1. wmchamberlain

    I think cursive should be moved to the art room. It is, after all, a very artistic way of writing. Of course I also think that art, music, and PE should be daily classes too. Anyone want to have an 8 hour day at school like me?

    • George

      Start a hashtag!!! I like the idea of cursive in an art class. Physical activity is daily in Alberta (as it should be) but art and music are not. That being said, many are integrating it into curriculum.

  2. Vini Jelicic Edy

    Well said. I agree that time in our classrooms is scarce and needs to be used more wisely. I think cursive has some benefits for some students but shouldn’t be taught with copious amounts of mundane worksheets.

  3. I’d like to see a project like http://www.planethunters.org/ set up with historical documents that were written in cursive available for translation by students.

    Being able to READ cursive allows for students to read historical documents and has a clear purpose – becoming a historian.

    Being able to WRITE in cursive is a bit pointless IMHO, provided students can print neatly. A neatly printed note requires hand-eye motor coordination and shows that personal touch that people appreciate. If we want students to develop better hand-eye coordination, then they should do more art, particularly fine-detail drawing.

    The purpose of cursive was to allow people to write more quickly and our technology now allows this to be done in other ways.

  4. I think cursive also symbolizes an individual’s personal style and uniqueness. No two people have the same, exact format/signature. It is also a fundamental skill of literacy.

  5. Mag Front

    I agree with all points made; about rethinking how valuable class time is used, the ever changing definitions of literacy, availability of digital tools to develop creativity, etc.

    I also think some good points were made about cursive writing; how it “symbolizes an individual’s personal style and uniqueness” (Marie Maher) and how “being able to READ cursive allows for students to read historical documents” (David Wees).

    What’s important here; I think, is that we don’t throw the baby out with the bath water (is that how the idiom goes?). Although we probably shouldn’t devote as much time to teaching it as was the case in the past (when it was pretty much the only way to ‘write’), I think we should still do more than just be ‘okay with it’ if a student chooses to use cursive. I’d still like students to be exposed to it, so that they can decide if it is their thing.

    In my teaching career I have never spent an extensive amount of time teaching cursive, but I found that spending a few class periods on it really allowed some kids to shine. I also think that not focusing on the ‘perfect’ formation of the letters is important, allowing kids to express their personal style through cursive writing instead. One year I taught my grade 5/6 class calligraphy and to my surprise, the BOYS really enjoyed it and would practice when they were done with their other classwork. That’s why I like the idea of moving cursive writing into art class (@wmchamberlain) as it does seem to be a dying art form.

  6. I must admit, the compulsory teaching of cursive writing has always frustrated me. As a parent I have two children who have both been taught cursive as part of their curriculum. My eldest found it a breeze, her passions for art and drawing and the commitment she shows to presenting her work culminated in lovely cursive handwriting. She brought home 30 mins of handwriting practice each week until year 5 and completed it without a grumble. My youngest however battled with handwriting, frustrated with which letters should be linked, which not, how far the “t” goes up and so on. My son is a speedy typer, he can manipulate documents, he writes functions into spreadsheets that I have no idea of, he is a passionate reader, writes a blog in his own time and creates stories and comic strips using my iPad – he is highly literate. In the painstaking time spent pencil in hand, tongue out, he could easily have created or produced something, I believe, to be far more valuable.

    The fine motor skills argument has some place, as handwriting is great practice to improve fine motor. However, it is NOT the only way. Drawing, crafts, clay and dough is great, so too is construction (have you ever tried to build a Lego Star Wars Fighter – that’s more fine motor skills than I posses), or collecting ants for and ant farm both of which my son is amazing at.

    As a Special Education teacher I have seen many students struggle with hand written work. I have had students come to me refusing to write because their previous experience with handwriting has been agony. Does this mean they cannot produce writing, or express themselves in written form? Goodness NO! My students produce mountains of literature, they just compile it in different ways. iPods, iPads, netbooks, laptops and desktops have been integral to enabling them to produce meaningful and relevant work. I value the content of the work most important, not the way it is presented to me. You said, “If I can get a student to write more that is better” – I completely agree. If I have a student expending energies on which letter links in which way, he/she is sure not going to be expressing their ideas to their potential.

    I understand that the hand written letter is valuable to some. I have a box filled with letters and cards that I treasure. Is it because the writer has good penmanship? Definitely not. It is the message that has touched my heart, the message that I will keep forever. If it came to me via post, email, edmodo, facebook, my blog or face to face, it would not make a difference to me.

    Placing cursive in the hands of the creative arts is a wonderful idea. I actually remember my sister learning Calligraphy as an option in her senior Art lessons.

    Something I try to ask myself every time I look at learning for my students, is why am I asking them to do it this way? Is this useful, is it relevant, is there a better way? Working with students with Autism is very useful in this way. They regularly ask what’s the point? I had one of my ASD students hand write a piece of writing last year. It was a wonderful piece of work and I asked if she should type it up for her folio. She shook her head at me and asked “Why didn’t you just asked me to write it straight onto the computer in the first place?” Duh! She will now be writing straight onto a blog! Lesson learnt :)

  7. Joe Davies

    Awesome… as long as they are reading and writing in some form there can be a tool useful fir skill development and assessment.

  8. I still think of cursive today as being like calligraphy from the past. I am in my 50’s, have fairly good cursive writing, and never use it except for my signature. My hand can’t keep up to my stream of thought with cursive writing. I am always skipping a letter and then have to fix it. I can type faster and, best of all, I can edit my writing. Cursive writing is very hard to edit. My daughters are now in their 20’s and I don’t think they really ever have used cursive. They were taught it, but never liked, it even though they are both quite creative and artistic.

    I teach a little cursive writing, particularly if a student likes it. I have a very hard time forcing students to spend time with it, when they don’t like it or struggle with it.

    By the way, I also do calligraphy for special occasions.

  9. There are so many good points made both in the post itself and the many responses. I actually tweeted out the question of cursive last week as I was thinking about it’s continued relevance.

    I love William Chamberlain’s idea of moving cursive to the art room. That is something I had not considered, yet it makes sense since cursive and calligraphy lend themselves to art.

    What this post makes me wonder is, are we still teaching cursive as a vestige of our past educational lives (the good old days), a way to keep part of the traditional classroom? Or are we teaching it because we always have and we haven’t questioned it’s current value?

  10. I live in Virginia and have a first grader and a third grader in public schools. Both are learning cursive. I’m both an early adopter (I’m a technology manager by profession) and a traditionalist (I still shoot film). I hope that cursive remains a part of the curriculum, and that the idea of hand written thank you notes isn’t completely consumed by social media and touch screen devices. But I fear this is a losing battle…

  11. […] The cursive handwriting debate is one that is beyond interesting and it has made me really think of what happens when educators debate ideas. What happens when we disagree?  How does that impact our students?  If the grade one teacher totally disagrees with the grade two teacher on certain aspects of education, what happens to the kids?  I think debate is fantastic as long as it is focused on what is best for kids, but I also wonder what happens in schools when we agree to disagree?  How does that impact our kids long term? […]

  12. I completely agree – it isn’t about what is right for everyone, it’s about what is right for each one. And if we started differentiating – actually differentiating – we could do a lot more, but not necessarily with everyone. Take the journal example. I believe blogging should be one of the principal genres we teach in English, but so far, it’s never made it into any list of mandated genres that I know of. On the other hand, if one student preferred to journal in a traditional journal and another on a blog, wouldn’t that be okay?

    With regards to changing brains, even I, who grew up on cursive seldom choose to use it anymore. I have completely trained my brain to draft on a computer, and in fact, I prefer it. My “journal” is now more of an idea book, where I sketch out thoughts or notes before I write about them (sometimes – when I am not jotting notes on my phone or tablet). I have another friend who also writes, and she drafts longhand every time. We have had discussions about the benefits both, and at the end of the day, we are both as productive and both as able. So why do we have to wait until adulthood to make those choices of differentiation?

    I am currently writing about the use of technology with regards to augmentation versus substitution. If we are only doing old things in old ways with the only change being the technology we use, then it’s kind of pointless. We need to be looking at how and why we are doing things and then deciding what is best.

  13. […] I had the conversation regarding cursive handwriting in schools, and many still believe that this is an essential skill for our kids to have.  What I had to try […]

  14. Handwriting matters — but dues cursive matter? The fastest, clearest handwriters join only some letters: making the easiest joins, skipping others, using print-like forms of letters whose cursive and printed forms disagree. (Sources below.)

    Reading cursive matters, but even children can be taught to read writing that they are not taught to produce. Reading cursive can be taught in just 30 to 60 minutes — even to five- or six-year-olds, once they read ordinary print. Why not teach children to read cursive, along with teaching other vital skills, including a handwriting style typical of effective handwriters?

    Adults increasingly abandon cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers were surveyed at a conference hosted by Zaner-Bloser, a publisher of cursive textbooks. Only 37 percent wrote in cursive; another 8 percent printed. The majority, 55 percent, wrote a hybrid: some elements resembling print-writing, others resembling cursive. When most handwriting teachers shun cursive, why mandate it?

    Cursive’s cheerleaders sometimes allege that cursive makes you smarter, makes you graceful, or confers other blessings no more prevalent among cursive users than elsewhere. Some claim research support, citing studies that consistently prove to have been misquoted or otherwise misrepresented by the claimant.

    What about signatures? In state and federal law, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over any other kind. (Hard to believe? Ask any attorney!)

    All writing, not just cursive, is individual — just as all writing involves fine motor skills. That is why, six months into the school year, any first-grade teacher can immediately identify (from print-writing on unsigned work) which student produced it.

    Mandating cursive to preserve handwriting resembles mandating stovepipe hats and crinolines to preserve the art of tailoring.


    Handwriting research on speed and legibility:

    /1/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, and Naomi Weintraub. “The Relation between Handwriting Style and Speed and Legibility.” JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 91, No. 5 (May – June, 1998), pp. 290-296: on-line at http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/27542168.pdf

    /2/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, Naomi Weintraub, and William Schafer. “Development of Handwriting Speed and Legibility in Grades 1-9.”
    JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 92, No. 1 (September – October, 1998), pp. 42-52: on-line at http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/27542188.pdf

    Zaner-Bloser handwriting survey: Results on-line at http://www.hw21summit.com/media/zb/hw21/files/H2937N_post_event_stats.pdf

    [AUTHOR BIO: Kate Gladstone is the founder of Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works and the director of the World Handwriting Contest]

    Yours for better letters,

    Kate Gladstone
    Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works
    and the World Handwriting Contest

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