By: Laurie Wolke
Balancing tradition and innovation is an important tenet at Laurence, and has been since our founding in 1953. One tradition of elementary education that has been the subject of debate is the teaching of cursive handwriting. We all remember those worksheets – solid lines, separated by the dashed line, showing us exactly where our lower case vowels should reach. We practiced each letter, one at a time. Upper case, then lower case. Laurence has continued the tradition of teaching cursive, even as we have added typing and keyboarding, and, later, mouse and stylus skills.
The Common Core State Standards, which have been adopted by most states, only require handwriting instruction through first grade and do not require cursive instruction. But we believe that the traditional approach of teaching cursive handwriting remains important. One reason is that being able to write in cursive helps one read cursive, which is of course, how many of our most important historical documents were produced – for example, the U.S. Constitution! But, as educators, we also believe – and our beliefs are backed by studies – that handwriting notes increases understanding and retention as compared to typing computer-generated notes.
Writing in cursive, and handwriting in general, have important positive neurological impacts in children's brains, according to several studies. For example, brain scans have shown that block writing, cursive, and typing each elicit distinct neurological patterns, but it is handwriting that triggers parts of the brain known to relate to successful reading and improved letter perception. Typing does not have the same effects. Practicing handwriting has also been shown to help students develop motor skills, in addition to improved composition and reading comprehension abilities.
So cheers to good old-fashioned tradition!
Read Edutopia's article, What We Lose with the Decline of Cursive, to learn more and for links to other articles and studies.