For many, cursive handwriting is a thing of the past, an archaic method taught in the days before keyboards and touch screens. Many schools in North America and Finland have opted out of teaching it. However France has reconsidered the importance of handwriting for children following recent neuroscientific research, with several states in the U.S. re-introducing the practice in elementary school. Recent UK research found out that that 37 percent of seven- to nine-year-olds and 28 per cent of children aged 11 or under are not able to use joined-up handwriting to connect the letters of a word. The same study also found that almost one in five of primary pupils are unable to write in a straight line and that 17 percent write using large letters.
Many experts claim that cursive handwriting is faster and more efficient. It promotes speed and cognitive automaticity, which is the ability to write without thinking about the mechanics of writing. It enhances language fluency and children improve vision-motor control. Cursive handwriting plays a significant role in the formation of logical and symbolic thinking, the development of learning abilities and problem solving. Writing letters is an important psychomotor activity which improves self-control and concentration. Learning to write letters is another additional opportunity to develop the neatness and precision of fine motor and graphomotor skills. The connecting letters help the child to produce smooth, rather than choppy, strokes with the pencil.
A study in the USA revealed that 15 percent of essays were written in cursive and those subsequently achieved higher scores than printed essays. Children who learn to read and write cursive can also read manuscripts and study many historical documents in their original form.
In many Montessori classrooms, cursive script is taught before print. The process starts with activities such as sandpaper letters, movable alphabets, green boards, chalkboards and other handwritten materials. According to Montessori teachers, cursive is a more natural way of writing, meaning it’s beneficial to teach cursive before print .The pencil flows along the paper without frequent stops within words, as well as words written in cursive being clearly separated from each other. Run-on words are not as common in cursive.
Physical exercises for cursive handwriting tend to be more holistic. They include gross motor and fine motor skills, with the transition exercise of Lazy 8. Gross motor skills include activities for shoulder stability, while fine motor skills are covered with activities for strength, dexterity and flexibility for wrist, fingers and the whole hand.
There is no common ground if cursive or print is better for children with special needs. Dyslexic students may read and write very slowly, confuse the order of letters in words, put letters the wrong way round (e.g. b & d). They also have poor spelling and they understand information when told verbally, but have difficulty with information that's written down. Cursive writing does help some of them because cursive letters look more different from each other (e.g. b & d). If a child has dysgraphia, which is a problem with writing, cursive is much harder for such a child, because there is a lot more to think about. Since each letter connects, the child has to not only form the letter, but think about which letter is coming next in order to join them correctly.
With students’ age, the school curriculum puts less effort on the quality and neatness of handwriting leading to the development of our own style. Not many students stay fully cursive. Most of us use a print with connected letters or mixed-mostly cursive letters (ie. capitals print, other cursive), which received higher ratings for legibility in a research conducted in 1930s’.
Pre-handwriting Warm up Exercises. https://www.teachhandwriting.co.uk/handwriting-warm-up-exercises.html
Karavanidou, Eleni. (2017). Is Handwriting Relevant in the Digital Era?. Antistasis. 7. 153-164. https://journals.lib.unb.ca/index.php/antistasis/article/viewFile/25104/29541
Gladstone, Kate. (2012). Handwriting Matters; Cursive Doesn’t. New York Times 30th April 2013. https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/04/30/should-schools-require-children-to-learn-cursive/handwriting-matters-cursive-doesnt
Montessori for Everyone. (2015). Cursive vs. Printing: Is One Better Than the Other?. http://www.blog.montessoriforeveryone.com/cursive-vs-printing-is-one-better-than-the-other.html
The Room 241 Team. (2012). 5 Reasons Cursive Writing Should be Taught in School. https://education.cu-portland.edu/blog/classroom-resources/5-reasons-cursive-writing-should-be-taught-in-school/