The Importance of Teaching Cursive
In years past, public schools have continuously removed traditional activities and methods from their regular curriculum—diagramming sentences, drilling number facts, memorization, cursive writing, and more. However, several states have been working to reintroduce one of these activities into their schools’ curriculum because they see the benefits it offers their students. In this blog, we’re going to cover those benefits and show why learning cursive can prepare students for a successful education.
We believe cursive writing in the early grades is valuable and necessary. While we offer both manuscript and cursive curriculum options for kindergarten, we encourage that cursive be taught early. We asked Dr. Phyllis Rand, senior editor of Abekamazing for Christian School and a former Pensacola Christian College administrator with over 40 years of service in Christian education, why she encourages that cursive be taught in the younger grades. Here’s what she told us.
Why Abeka Encourages Teaching Cursive in the Younger Grades
Cursive is actually easier to learn than manuscript.
According to Dr. Rand, the argument that cursive writing is harder for children to learn is not based on facts. Young children struggle to write the straight lines and perfect circles manuscript requires. Yes, cursive requires skill. But it also requires curved lines, which children can easily form. Additionally, the flow of cursive is easier than the frequent stop and start motion of manuscript.
Cursive provides long-term academic benefits, especially in language development.
Cursive writing stimulates the part of the brain that develops language skills, Dr. Rand says. There are also reasons to believe that cursive improves students’ reading and spelling skills. When young children learn cursive early, they are less likely to confuse letters that look similar in print, such as b and d, because cursive letters are more distinct. Students who confuse letters less become better readers and they learn to spell correctly.
Cursive helps children develop fine motor skills and coordination.
The benefits of teaching cursive go beyond education and directly affect physiological development. Writing stimulates the development of fine motor skills and coordination by causing eyes and hands to focus on the same thing. While writing in cursive, children are focusing their hands and eyes on the formation of the letter. Dr. Rand quotes Jeanette Farmer, a handwriting specialist when she says “handwriting has a physiological/psychological link in the brain.’” This link is so strong that “‘nothing else done in the classroom can begin to compare with the powerful impact that repetitively manipulating the thumb and fingers over time has on the young brain.” In an article entitled “What Learning Cursive Does for Your Brain,” William Klemm adds that “cursive activates areas of the brain that do not participate in keyboarding.” When young students learn cursive, they are further prepared to learn new skills.
Cursive helps develop character.
The formation of character is an important byproduct of learning cursive. Students have to be careful, orderly, responsible, and thorough. Cursive requires strengths such as patience, memory, focus, prediction, attention, sequencing, estimation, and creativity. The practice gives students opportunities to develop cognition, learn skills, and learn work habits that will carry into higher learning and adulthood, and benefit them their whole life.
In response to public schools dropping cursive curriculum, Dr. Rand says this: “Let us not be hasty to eliminate opportunities for students to develop cognition, learn skills, and learn work habits that will benefit them their whole life.
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:
Why teach cursive?
1. It activates parts of your brain that typing or writing in manuscript don’t.
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 and paper.”
2. It makes learning to read and spell easier.
Learning cursive encourages language development by connecting the letters together in writing, which encourages connections between letters and sounds.
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.
3. It’s faster.
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.
4. It looks more appealing.
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.
5. It’s more personal.
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, graphology.)
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. It helps us stay connected to the past.
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 u