Saturday, May 28, 2011

Cursive First

It really is a shame that most schools have chosen to stop teaching cursive and that print is taught before cursive. One of the big arguments for print only is that typewritten work, the most common type of writing today, is in print.
While this is true, it really fails to recognize that reading and writing are completely separate skills. So, while it is important to learn to read print, it is equally important to teach cursive, traditionally referred to as "handwriting" and rightfully so!
So, why is it important to teach cursive writing first? Well, I will give you several reasons:
1. Cursive writing is easier to master. Why? Don't believe me? Well, the good thing about cursive writing is that it has less intensive pencil strokes. This is particularly important for younger children just gaining control over their fine motor skills. It also has all the lower case letter starting at the same place - the lower line.
2. Stops reversals and letter confusion. Being a dyslexic with at least one dyslexic child - this point is particularly important. While the "b" and "d" in print can be easily confused, this isn't the case at all in cursive. It is also pretty hard to write a letter backwards in cursive.
3. Equalizes the playing field for lefties. What do you know, I also have a lefty! Since cursive has a natural slant, this works in the favor of left handed children that need to slant their paper in order to effectively write without covering up their words.
4. Helps with spelling. Yes, it is true, writing in cursive helps children (and adults) with spelling. How? With cursive, you must think about how a word is spelled as you write it. This is because where a cursive letter ends depends on the letter that comes after it. This means the child must think about how the word is spelled before they start writing it. Having a child do copy work teaches the child to write the word correctly, feeling each pencil stroke and providing motor memory for the formation of the entire word - this will help with their retention of how the word is spelled.
5. Helps with word recognition. Cursive creates natural breaks between words. This is because all the letters that form a word are linked together. A child will see exactly which letters go with one word and which go with another. Have you ever seen a child write a sentence in print, and you have no idea which letters go with which words? Well, that won't happen with cursive - you will immediately see how a child is spelling every word they write.
6. Personality is allowed! While we always expect printed words to look the same, there is a universal acceptance that cursive writing is personal - this is why your signature means something. Your child gets to find their own voice in their writing from the beginning.

Some people think starting a child with cursive is too hard. However, research has already proven that the best time for a child to learn a foreign language is before the age of 10, and the younger the better. If this is true for a child to learn words to a language with completely different symbols, structures, and rules - why wouldn't it be true for a child to learn to write in cursive and read in print? Children are very capable, we just have to trust them.
And speaking of trust, you also have to trust yourself. Almost 100% of the materials you find aimed towards young children will try to get them to print. This means for the most part you will be on your own with teaching your child cursive. There are many approaches you can take. You can go for it fully on your own. You can take materials geared towards slightly older children and adapt them. You can do a combination.
There are some materials that are designed for you children, mainly Montessori materials. While they tend to be a bit expensive, I truly think they are invaluable. I particularly love Montessori cursive sandpaper letters. We have upper and lower case sandpaper letters - which are individual letters on large wooden boards with the letters done in sandpaper. This creates a tactile surface so your child can not only see, but feel how the letters are formed. You can also trace letters in sand. You can make letters with play dough and even bake bread letters.
It really is amazing when children first begin to pretend to write, they naturally start to form cursive "words", designs that are fluid and flow naturally from the pencil Rather than pick up the pencil after each letter, they link them together for structure as well as grace. We do seem to "educate" the knowledge out of our children in our traditional school structure and mind.

Now, what if you didn't start with cursive? You can always add cursive. It will be a bit harder, but that is okay. They are older, they can handle it. Trust yourself and trust your child! Cursive is your friend!

No comments:

Post a Comment