This is a tough one to answer. While an overwhelming amount of evidence shows the benefits of writing by hand, few studies differentiate between print and cursive, and even fewer come to definite conclusions about which should be taught.
But we don’t need hard scientific evidence to begin a discussion about cursive’s possible merits or drawbacks. With the removal of cursive from Common Core standards in a number of states, the country is engaged in a lively and important debate about the value of cursive in today’s world. Educators are torn over whether cursive has enough value to justify the time it takes to teach. Now that teachers must make room for lessons in keyboarding and other technology skills, is there still space for cursive in the classroom?
Educational psychologist Virginia Berninger conducted a study showing that cursive activates different brain patterns than print (Konnikova, 2014). So it’s possible to argue that because cursive presents another way for students to conceptualize and recognize letters, this variation creates stronger and more flexible connections to text. Students will be faster at letter recognition, and quicker to understand letters regardless of their design (script or even font type). Is this increased flexibility worth the extra hours of instruction? This is where opinions differ.
A few scientists suggest that cursive might benefit students with learning disorders or disabilities. It’s possible that cursive prevents the inversion of letters, because unlike print, all the lowercase letters begin on the same line. It has also been proposed that its joined nature discourages reversals. (McInnis & Curtis, 1982). This may especially benefit students with dyslexia and other learning impairments. However, the last studies were conducted in the 1980s, and more research should be done to fully back this claim.
Researchers point to other structural advantages of cursive, saying that its flowing movement reinforces left-to-right directionality, the joined letters visually replicate the blending of sounds within words and show each word as a cohesive unit (“Why Cursive First?”). The logic here seems intuitive, but hasn’t been sufficiently studied.
What About Speed?
Some teachers swear that cursive is faster, while others disagree. A 2013 study by Bara and Morin found that students taught script wrote faster than those taught cursive. However, students first taught cursive adopted a blended style in later grades that was faster than both (Ball, 2016). Where does that leave us? Perhaps the question of speed should fall more on an individual case basis. Our minds and bodies work in different ways — cursive might be faster for some people, and slower for others.
Some scholars support cursive for reasons of expression and identity. They believe children should be given all the writing options, so that they can figure out what feels most comfortable to them. Trying out various modes of writing gives them more opportunities to express their personality and develop their personal style.
Pride and Aesthetics
Penmanship can be a source of pride and artistry. Those stressing the importance of handwriting remember the pride they felt in developing their own personal signature in cursive and wonder, will kids even be able to sign their name anymore?
History and Tradition
Tradition is another factor to consider. Cursive enables students to read some pretty important historical documents (the U.S. Constitution!), or the writing of older family members. Should we preserve a form of writing widely believed to be more elegant and beautiful than print, one that has so gracefully recorded major moments in human history?
Our world is changing, and some people, such as literacy expert Randall Wallace, do not believe that any potential benefits of cursive justify the amount of time it takes to teach in the classroom. Wallace believes that students will receive all the benefits of handwriting instruction by learning print, and the time previously spent on cursive can be allocated to developing the technology skills needed for the future (Ball, 2016). Time constraints are Common Core’s reasoning for cutting cursive from the requirements, and many teachers echo these concerns.
There are valid arguments on both sides. What do you think? Is it time to let go of cursive, or do you see its benefits?
Whether you are looking handwriting practice for print or cursive, VocabularySpellingCity makes all of your spelling lists available as handwriting worksheets. You can choose print, cursive, D’Nealian font, or sign language; guiding arrows on or off; lower and upper case; small, medium, or large type size; and alignment to the left or right, depending on which hand each student writes with.
Simply click on the name of the list, and then click the ‘Handwriting Worksheets’ link. Click here to see an example.
Ball, Philip. “Cursive Handwriting and Other Education Myths – Issue 40: Learning – Nautilus.” Nautilus. N.p., 08 Sept. 2016. Web. Nov. 18, 2016.
Konnikova, Maria. “What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades.” Editorial. New York Times n.d.: n. pag. The New York Times. The New York Times, June 2, 2014. Web. Nov. 18, 2016.
Phillip J. McInnis and Sandra K. Curtis, The Cursive Writing Approach to Readiness and Reading, M/C Publications, 1982
“Why Cursive First?” Montessori Learning Center. N.p., 2012. Web. Nov. 18, 2016.