I learned cursive in third grade. And was terrible at it. At some point along the line one of my teachers asked me to please print instead of writing in cursive.
A lot of schools are getting rid of cursive. Few people still write in cursive; many people can’t read cursive since they never learned to write it. Cursive is viewed as archaic and unnecessary. The computer and keyboard rule the kingdom of written communication.
My school teaches cursive in second grade (which means I have to teach it!). Second graders are expected to write everything in cursive from that February on through all grade levels. The only exception is essays when they get older, which are expected to be typed. In first grade, students learn D’Nealian handwriting, which we refer to as cursive prep.
I have mixed feelings about cursive and cursive prep.
Well, actually, only about cursive. I think D’Nealian is a waste of time. Kids can go from printing to cursive just fine.
My school really emphasizes neat handwriting. Students even get a penmanship grade each term on their report cards. (I usually grade my students fairly leniently on this; after all, they have the disadvantage of learning from me!)
I agree that neat handwriting is important. As a matter of my own personal convenience, (selfish, I know), I would much rather read an essay written very neatly than one that’s very messy. Sometimes a student’s grade hinges on me deciphering what the kid wrote.
Neat handwriting is also connected to a lot of other things. Students with neat handwriting are also (in general) more organized and more articulate. I can’t help but make the connection that the students with the best handwriting and the students with the most complete, detailed, and insightful answers are the same students.
Now, I’m not saying that neat handwriting makes the students more insightful. My most insightful students will be that way whether or not I teach them cursive.
However, the students with the least legible handwriting are generally the students who make the least progress. There is definitely a connection here, though certainly not a simple cause and effect one. It’s true that when I’m conferencing with a student about their work, if I have to spend several minutes just trying to read what they wrote, I can’t spend as much time on helping them improve their ideas and mode of expression.
I believe that handwriting is important. Students need to learn to write correctly and neatly. I’m on the fence about the importance of cursive in particular. I’m not entirely convinced that cursive is especially important, but I’m not ready to relegate it to obscurity.
What do you think? Should schools be teaching cursive? In the day of the computer, is handwriting important at all?
I decided to write this article after reading “What Learning Cursive Does for Your Brain” on psychologytoday.com, about the supposed benefits to thinking skills from learning cursive. To me it is more persuasive on the need to learn handwriting, rather than cursive in particular, but still a good read.