On today’s show you had a caller who found that his students could not read his cursive writing. You seemed to have forgotten that being able to read cursive writing requires your ability to write it. I remember in the third grade I couldn’t wait to learn cursive so that I could read my mother’s letters. Students are not being taught writing and it makes for a horrible impression when they are called upon to write a note. We think that everything that we need is in a computer…a great recipe for a people to become dominated by a giant television screen overlord.
You mentioned the Common Core State Standards which most of the states have adopted as their “handbook” on what teachers NEED to teach to children in a given grade/year. You are right in that cursive handwriting is not a required standard anymore. In Ohio, where I teach in a public school, cursive handwriting was a required standard under the heading of Language Arts. That meant it had to be integrated into the curriculum in the second grade. Then, within the past 10 years (or so), the Ohio State Standards were revised and the cursive handwriting standard was moved to the third grade curriculum. Presently, I teach cursive to my third grade students. The students come to school wanting to learn cursive as it is a mystery to them almost up to the time they master every single letter of the alphabet! On the first day of school I am always asked “When will we do cursive?!” Of course I do it that very first day!
I have noticed in the past 5 years or so that our fourth grade teachers did not require the students to write in cursive. The result? Use it or lose it! The students lost their proficiency at writing and reading cursive. I am sad about this! There are so many benefits for children to learn to use cursive and to read cursive that has to do with their coordination, speed and efficiency. It boils down to a value now. Because I value cursive as a means of communication I will continue to teach it, even though the Common Core Standards no longer require it.
Phyllis & Laurie, welcome to the forum!
I couldn’t agree more with your assertions about cursive. While I taught science, I ran into an analogous scenario with kids not able to “read” metrics.
But I think cursive trumps metrics in the need-to-know category.
I believe I learned cursive around 3-4th grade … and this was back in the 50s, before “state standards.” These days I have lost it for lack of use. I do all my writing on a computer. I still have a fairly legible signature, but if I try to write in cursive, it looks pretty bad. So I usually print “personal” notes. Never did get the hang of that cursive “Z.”
The expectations about cursive vary by state and even by school district. My district wants it taught (and I agree) but doesn’t really check on this, and even discourages cursive, as it takes time away from test-able curriculum. Ever since No Child Left Behind (and No Child Gets Ahead) subjects like cursive (art, music, PE…) have slid in importance as they are not “tested”. And, as some kids really struggle with cursive, keyboarding (also supposed to be taught but isn’t) is considered acceptable. It’s pretty haphazard.
I’ll refer you to this link
Ms. Garner lists several reasons why teaching cursive is valuable.
My wife is a dyslexia therapist and she has learned that teaching cursive is absolutely essential for dyslexic students. That being so, I’ve got to believe that it could help any student, not only with reading and writing, but with nearly any subject he is studying.
I say all that as a person who never uses cursive myself except to sign my name, and that is unreadable. But I learned it in elementary school and I am convinced it made me a better student.
Due to my enthusiasm in English, I learned cursive when in Junior High school. I can’t judge it, but sometimes when I keep my hand in a particular angle while writing I love it.
Rafee, Your comment prompts me to add that my students also love it and take such pride when they master what I refer to as their “beautiful handwriting.” Believe me when I say, for some students it may be the only subject in school they feel prideful about.
I am always surprised when the “should cursive be taught” discussion comes up, it seems that no one addresses the efficiency issue. It’s not just quaint or pretty but extraordinarily practical. One can write about three times faster in cursive because one doesn’t have to raise pen from paper. Cursive is essential for taking notes when a computer isn’t available or acceptable for the situation.
In emergencies one probably grabs a pencil and a pulp pad, not an iPad. And today many office workers still go to meetings carrying pens and papers.
But the line of skirmish is really about the practicality of the digital hardwares- weight, ease of use, batteries, etc. Eventually the technology will really get “THERE,” and then cursive will become a thing of artistic and scholarly interests only.
On the issue of efficiency, any writers who have not might want to try out the ‘swype’ technique on the Android phones- it lets you write so fast it’s practically a direct thought-to-text process.
My kids like texting, so since I bought my new phone I swype a lot. In my opinion it is nowhere near a direct thought-to-text process. Swyping is a heck of an improvement over one-finger typing, but it’s not nearly as efficient as typing.
I spent a summer or two teaching myself shorthand—well, one of the shorthands, the one that eventually caught on, can’t remember whether it’s Gregg or Palmer—and although I can write in it easily enough, I never got familiar enough with it that I can read my own as easily as I’d like. You want speed, that’s the way to go. It seems to me there must be some intermediate form that’s easier to read than shorthand but faster than standard cursive. Hm, maybe I’ll invent one. Yet another secret alphabet and/or language to add to all those I created when I was a kid.
Odds are the shorthand you once learned was Gregg. That’s the swoopy, swirly one. The biggest competitor is Pittman, which looks more geometric. (Think of the difference between hiragana and katakana if you’re acquainted with those.) Palmer is the kind of cursive associated with schoolmarms.
As for an intermediate form, one using conventional letters but designed for quick notetaking, there’s always the Speedwriting method familiar from the “f u cn rd ths, u cn gt a gd jb” ads. Funny how textspeak shot for the same target as a method published in 1924 and fell short.
Yes, Gregg, then. I remember reading about Pittman too. The alternative that I actually paid attention to used straight lines both thin and thick, joined at obtuse angles, which was probably it’s downfall since it partly defeated the goal of speed.
I have a notehand that I use privately, that employs standard lettering but abbreviates harshly and inflects the verbs: four or five moods, six persons, number, three voices, three-x-two tenses and three times. I kind of like it. But what I have in mind now is just a script, a modified cursive that is easier to read than Gregg (at least my rendition of Gregg) but faster than full standard cursive. If I come up with something, I’ll report back to the dozens of people breathlessly awaiting the news here.
Bob Bridges says: …Swyping is a heck of an improvement over one-finger typing, but it’s not nearly as efficient as typing.
Granted I till have to polish up swyped documents using a keyboard. But that’s only because the software requires one, and I know people who claim- and it’s not hard to believe them from their status being ‘road warrior’ and from seeing how extraordinarily with ease they swype- that thanks to Swype, they have long stopped bothering with keyboards.
It’s funny how at one time, single-finger pecking was laughable, as likewise but further back, binary numbers only mathematicians’ idle amusement, and then lo and behold-
Handwriting matters … But does cursive matter?
Research shows: the fastest and most legible handwriters avoid cursive. They join only some letters, not all of them: making the easiest joins, skipping the rest, and using print-like shapes for those letters whose cursive and printed shapes disagree. (Citation: Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, and Naomi Weintraub. THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HANDWRITING STYLE AND SPEED AND LEGIBILITY. 2001: on-line at http://www.sbac.edu/~werned/DATA/Brain%20research%20class/handwriting%20speed%20style%20legibility%20berninger.pdf — and there are actually handwriting programs that teach this way.)
Reading cursive still matters — this takes just 30 to 60 minutes to learn, and can be taught to a five- or six-year-old if the child knows how to read. The value of reading cursive is therefore no justification for writing it.
Remember, too: whatever your elementary school teacher may have been told by her elementary school teacher, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over signatures written in any other way. (Don’t take my word for this: talk to any attorney.)
Yours for better letters,
Kate Gladstone — CEO, Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works
Director, the World Handwriting Contest
Co-Designer, BETTER LETTERS handwriting trainer app for iPhone/iPad
Thank you, Kate, for being the lone voice who seems to take my side on the issue of “cursive” handwriting. I am 64 years old, was taught by Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and was taught the Palmer method of cursive writing. I bless the sisters for teaching me English (including my favorite, diagramming sentences), math, and how to study. I was a good student who could never have had a 4.0 GPA simply because I consistently got C’s and C-minuses in cursive and art. There is more than a coincidental connection there.
As I’ve aged, I can see my cursive — when I attempt it — looks just like my mother’s awful and unreadable script. Her genes did more than give me prematurely gray hair. If I want my writing to be readable, I must print-write as Kate describes. I do it quickly and can take notes (outlined in detail — thanks again to the sisters) faster than most people who use cursive. If I use cursive, no one is able to read it. I can’t myself if it sits unread more than a couple of days.
As to learning cursive in order to read it: Have any of the members of this forum tried to read a cursive note in English from a continental European? Their style is almost indecipherable. And reading historical curve is difficult if not impossible as well.
So, the issue in my mind isn’t whether children should be taught to write in cursive. They should be taught to write (print, keyboard, type) good English, cogent arguments, and beautiful prose and poetry. They should be taught to communicate, love ideas, investigate the world, and know the difference between opinion and accepted fact (i.e. science).
Let’s not get into a “if it was good enough for me…” argument about teaching a passÃ© technology.
And why did I enclose my first use of the word “cursive” in quotation marks? Because this issue makes me want to curse!
How many times have you heard students say, “I will never use this subject when I grow up so why do I need to learn it?” Most of the time their statement is correct but their question is still easy to answer. Learning a particular set of facts or a technique in a subject can help you comprehend other things, out of that subject, which may be very useful in your future. I’m sure we all know this and have probably said something like it to students we know who were fed up with history, science, or math. If you take a particular direction in your life you may never use your knowledge of these subjects. (At least not as much knowledge as you learn in school) But the value of learning them may be in their tangential connection to your life’s work.
Cursive writing is like this. Whether or not your writing is readable is irrelevant. Whether or not you ever use cursive in your life is irrelevant. The act of learning cursive helps students learn other things. It not only helps in the future but it helps them now, especially with their reading.
I put this link in a previous post here, but it is compelling enough that I am posting it again. It gives some good reasons for teaching cursive to students.
Dick, I have a number of very mixed reactions to this post.
1) I do indeed remember saying, my own self, “What do I have to learn all this ‘5+7′, 21-8’ stuff? I’m not going to be a mathematician when I grow up!”. I was ludicrously wrong about the utility of arithmetic to my grown-up life (now I wish I knew more calculus than I do), but I agree with you that that there’s another and even more important point: Learning this stuff built a foundation that enabled me to learn stuff, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.
2) On the other hand, it isn’t clear to me how cursive training fits into that. Perhaps you can give an example? Although I’m an excellent typist, my cursive is execrable, requiring frequent practice to keep it intelligible (beautiful is beyond a realistic ambition). It happens that I’m also a terrible hand at sketching; perhaps there’s a connection, and maybe repeated practice is worthwhile just as a general capability.
3) I read your proffered article, but I’m afraid it was a disappointment. Of the five arguments Ms Bruner advanced in defense of teaching cursive, two apply to handwriting rather than to cursive specifically, and one is…well, here’s the list:
a) “Reversals are impossible in Cursive Writing….Dyslexic children often confuse “b” and “d” in print form, but it is almost impossible to reverse these letters in cursive.” I see the value, then, of cursive to dyslexic children. I don’t see this as an argument to teach it to all children.
b) “Cursive writing trains the eyes and brain to move from left to right.” There were a few sentences more, but I can make nothing sensible of this argument, and I seriously question whether the author can either.
c) “Cursive writing enhances learning” and d) “Cursive writing is a tactile activity”; these are both good arguments—or possibly they’re both the same good argument (they are closely related)—but it’s an argument not for cursive but for handwriting in general. That is, for the purposes of this argument printing by hand is as good as cursive.
e) “Cursive handwriting is art.” Now this I understand, and it’s what I had in mind when I complained about my failures in cursive and in artistic talent in #2 above. But it’s the only argument I can see here that’s worth the space it was printed on.
I’m not on the “con” side of this argument; in fact I lean toward the “pro” side of teaching cursive. But so far I haven’t heard arguments in its favor that I think are very strong.
Perhaps I should wait and let Dick respond, but I was online and decided to jump in with my own (second) comment. I pretty much agree with Bob’s rebuttals of the Bruner piece. And having followed this thread, I have to say I’m reversing my original opinion on the teaching of cursive. Not because I don’t think it’s a good thing to learn … even if only as an art form, practical reasons aside.
However, the fact of the matter is, in many schools, lots of the arts are being dropped from the curriculum. That’s a sad thing, imho, but it’s what happening due to standards-driven testing and budget cuts. I know. I saw it happening the last 10 years I was teaching.
So given those constraints, I guess I’d rather see STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) take a more prominent place in curricula. To make room for those courses, you gotta cut something. Social sciences are necessary, I believe. What’s left to cut are the arts. Sad, as I said, but the really talented artists/musicians/actors are gonna find a way to make it happen anyway, maybe by switching to a magnet school that specializes in the arts. That’s the way we lost some of our students when we dropped our arts programs. After-school clubs are another option, but require some amount of funding.
If sports were dropped, a LOT of money could be saved, and maybe some of the arts rescued, but sports are so ingrained into American culture I just don’t see that happening. Now I’m talking about sports here … not PE, which should also be part of every curriculum.