Research shows that using cursive writing benefits the development of children’s fine motor skills. Some experts believe that students who struggle with the physical act of printing, which has them taking their pencils off the paper constantly, will find handwriting an easier skill. Making the physical task of writing less laborious frees up energy to instead focus on the content of what is being written. Handwriting may also be a quicker method than printing for students to record their thoughts.
Some argue that cursive writing encourages creativity. While students may be initially taught how to form each letter correctly, in a very prescribed way, it’s not uncommon for them to later develop their own personal style of handwriting.
There are arguments that students need to learn cursive writing to develop a signature. They may require a signature when they’re older to sign legal documents such as cheques or home purchases. Some also argue that without learning cursive, students will be unable to read any form of communication done in handwriting, in their personal day-to-day life, or on the job.
Teaching students how to write in cursive requires lots of modeling, guided practice, and independent practice. Educators can introduce letters in an order that groups similarly formed letters together. This way, students gain practice and become comfortable following similar pathways as they form letters before being introduced to a new group of letters. For example, the letters in the first grouping outlined below require the writer to begin at the bottom and curve around.
The following is an example of groups of letters that are formed using common pathways:
c, a, d, g, q
i, t, p, u, w, j
e, l, f, h
k, r, s
b, o, v
m, n, y, x, z
The other factor to consider when introducing cursive letters is, to begin with, those that have some similarities in form to their printed counterparts. For example, using the order listed above, the first grouping letters are visually similar to the printed letters. The hand movements students are required to make when forming the letters are also similar. These letters will help students achieve success and increase their confidence before moving on to more difficult letters.
After introducing the lowercase letters and providing both guided and independent practice, educators can move on to uppercase letters.
Using the same principles outlined above, educators may wish to introduce the uppercase letters in the following order:
A, C, O, U, V, W, X, Y, Z, P, R, D, B, H, K, N, M, I, J, E, L, T, F, Q, S, G
As students are taught how to form letters in cursive correctly, it’s important to provide them with opportunities for independent practice. There are many worksheets educators can access online to support their students with cursive writing practice. Worksheets often focus on one individual letter at a time, with opportunities for students to first trace the letter several times, allowing them to rehearse the motion needed to form the letter. Following the tracing activity, there are opportunities for students to write the letter independently. Once students have become more proficient in writing individual letters, educators can access worksheets that provide opportunities for students to practice writing words. This gives them experience with linking letters together.
Aside from pre-made worksheets, students can also practice handwriting by tracing over letters or words that have been written in highlighter. For example, the teacher can write a word in a highlighter, and the student can trace it in pencil.
Students may enjoy using other modalities to practice cursive writing. They could use mini-whiteboards and markers to practice forming letters. They can also practice forming letters without the use of a writing tool. For example, they can use their index fingers to write letters in the air or the sand or salt trays. Students may also benefit from using apps that focus on handwriting. Look for apps that require students to begin the letter formation at the proper starting point and continue in the correct direction.
Students may benefit from learning phrases that help guide them in the correct direction as they form cursive letters. These verbal pathways can be taught to students as each letter is introduced. For example, a phrase for writing the letter “a” is “up, around, back, and down.”
To boost students’ motivation while learning cursive letters, teach them how to write words of personal significance. Students may really enjoy learning how to write their name and friends’ or family members’ names.
As students learn cursive writing, and even after formal instruction has concluded, it can be very beneficial to provide students with a model of the letters to refer to. This may be a poster on the wall or a smaller, individual guide on students’ desks. This way, if students forget how to form a letter early in their learning, they have a guideline they can independently refer to.
While some argue that cursive writing is a dying art, educators may find benefits to having their students make the transition from printing to handwriting. They may also find that their young students are particularly interested in learning how to write in this more “adult” form.