When I was in first grade, Mrs. Scherger, my soon-to-be 2nd grade teacher told me, “Here at Trinity, we learn cursive in 2nd grade, so starting next year, you’ll be able to read anything written by anyone, even the Constitution.” That was an exciting, mysterious prospect to me because at that time all I knew was the print in my readers.
And for some time now, under the Common Core State Standards Initiative for “best educational practices”, it states that “cursive is no longer required to be taught” and instead will be replaced by keyboarding.
In “Killing Cursive Is Killing History,” HuffPost has this to say: “Not only can this generation not read or write cursive, they can no longer even sign their names. They write everything, including their own names, in block letters. Signing your name has been a proof of identity for hundreds of years. Those who could not sign their names would have to make their mark in front of witnesses. Contracts, mortgages, wills and all manner of other legal documents require our signature. What will the future bring for people who cannot put their signatures to documents?”
Other Side Effects:
What is being missed here – what many educators do not realize – is that by learning cursive:
- you were not just learning how to communicate in another font
- you were building neural pathways necessary to stimulate brain activity that enables vision-motor control and language fluency necessary for cognitive development, learning, reading, sports, socialization and everyday tasks
Reasons Cursive Should Be Taught:
The Science For Cognitive Development
Fine motor skills are the building blocks our brains need to connect and make sense of the world around us. Cursive is a great example of many specializations taking place at once.
- tactile information (touch/sensation)
- hand-eye coordination
- movement control (fine motor dexterity)
- visual integration
- directing movement by thought, and
- thinking simultaneously, in a fullness that print alone does not
Understanding and knowing how to form letters on lines at a certain shape and size, at a certain angle, in real time and space comes through the fine motor control of the hands and arms. Cursive handwriting naturally develops sensory skills, as they are called, by taking advantage of a child’s inability to fully control their fingers. (source)
Neurologist Frank Wilson wrote in his book, “The Hand: How its Use Shapes the Brain, Language, And Human Culture”, “teachers should not try to educate the mind by itself. If educators continue to dissolve the disciplines that involve the hands and the body in full movement (as in active play), much of the knowledge will be poorly processed and inadequately learned.”
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The Science On Cursive
- “Shadmehr and Holcomb of Johns Hopkins University published a study in Science magazine showing that their subjects’ brains actually changed in reaction to physical instruction such as cursive handwriting lessons. The researchers provided PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scans as evidence of these changes in brain structure. In addition, they also demonstrated that these changes resulted in an almost immediate improve in fluency, which led to later development of neural pathways. As a result of practicing these handwriting motor skills, the researchers found that acquired knowledge becomes more stable.” (source)
- According to Dr. David Sortino, “cursive handwriting stimulates brain synapses and synchronicity between the left and right hemispheres, something absent from printing, typing or keyboarding.” He also discovered that cursive writing was “an excellent kinesthetic exercise which grounded his special needs students’ energies, many of which had severe behavioral problems.”
- Dr. Klemm, a senior professor of Neuroscience at Texas A&M, has written several articles about why “the pen is mightier than the keyboard.”
- Dr. Stanislas Dehaene, a researcher at the Collège de France in Paris states, “When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated. There is a core recognition of the gesture in the written word, a sort of recognition by mental simulation in your brain. And it seems that this circuit is contributing in unique ways we didn’t realize. Learning is made easier.” This study at Indiana University supports this.
- An article in New York Times by Maria Konnikova, it’s been shown that cursive vs print “activates separate brain networks and engages in more cognitive resources.” She explains how following a brain injury, or in dysgraphia, where the ability to write is impaired or in Alexia, impaired reading ability, individuals who can no longer write or understand print can still comprehend cursive.
- PBS Newshour published a report about how cursive helps not just dyslexic students but all students with deeper and more critical thinking, memory, reading, etc. “Some of the most recent research in the fMRI studies is showing us that when the hands are involved, it’s a stronger association for learning and memory. When people write things they remember them longer.”
- Cursive writing has proved to even support higher SAT scores.
Cursive Helps in Dyslexia:
The IDA (International Dyslexia Association) and the BDA (British Dyslexia Association) encourage cursive writing instruction for kids with dyslexia. Because cursive letters are more stylistically distinct and are easier for students struggling with distinguishing similar letters to recognize, the differences empower these children to see words as a whole, not just a part. Cursive is often part of dyslexia therapy.
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Help in Focus (Boys and Girls):
And lastly, a 2012 study in Child Development Journal states “Fine motor skills through handwriting supports executive function by engaging a child’s attention and developing her ability to focus” and “…handwriting is important for the early recruitment in letter processing of brain regions known to underlie successful reading. Handwriting therefore may facilitate reading acquisition in young children.”
“It is a grave misconception to believe that promoting keyboard fingering fluency will develop the minds of students as much as traditional cursive handwriting lessons once did. Typing is a homolateral act using one hemisphere of the brain separately from the other hemisphere. Since a child’s hands do not cross the midline, the corpus callosum (connecting fibers of the two hemispheres of the brain which allows inter-hemispheric communication) is not being developed. Keyboarding has its own benefits to brain development and is a necessary tool for a 21st century lifestyle that should be taught in conjunction with traditional print and cursive disciplines to set our children on the path to success. To quote first-century Roman writer, Marcus Quintilanus, “too slow a hand impedes the mind,” and we cannot afford to have our children be any slower.” (source)
“Cursive is an art form, subtle, day-to-day art form that leavens life, like little origami surprises, arranging flowers… a well-crafted condolence or thinking-of-you letter. If you support longhand teaching you are supporting art, a grace of writing. You also are supporting the hands to be a kind of multilingual.” ~Beth at WiseMommies.com
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