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Beginning With Cursive Handwriting

At Logic of English we strongly recommend beginning with cursive. Cursive has six primary advantages over print:

  1. It is less fine-motor skill intensive.
  2. All the lowercase letters begin in one place, on the baseline.
  3. Spacing within and between words is controlled.
  4. By lifting the pencil between words, the beginning and ending of words is emphasized.
  5. It is difficult to reverse letters such as b's and d's.
  6. The muscle memory that is mastered first will last a lifetime.

As a culture we have been mistakenly led to believe that printing is easier for students than cursive. However, this is simply not the case. Cursive requires far less fine-motor skills than printing. Take a moment to write the word teacher in both print and cursive. Observe the motions of your fingers and the lifting of the pencil. With cursive the pencil is lifted only between words. With print the up and down motion is far more fine-motor skill intensive. Cursive was designed for the human hand; printing was designed for the printing press.

The lowercase cursive letters all begin on the base line. The print letters begin in seven different places. One of the most confusing aspects of learning to print is learning where to place the pencil to form each letter. This issue is solved with cursive; they all begin on the baseline.

Cursive

Manuscript (print)

All lower-case cursive letters begin on the baseline.

Lower-case manuscript (print) letters begin in 7 places.

You pick up the pencil only between words with cursive.

You pick up the pencil between each letter with manuscript (printing).

In cursive it is impossible to put too much space between letters within a word and too little space between words.

In manuscript (printing) too much space is commonly placed between letters within a word and too little space between words.

Cursive emphasizes where words begin and end.

Students who begin with manuscript (printing) are commonly confused about where words begin and end.

It is difficult to reverse b's and d's in cursive.

Reversals are common in manuscript (printing).

Historically cursive was taught first.

Manuscript (printing) has only been taught first for the last 80 years.

In Europe and Eastern European countries cursive is taught from the beginning.

Manuscript (printing) is taught only for drafting or not at all in most non-English speaking countries.

Cursive was designed for the human hand.

Manuscript (printing) was designed for the printing press.

The spacing of letters within words and between words is natural in cursive due to the connections. This is in direct contrast to the difficulty that young students experience with printing. Many students put too little space between words and too much within words.

The connectedness of letters within words also helps to reinforce where words begin and end. Many students struggle to understand this concept when reading and will blend the final sounds of one word with the initial sounds of the next word. These same students frequently make the most errors in spacing their writing as well. By teaching cursive these problems resolve easily.

Cursive handwriting also emphasizes the direction of reading and writing and makes letter reversals more difficult.  Students who first learn to print frequently reverse b's and d's and p's and q's in both reading and writing. Cursive helps to minimize this type of confusion.

The generational problems of our handwriting practices are apparent. Most people in the United States mix print and cursive. This is because writing requires highly developed muscle memory. When students are asked to switch in second or third grade, they are unable to overcome the prior years of practice. Most people recognize that cursive is faster and therefore end up blending cursive and print. Another significant percentage of students revert back to printing as soon as they are allowed. These students typically found developing the fine-muscle memory of printing to be very difficult. They dreaded the demands placed upon them to switch to cursive, when they have barely mastered printing. As soon as they are no longer required, they will revert back to printing. Since cursive is faster, it would be far better to develop the life long muscle memory for cursive and later learn to print for specialized uses such as filling out applications.

Although most schools begin by teaching printing in English speaking countries, most other cultures begin with the cursive form. In many of these countries, children's books are even printed in both print and cursive.

Teaching printing before cursive is one of the reasons for widespread underachievement in handwriting, spelling, and reading. For the reasons stated above, dyslexia and remedial reading centers around the country recommend teaching cursive handwriting.

At Logic of English though we believe it is important to begin by teaching students cursive, we understand that not all educators are ready to make the change. Therefore our Foundations A, Foundations B, and Rhythym of Handwriting workbooks are available in manuscript.

See our Cursive Handwriting Program.