exclusively write just as fast as people who use cursive. I believe the time wasted on teaching cursive writing would be far better spent on teaching proper keyboarding skills.

  35. tlkirsten

    Good to know re: print vs. cursive. Thank you.

    Re: technology. I work in an international baccalaureate school, and as such, students are encouraged, almost expected, that at points in their life they will work or volunteer abroad. In many parts of the world, one still cannot expect to have access to technology, or if they do have it, they cannot expect that it will work most of the time (due to regular power outages, lack of personnel to fix things, etc.). I guess that colours my thinking somewhat…

  36. Beth Lloyd

    They don't call it "curse-ive" for nothing. Some children are just not wired for learning this complex motor task. Give them a pass!

    Next, if cursive is going to be taught, don't just hand out worksheets for students to do on their own. Demonstration, imitation and multisensory practice is key. Handwriting Without Tears is simple and NOT time consuming. http://www.hwtears.com/

    It is hard to keep up with current trends. Touch typing is probably on the way out as well. Using thumbs or index fingers to input text on mobile devices seems to be the popular method. Voice input is no longer assistive technology but accessible to all. Providing this choice is part of universal design for learning and is good practice.

    Now for a little humor – http://onion.com/e0lDmd

  37. Mary Jo Devine

    Interesting discussion as the topic comes up frequently in elementary staff rooms. I have always loved the appearance of a beautifully handwritten piece of writing and believed that handwriting supports the development of fine motor skiils in young children. However, when reading your statement that handwriting impedes the growth of reading and writing skills, I question the value of so much classroom time spent on cursive.

    • ssilver

      What you said is exactly the problem, you have always liked a beautifully handwritten piece. Teachers are making curricular decisions based on thier preferences, which are subjective, instead of evidence of maximum impact on students.

  38. I’m not sure where you are getting your information, but great topic. I needs to spend some time learning much more or understanding more. Thanks for wonderful information I was looking for this information for my mission.

  39. Derek L. McCoy

    I LOVE the comments this is generating! I agree with so many points you've raised: 1) kids to need to be able to read/recognize cursive [there are cursive fonts on the computer – THAT's what makes it necessary] 2) When do we use cursive? Most people I know take notes in print – cursive is reserved for what you mentioned, cards and checks 3) CHECKS will soon be going the way of dinosaurs. I have ALWAYS told I have a bad handwriting so when I first got a laptop, I never looked back. I think our dig natives will be even more inclined to look for digital resources instead of a pen and pad.

    We used to emphasize the skill of delineated writing SO much! Now, that we've shifted focus from what it LOOKS like to what are you SAYING, who cares how it looks. This is disruptive – love it

  40. Michelle

    I am forty-two years old and write exclusively in cursive. It's faster. Recently, I have been searching through the US census records for my ancestors and if I hadn't been taught cursive writing, the census records would look like a foreign language to me.

  41. About the only place where you need to read cursive writing is on menus in fancy restaurants. That said, it is an art form, and kids who practice cursive will develop important drawing skills as long as the teachers don't take their drawing tools away because they think that drawing is not important thanks to NCLB and Race to the Top misguided policies. It could almost fit into the history curriculum. Keep up the good work and check out DrDougGreen.Com for bite-sized self development.

  42. hillaryml

    I wondered myself at this just recently, and as a high school English teacher, I'm going to start having re-teaching cursive at the beginning of the year for several reasons. I try to remind my students that the whole point of writing is communication, and if the communication is illegible, they might as well not have done it at all – it defeats the purpose. For many of them, even their printing is illegible, and so they need re-training to begin with. Second, it is clear to me that many students are unable to keep up with notetaking in any form because they are laboring over print letters and changing their handwriting daily as it is. They must stop their flow of thought when they write in the classroom; reading their essays makes it obvious that their hands do not keep up with their minds. Having writing that mirrors thought flow is helpful (I've watched it happen). Third, I love the idea that if a keyboard is available, then use it! However, in my school, there isn't even a computer available for student use inside the classroom. In a school of 2400 high schoolers, we must reserve, as a class, one of the 3 computer labs with only 25 computers in it. They'd better know how to write since getting a reservation after August is nigh on impossible. Lastly, I don't think that learning cursive is an either/or to learning vocabulary or anything else. When it comes down to it, I still can't figure out why I had to take an entire course on earth science. It hasn't helped me in my day to day life, where cursive certainly has and no one's saying, "Let's take THAT out of the curriculum!" Learning is NEVER useless, even if a person as an individual has never had occasion to employ that lesson…many others might have.

    • susie

      Please. One can quickly and efficiently take notes in print. While I can write in cursive I rarely utlize it. Also, as far as note-taking, the notes are the students own, so who cares if no one else can read it. My colllege professors certainly didn't care what MY notes looked like. You find it important to teach cursive, I wonder if you also find it important to teach students not to end sentence with prepostions, as you have in this post.

  43. I feel handwriting is important for children to learn.
    It's faster, easier on the hand and has a unique personal style.
    The more we learn the better. I find it can be relaxing if you write as slowly and as smoothly as you can. It's just the opposite of sending a text message with your two thumbs jerking back and forth as if having a seizure. Abbreviating and using numbers for words. ( "2" for two or too or to) is not as precise. It substitutes speed for spelling and grammar.

  44. Very nice article and right to the point. I don’t know if this is actually the best place to ask but do you guys have any thoughts on where to hire some professional writers? Thx :)

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  47. who among you here can recommend to me a theses and dissertations about cursive writings.Thank you,
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  48. Leslie McGuire

    Wonderful discussion! We all struggle with the cursive debate, but I've never heard a rational for focussing on it to any great extent that can't be addressed in more creative or mind expanding ways. Should we keep some traditions alive? Absolutely! Take our most valuable
    minds and tie them to it? NO! Thanks for the great ideas above in comments- I look forward to learning what the kids in my class want to do with cursive writing.

    • Katherine Collmer

      Leslie, Creative writing skills – skilled writing – have been linked to the practice and mastery of handwriting skills. For some children who struggle with manuscript, thus lessening their ability to produce quality skilled writing – they excel with cursive and become more apt to produce skilled writing work. The process of learning to write letters in manuscript leads to better skilled writing skills. However, if a child is struggling with printing, why not offer him or her an opportunity to learn cursive. As an occupational therapist who specializes in children’s handwriting skills, I have found success with that. Best of luck with your students!

  49. Rick

    For sake of argument; could teaching cursive writing today, in the age of digital text devices and computers, be somewhat analogous to the teaching of long division, multiplication tables, manual addition and subtraction shortly after the introduction of the inexpensive pocket calculator? Are long division and the other manual math skills still taught in K-12 schools today? Perhaps this could be a good point of comparison. I believe students should be exposed to cursive and be required to at least be able to read it at some basic level. I would imagine that there's still a lot of existing cursive still out there in the world, and not knowing how to read it could put one at a disadvantage.

    • Katherine Collmer

      Rick, Great analogy! When I was teaching business courses to children in a juvenile detention home, I would not allow them to use the calculator at all. They couldn’t figure me out! If we have it, why should we learn to do math? I always related my experience to them of the time a cashier in MacDonald’s gave me about $100 worth of change (using all of the coins and bills in the drawer to attempt to count the change) for a milkshake and the $20 bill I had given her. The automatic cash register was broken, she explained, and shyly explained that she could’t count very well. I suggested that she get the manager to help us:) As far as cursive goes, some children who struggle with legibility and speed in manuscript excel with cursive when I switch them over to it. They love it – they feel successful – and everyone can read their writing – including themselves. I currently am an occupational therapist who specializes in handwriting skills. Replacing the pen for the keyboard is indeed a band aid fix for a deeper problem…as would supplying a calculator for students who are having difficulty with “counting.” Thanks for your feedback. It was great!

  50. Permit me to offer another spoke to this discussion: Cursive writing is an underestimated resource in learning to spell.

    The spellings of words can be encoded and/or recalled along multiple channels, and profiles differ per person. But in the muscles of every person, there are countless tiny kinesthetic receptors which provide the brain with continuous feedback as to where each muscle is in space and whether and how it’s moving. These receptors allow us, for example, to know where our arms are when our eyes are closed. They are always at work, and they afford everyone, regardless of learning styles or “channel preferences,” with a kinesthetic/muscular background to all of our learning that involves muscle movement, especially flowing, connected muscle movements. This kind of learning allows expert piano players to play sequences of notes much more quickly than their brains should be able to command note by note, and allows most of us to pick up a pen and write out a word whose spelling we’ve temporarily “forgotten.”

    To the parents of kindergarten-aged children, I would suggest reading books to best advantage spelling later in life. But to the parents of primary- or junior-aged children who are truly struggling with spelling (the great majority of whom are still manuscript printing), I would suggest a move from manuscript to cursive as soon as the child can make the transition without feeling a great deal of stress.

    • In my opinion keyboarding lessons are just as painful as cursive writing lessons. Kids these days need plenty of exposure and they will pick up typing on their own. My students mosty type with their pointer fingers only. We are iPad 1:1. Teaching touch typing is wasted in our class because the virtual keyboards on an iPad don’t work well that way. Perhaps exposure to cursive writing is sufficient? I actually rarely hand write anything these days. The most I’d write would be immigration/custom forms when I’m travelling overseas. Everything is digital – iphone, ipad and macbook – I just have no need to hand write anything. If I do I usually lose it so I do prefer to make a note on my iPhone :)

    • Katherine Collmer

      Dylan, I am on board with you on this one. As an occupational therapist who specializes in the assessment and remediation of children’s handwriting skills, I am finding it difficult to keep up with the demand for services. Children who struggle with handwriting are those very children who are experiencing difficulty with the underlying skills that are required for its mastery – visual motor and visual perceptual skills. So often, they also struggle with spellling, but not for a lack of teaching it in school, but because of those underlying skill deficits. Many of my students who struggle the most with manuscript hop right into cursive and master it even in 3r, 4th and up to the 8th graders that I work with. I have been incorporating spelling into their session plans and have been seeing some success with that. I’m not sure I get the connection between poor handwriting and the most intelligent professions. I’m sure that simply writing scribbles on a prescription pad has become more of a status symbol than an indication of intelligence. Thanks, Dylan, for speaking up for cursive.

  51. Based on output from students of various grades over the past decade, I’d have to say that teaching of cursive writing is already dead. I’m in favour of some teaching because I think analog handwritten creation is vital ( drawing, printing, etc) but I see Grade 12 teens who cannot legibly print in an application form or write on a sticky note or wall chart. Computing and digital only skills are not enough in K-12.

  52. Eric

    I do agree with your point. Why should we stop learning something everytime a new technology appears ? Who needs to know how to ride a horse now that we have cars?

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