In today’s world, emails replace letters; credit cards replace checks; and electronic check marks replace official signatures. This shift towards technology has left many wondering if handwriting, and in particular cursive handwriting, still has a place in the classroom. Could the time spent mastering loops and humps be better spent studying fractions or verbs? Many school districts seem to feel so, and cursive handwriting has been disappearing from curriculum guides across the country. But maybe cursive still has a place in the classroom after all. Here are a few benefits of teaching cursive handwriting in the classroom.
- Increased comprehension. Multiple studies have confirmed the value of putting pen to paper to organize and collect your thoughts. Unlike typing, or even block handwriting, cursive handwriting increases communication between both hemispheres of the brain, adding in overall comprehension. One study cited in The New York Times linked cursive handwriting to higher performance on the Writing Section of the SAT, stating that the “speed and efficiency of writing in cursive allowed the students to focus on the content” instead of focusing on their print.
- Increased writing speed. When students do not have to pick up their pencil at the end of each letter, their writing speed and flow increases. This is especially helpful in timed writing exercises, such as standardized testing, or when taking notes during class. The student can focus on what the teacher is currently saying without fear of missing a concept here or there.
- Increased hand-eye coordination. Cursive writing involves developing a student’s fine motor skills. As students practice the loops and humps of each letter, they improve their hand-eye coordination, much like a baseball player practicing to catch and throw. However, unlike the baseball player, cursive combines these fine motor skills with communication processing, engaging more parts of the brain.
- Ability to analyze primary source documents. For the historians among us, perhaps the most compelling benefit of learning cursive is the ability to read and understand primary source documents. National treasures such as the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution are difficult reads because of the ornamental language, but imagine how much more difficult they would be to read without a basic understanding of cursive handwriting. And one does not have to look back 100s of years to find documents, cursive handwriting was the norm up through the mid-1900s, meaning recent family documents such as diaries and letters would become too difficult for future generations to read.
Cursive handwriting is still a part of the third grade curriculum at Stuart Hall Lower Grade. When asked why she finds value in teaching it each year, teacher Kelly Brownell notes, “I have seen students who have difficulty with print really succeed with cursive, and it is quicker and easier to use once mastered. I cannot imagine having my own distinctive signature or not being able to read the Declaration of Independence.” So it seems that cursive handwriting might still have a place in our technological world afterall.