Is cursive writing still a valuable skill for students? (ASCD SmartBrief)

Is cursive writing still a valuable skill for students? – Related Stories – ASCD SmartBrief.

An interesting debate and one I have had with parents from Italy, Germany and the US in particular. Some students are made to learn proper cursive at home. In Germany, some students even start cursive alongside block.

And then I came across this post on Livejournal yesterday: ” As a result, he follows every activity with confident and writes both cursive and block writing clearly enough (yeah, the French education system teaches cursive writing in CP/first grade). ”

I was surprised to see what early age they start. In Italy, children start to write in CAPITALS and then move into cursive in second or third grade. Their handwriting is often quite hard to read. I also find the handwriting of a Spanish/Italian girl in my class who went to school in France, really hard to read.

Nevertheless, the debate about handwriting is on-going. At our school the policy states no particular style, we encourage the Nelson Handwriting Scheme and teach the joint writing accordingly. However, we do not have handwriting lessons, it is integrated especially in the older years.

What do your schools do? To cursive or not to cursive?

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10 thoughts on “Is cursive writing still a valuable skill for students? (ASCD SmartBrief)

  1. As a French,I have learnt cursive writing from “Kindergarten” on.But as far as I know french Kindergarten (écoles maternelles) are a bit different from german ones.More hard working so to say.They have 3 grades sections and they start to learn to read and write from the second one.I think 5-6 years old kids entering the elementary school with a good writing are not hard to find.But also some other disastrous aren’t rare either,but they are supposed to be able to write.
    Yeah now french kids learn both cursive and blocks here but no capitals instead.
    Unlike to German,french children and adults are developping all kind of writings.The Germans all seem to write “the same way”…funny.

    I did start to write in blocks when I was 15 cause my french teacher found my writing to childish.It never quitted me.I think many french peeps are leaving slowly the cursive for(their own)blocks as they grow up.It’s a kind of joke here to say you have a beautiful writing of teacher whenever you can see a nice cursive one.
    The weird thing is I’ve never been able to write in specular with blocks.I can only do it cursiv and childlike… like I used to do it when I started to write. 🙂

    • It’s funny you said that “Germans all write in the same funny way”. While I can see similar patterns in German handwriting (either coming from the Vereinfachte Ausgangsschrift, which is a joint handwriting style, simpler than cursive or the Schreibschrift, which is cursive), I also find that the handwriting develops freely from Middle School on.

      I see those patterns in many countries. I would say that people from the United Kingdom all have a similar style. Surely not ALL, but there is a similarity that you wouldn’t find here. In Italy, the style is similar as well.

      As far as Kindergarten goes. There is an effort to establish a better educational programme in kindergartens in Germany. In Berlin we had a lot of “Bildungskindergaerten” (Educational kindergartens) where there were goals, objectives, portfolios, math and writing focus. The term “kindergarten” is so varied, it is to be used carefully, I guess. In our school in Pisa, we have a Pre-K or Early Years class, the children are 3 and 4 years old and they actually learn through inquiry. Look at all the Reggio Emilia schools, the focus is certainly on the younger years. I wonder how long it will take Germany to catch up there!

  2. An meiner Schule fangen wir mit Druckschrift an und meist ab dem zweiten Schuljahr kommt die Vereinfachte Ausgangsschrift dazu. Im Lehrplan steht, dass jedes Kind eine verbundene Schrift kennenlernen soll und jedes Kind seine persönliche Handschrift entwickeln soll. Das heißt, ich weiß selbst noch nicht, wie es weitergehen wird. Sie lernen gerade kennen. Ich lege dabei Wert darauf, dass die Buchstaben originalgetreu geschrieben werden, damit sie die Unterschiede der Buchstaben kennenlernen. Wie es dann weitergeht, werde ich individuell handhaben. Wichtig ist doch im Endeffekt nur, dass ein Kind schnell und gut lesbar schreiben kann. Ob es das jetzt in Druckschrift oder Schreibschrift tut, sollte nicht die große Rolle spielen. Ich selbst bin ja auch irgendwann auf eine eigene Mischform von Schreib- und Druckschrift umgestiegen und bin damit auch immer mal wieder umgeschwenkt. Inzwischen benutze ich wieder mehr Druckbuchstaben, weil ich über ein Jahr viel in Druckschrift in Hefte und an Tafeln geschrieben habe. Demnächst werden dann wohl wieder mehr Buchstaben aus der VA vorkommen. Wieso soll man dann von Kindern etwas einheitliches verlangen?

    Dass viele Handschriften gruselig aussehen, hängt meines Erachtens damit zusammen, dass viele Kinder heute mehr Tasten bedienen als zu malen und zu basteln und dass sie deshalb in der Feinmotorik weit zurück sind.

    • Hallo Ninni!
      Den Auszug aus dem Lehrplan kenne ich gar nicht. Ich finde auch, dass es wichtig ist, dass Kinder eine persoenliche Handschrift entwickeln, die ergonomisch okay ist, die die komfortable und schnell anwenden koennen.
      Wir haben damals in der Schule noch Schreibschrift gelernt, an der Uni habe ich dann die VA gelernt und jetzt arbeite ich gerade mit einem deutschen Schueler in meiner Klasse (ausserhalb der Schule) an der VA, die er fuer die Grundschule in Bayern braucht (bitte mit Fueller!).

      Auch das Tasten bedienen ist wichtig, ich finde schon, dass es zum Alltag der Kinder gehoert (in einem bestimmten Rahmen). Aber Malen und Basteln sollten darunter nicht leiden. Absolut nicht.

      • Ich denke, man kann nicht alles haben. Die Zeit, die Kinder vor Bilschirmen aller Art verbringen, fehlt in den anderen Bereichen, insbesondere Sprache und Motorik. Ich finde die Priorität sollte im Vorschulalter und Grundschulalter definitiv auf den realen Erfahrungen liegen. Tut sie aber leider nicht. Mit Tasten meine ich auch definitiv keine Tastatur, sondern Fernbedienungen und Spielekonsolen. Tastaturschreiben ist beispielsweise wieder eine ganz andere Baustelle.

      • Die Baustelle kenne ich zu gut, und fuehrt und zu dem eigentlichen Thema des Postings zurueck.

        Wozu ich sagen muss, dass die Kinder an meiner Schule noch ganz anders sind. Die meisten schauen kaum fern, und die meisten haben zwar ein Nintendo DS, Wii oder Playstation, verbringen aber woechentlich nur ca. 2 Stunden daran. In meiner Klasse machen alle Kinder einen Sport (die meisten davon 2x die Woche), spielen ein Instrument (nur die Jungs nicht! Davon habe ich 3) und damit ist die Woche auch schon voll. Alle 11 SchuelerInnen sind passionierte (gibt es das Wort?) Leser und Authoren! Kunst machen wir auch alle gerne.

        Von daher spreche ich auch ein bisschen aus einer anderen Welt. Ich habe keine Miss Verzogen, meine Probleme bewegen sich auf einer ganz anderen Ebene!

        Oh, also mal wieder abgeschweift, aber uns geht es jetzt darum, Technologien authentisch in den Unterricht einzubringen. Foto- und Videokamera, und auch den Computer.

  3. Our children were 4 and 6 when we moved to Spain from the UK, they are 6 and 8 now. Both my wife and I are ex primary teachers and were rather amazed to find that children are taught a very convoluted cursive style from day 1. No printing to lead the way just straight in at the deep end. Although I was taught to write in a cursive style I still find after 18 months I can not decode the Spanish style without difficulty even in the text books. The books often have a mix of block, lower case printing and cursive in several font styles all on one page so children are decoding other styles constantly. In the early classes there is also a lot of emphasis on colouring in shapes without going over the line, it seemed over the top to me – the children had to start a new sheet if they messed up even a little bit, the things they were colouring were really really boring, if you are 8 and a boy you really are not interested in colouring in a picture of a teddy bear or a hat..or so I think. Copying the drawings of others is common, creating your own original drawings is a very rare event. There is little in the way of stimulating any creativity or enjoyment at school…fun is not on the agenda in any way, there is also loads of homework and I thought our boys would hate it however they have settled in, their colouring is exemplary and they are mastering the script despite fairly strong dyslexia in one of them, they draw endlessly at home in the evenings and the work is both imaginative and very well executed. I have mixed feelings – I am beginning to feel that there is an impact on fine motor skills arising out of mastering the intricacies of cursive writing and copying pictures / meticulous colouring. There is an ethos of work should always be done to a high standard whether you enjoy it or not and that all pupils should strive their hardest at all times. I liked and advocated the gentle, fun, play, constructivist, no blame, no competition type approach in the UK when I was teaching 10- years ago but am beginning to wonder if the UK has gone to softly softly. When Children leave school they face a harsh competitive dog eat dog world and need to be resilient, persistent, efficient, competent and to able to knuckle down and do what is needed to earn a crust. Brains are curious things; facing and overcoming challenges like, endless seemingly pointless colouring or like complex writing styles at an early age might be conducive to developing a sense of being able to overcome adversity and to tread water doing jobs that are not stimulating until something better can be found. Sorry bit of the cursive track there; ah well pasa nada.

    • Thanks for this, Ian. Very interesting to read (aren’t narratives sometimes the best way to convey a message?) and thought-provoking. As a PYP school, we have quite a soft approach. But I also think that this softness needs to be met with real-life challenges. Something the programme brings with it, when implemented well. We are still working on that!

  4. Thanks for having linked my post!!

    I’m not an educator and could only share things based on my experience. I’m Indonesian who learned how to write at a Dutch school in the Netherlands. Over there back in the 80s, they they were teaching only block letters on the first grade. My handwriting was considered neat and readable enough. Then our family moved to Syria, where I went to both Indonesian and International schools. Teachers and classmates at the Indonesian school found my handwriting ugly and hard to read. At the Indonesian school, we learned cursive writing on the 2nd grade, however, having learned the basic at a Dutch school, my handwriting (both cursive and block) never changed and until now the Indonesians still consider my handwriting as hard to read. Interestingly enough, teachers and peers at the International school in Syria found my handwriting ok. Later on Europeans hardly ever complained either. So based on my own handwriting experiences, it seems there is no fixed standard to define a bad or good handwriting.

    My son’s handwriting is still far from beautiful, however as he got tons of homework everyday (where he should copy letters, words and sentences many times, both cursive and blocks), I could see that the practice improves his writing skill. Within six months at the CP/first grade, my son starts to understand that he should work hard to reach something.

    How useful it is to learn cursive writing at an early age is still unclear to me. But seeing my son’s experience at the French education system, where it demands hard work and discipline from its pupil, learning cursive is a good way to ‘force’ the kids to grow up and like Ian said above, “an ethos of work should always be done to a high standard whether you enjoy it or not and that all pupils should strive their hardest at all times”.

  5. Research shows that fastest and clearest writers avoid cursive. Highest-speed highest-legibility handwriters join some of the letters, not all of them — making the very easiest joins, skipping the rest — and use print-like letter-formations for those letters that disagree between printing and cursive

    Kate Gladstone

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