Cursive: More Than Just Fancy Handwriting
Can you picture not being able to sign your own signature on a check or an important document? Much to her dismay, this last scenario came true for Kelli Davis’s daughter. In an article written for the Associated Press, Davis recalls how she had to sign a document for her daughter because she did not know how to write cursive. Unfortunately, Davis’s daughter may not be the only young person unable to read or write cursive. Across the country, schools are either minimizing the time they spend on cursive instruction or eliminating it all together (Breen).
Over the past several years, forty-two states have adapted the Common Core State Standards for English, which do not require cursive lessons as mandatory. Because of this, a number of these states have already dropped cursive entirely from their curriculum (Braiker). Another reason why cursive is being diminished in schools is because of the No Child Left Behind Act Of 2001. This act makes standardized testing a focal point in classrooms and since cursive is not accessed on the tests, it is seen as irrelevant to many educators. In the TIME article Mourning the Death of Handwriting, Professor Tamara Thronton explains that “in schools today, they’re teaching to the test” and that “if something isn’t on a test, it’s viewed as a luxury” (Suddath).
The amount of material teachers have to fit into their lesson plans is also pushing cursive aside. In the USA Today article Schools debate: Is cursive writing worth teaching, elementary school teacher Jennifer Cockrell and Principal Carl Brown explain that “kids have a broader education than they did 20 years ago,” and “with all the other subjects we must teach, we just don’t have time to spend a lot of effort on cursive” (Downs). This and the increasing amount of work children have to do on computers (especially with the PARCC) make cursive seem less vital in a world of modern technology (Gillis). However, schools should still consider teaching cursive to children and students everywhere because it has many benefits.
Benefits In ELA-
Handwriting in general, whether cursive or manuscript, has a myriad of advantages that can significantly help young children. Handwriting is still used and needed in many different classes and subjects (Spear-Swerling). According to research, handwriting will also help students improve their reading, writing, and language skills (Oberholtz, Smith, Anderson). For example, in the online article The Importance of Teaching Handwriting, Louise Spear-Swerling explains that “handwriting in the earliest grades is linked to basic reading and spelling achievement… when children learn how to form the letter m, they can also be learning its sound. Attention to the linkage among handwriting, reading, and spelling skills can help to reinforce early achievement across those areas.”
Another positive is that handwriting is supposed to improve memory and brain function (Rodriguez). According to the ABC article Tossing the Script: the End of the Line for Cursive, this was proven to be true in an experiment. Brian Braiker explains that two groups were given a foreign alphabet and letters to learn, one group writing them down and the other group typing. When tested on this material a few weeks later, the group that had handwritten the alphabet scored significantly higher. Also, when the handwritten group was scanned for brain activity, the scans showed “greater activity in the part of the brain that controls language comprehension, motor-related processes and speech-associated gestures.” The results of this experiment demonstrate how handwriting is helpful in learning and memory recognition.
Fine Motor Skills and Perseverance-
However, cursive alone has even more advantages. One of the most notable is the fact that cursive is excellent for developing children’s fine motor skills because of the dexterity it requires (Zezima). Lisa Faircloth, mentioned in the earlier ABC article, explains how cursive has positively affected her son’s muscle control: “I feel like it has helped him with his fine motor skills… he is able to form things he hadn’t before and has new muscle movement that he didn’t know before” (Braiker). Kristen Chase, another mother and homeschooler, says that teaching children cursive helps them learn perseverance because it is more difficult to master. She explains that if a child can persist through learning cursive, they will be more confident when facing other tough subjects (The Pioneer Woman).
Helping Learning Disabilities-
Another benefit is that cursive is more efficient for writing quickly or fluently. The connected, flowing letters can be written faster (LITHBTH Educational Services), which helps students take notes or get their thoughts down more swiftly. “Some students have more ideas in their heads than they can (print) on paper,” says Anthony McGrann, writer of an education blog (Rodriguez). Perhaps the most impressive aspect of cursive is that it can help people who suffer from dyslexia. The Huffington Post article Schools Debate Cursive Handwriting Instruction Nationwide explains that the connected letters of cursive help students read from left to right and prevent them from reversing letters or words (Gillis). LD Online, a website dedicated to learning disabilities, says that handwriting can also help with reading, writing, and nonverbal learning disabilities (Spear-Swerling).
Unable To Read and Sign Important Documents-
Moreover, if children are not taught how to write cursive, they may not be able to read it. The original Declaration of Independence and other historical documents, like the Constitution, will be lost to them (Zezima). Also, they may not be able to read sentimental things such as letters or diaries. In the USA Today article from before, Alex Heck explains that her grandmother left behind journals for her to read, but she was unable to read them because she was not accustomed to cursive (Downs). These are just two examples of the many things that students may not be able to read in the future. As I mentioned earlier, there is also the issue of signatures. Without cursive, not only will someone not be able to write an ample signature, it will also be easier to forge. Manuscript is less complex while cursive is harder to copy and duplicate (Zezima).
Implementing Cursive Into Lesson Plans-
For those who believe there is not enough time to incorporate cursive into lesson plans, handwriting experts say that only fifteen minutes a day is all the time needed for proper instruction (Downs). This is a minimal amount of time. There is also the possibility of integrating cursive into other subjects as McCrann suggests: “I think teachers need to figure out how to integrate whatever they’re teaching together. So if you’re teaching cursive, the words you’re teaching the kids to write should be their spelling words” (Rodriguez). This is just one example of the many teachers could use to combine cursive with other subjects.
Even so, cursive is gradually disappearing from America’s schools. Standardized tests, too many subjects, and modern technology are making cursive instruction fall by the wayside. Despite its many benefits, the truth is that, in a world of modern schooling and technology, we are slowly losing a useful and beautiful skill.
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