Handwriting in the Sand


Data dump Sept 15 2015 532

My son Griffin and I are interviewed for CBC Radio’s The Current today about the value of keeping cursive on the curriculum at school.  You can listen live at 8:30 am, or on the podcast here.

Here are my arguments for keeping the teaching of cursive handwriting on the curriculum:

  • Cursive writing is faster than printing.  Kids need to learn how to write in ways that will keep up with the speed of their thoughts.
  • Studies show that handwriting engages areas of the brain not used when typing.  Teach kids to gain confidence and speed in cursive so that they can maximize their creative and academic potential.
  • We should not be afraid to make children work and practice to learn these skills.  15 minutes x 5 times a week = 1 hour 15 minutes a week = less than most sports practices/games.  Both sports and handwriting require training muscles and creating muscle memory.  You cannot create muscle memory for correct stroke order and legibility without practice.
  • The objective should not be to create robotic masters of textbook cursive.  The objective should be confident, legible writers.
  • Cursive takes time to learn and master.  Children will probably revert to printing if not required to continue practicing cursive.  Teaching the basics and the reinforcement of that teaching are both important.
  • There are not always technological solutions to all of our writing problems (spelling, legibility, speed).  Our kids need to learn to write independent of technological safety nets.
  • Private schools continue to teach cursive.  By dropping it from the curriculum in public schools, the board is widening the gap between experience and outcomes in public and private education.
  • Sometimes, our writing is how we make a first impression.  We should enable our kids to make their best possible first impression.
  • Handwriting, books and paper are not obsolete.  Rumours of their death have been exaggerated.
  • Knowing or not knowing cursive is not likely to be life-altering, but I would rather live in a world where, instead of aiming to cut, cut, cut things out of our kids’ education, we aim always to maximize and enrich their educational opportunities.
  • The school requires me to fill out a mountain of forms each fall, by hand.  It should be teaching my kids to write neatly so that they can do the same.

2 thoughts on “Handwriting in the Sand

  1. Oh my gosh yes! I was horrified when I learned that kids weren’t being taught cursive! A few of my mom’s students a couple years ago begged her to teach it to them- and she was the anatomy and physiology teacher! It’s just wrong to cut cursive and I will personally teach it to my kids if need be, but really, I shouldn’t have to!!

  2. Handwriting matters — reading cursive matters exceedingly — but does writing in cursive matter? Research shows that the fastest, clearest handwriters join only some letters: making the easiest joins, skipping others, using print-like forms of letters whose cursive and printed forms disagree. (Sources below.)

    Be ause reading cursive is crucial, it is fortunate that even small children can be taught to read writing that they are not taught to produce. Reading cursive can be taught in just 30 to 60 minutes — even to five- or six-year-olds, once they read ordinary print. (In fact, for the computer-abd-cellphones genetation there’s even a free iPad app to teach thm how: named. “Read Cursive,” of course — http://appstore.com/readcursive .) So why not ensure that all children learn to read cursive — along with learning other vital skills, including some handwriting style that’s actually typical of effective handwriters?

    Educated adults increasingly abandon cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers were surveyed at a conference hosted by Zaner-Bloser, a publisher of cursive textbooks. Only 37 percent wrote in cursive; another 8 percent printed. The majority — 55 percent — wrote a hybrid: some elements resembling print-writing, others resembling cursive. (Source below.) When even most handwriting teachers shun cursive, why exalt it?

    What about signatures? In state and federal law, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over any other kind. (Hard to believe? Ask any attorney!) All writing, not just cursive, is individual — just as all writing involves fine motor skills. That is why any first-grade teacher can immediately identify (from print-writing on unsigned work) which student produced it.

    Mandating cursive to preserve handwriting resembles mandating stovepipe hats and crinolines to preserve the art of tailoring.


    Handwriting research on speed and legibility:

    /1/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, and Naomi Weintraub. “The Relation between Handwriting Style and Speed and Legibility.” JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 91, No. 5 (May – June, 1998), pp. 290-296: on-line at http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/27542168.pdf

    /2/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, Naomi Weintraub, and William Schafer. “Development of Handwriting Speed and Legibility in Grades 1-9.”
    JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 92, No. 1 (September – October, 1998), pp. 42-52: on-line at http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/27542188.pdf

    Zaner-Bloser handwriting survey: Results on-line at http://www.hw21summit.com/media/zb/hw21/files/H2937N_post_event_stats.pdf
    Background on our handwriting, past and present:
    3 videos, by a colleague, show why cursive is NOT a sacrament:



    (shows how to develop fine motor skills WITHOUT cursive) —

    [AUTHOR BIO: Kate Gladstone is the founder of Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works and the director of the World Handwriting Contest]

    Yours for better letters,

    Kate Gladstone
    Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works
    and the World Handwriting Contest

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