Whether or not children should be taught how to write in cursive has been a topic in the news recently. We thought we'd interview our resident teacher, Kelly, about her thoughts on this topic.
Kelly, do schools still teach children how to write cursive handwriting?
It varies from school to school, but generally after the primary grades (K-2) handwriting is not explicitly addressed in the curriculum. None of the schools that I have worked in teach cursive systematically or consistently through grade levels.
Why is this skill often no longer included as part of the regular curriculum?
Mainly it is because so much more focus is placed on content areas like math, science, and reading. Even while teaching writing teachers focus so much on organization and ideas that the quality of the handwriting is often overlooked. There is so much to teach in a day, and handwriting-- especially cursive-- just gets pushed to the wayside.
Why do you think children should learn cursive handwriting in this digital age?
There is value in learning cursive. It teaches students the correct way to write letters so that they can write neatly and efficiently. Speed and legibility are extremely important in standardized testing as students are expected to write essays in short periods of time, and those grading these essays need to be able to read them! In my fifth grade classroom last year I still had students writing their letters backwards, which was both surprising and frustrating. Those that wanted to write in cursive for their final drafts struggled and often had to ask me questions like, "What does a cursive 'D' look like?" However, students that had been taught cursive in previous grades generally wrote faster and neater, which is important as difficulty of content and expectations for quality escalate quickly from fifth grade on.
What can parents do to help their children learn cursive even if their school doesn’t include this in the curriculum?
Encourage your students to practice, practice, practice! Watch how they write letters and encourage them to use the correct direction and stroke order when printing. Generally kids think cursive is pretty cool, so if you can teach them how to write it they would be happy to learn (and show their classmates and teacher the next day). At the very least check their homework for spelling and legibility as these are two of the most neglected writing components in school today.
It is also very helpful if your students have the right tools they need to fit their writing style. This might mean finding thicker or thinner pens to write with, using wide-ruled or graph paper to write on, or it could be as easy as adding a pencil grip or eraser.
Thank you Kelly!
Writer's Bloc has some useful tools for learning cursive or for improving your own handwriting. Many of these tools are used daily by students in parts of Europe, where cursive handwriting is still being taught in school.
For very young students, both the LAMY ABC Fountain Pen and the Pelikano Junior Fountain Pen have ergonomic grips to assist with proper finger placement. These fountain pens have rounded nibs that are very forgiving and easy to write with. The Pelikano Junior is even available with a specially designed left-handed nib. Being a lefty myself, I can tell you from personal experience that this does make a difference.
For older students, the Pelikan Pelikano Fountain Pen has been in use by millions of students for 50 years and has been recommended by generations of teachers. Like the Pelikano Junior, this pen is also available with a left-handed nib option.
The LAMY Safari is another fountain pen that has been a favorite of both students and adults for the past 30 years.
Of course, learning to write includes making mistakes and maybe even spilling some ink! Washable blue fountain pen ink makes clean-up (including laundry) and corrections easy. Using the Pelikan Ink Eradicator Super Pirat Pen you can erase your writing errors with one end of the pen and then make your corrections using the blue pen on the other end. There are many kinds of washable blue fountain pen inks available in both cartridges and bottles, including LAMY Blue, J. Herbin Bleu Myosotis, Aurora Blue, Pelikan Royal Blue and Pelikan Violet.
French ruled paper seems very unusual to most Americans, but its lines are useful for guiding the size of your upper & lower case letters as well as the size of cursive loops & strokes. There is an example of this as well as a few instructions from DarkskyZ on the Fountain Pen Network (scroll down to find it). I personally enjoyed trying this technique.
What are your thoughts? Do you think it is important for children to learn cursive handwriting? What tools do you use to help children or yourself improve handwriting skills?