Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cursive, part 2

So, to continue my thoughts on cursive.

John Holt was a big proponent of print only. Part of his reasoning was due to having done a "test" with some boys, where they compared the speed and legibility of printing vs. cursive. He was convinced cursive would win. It didn't pan out. As much as I dearly love so much of what John Holt aimed to teach people, this was one thing I had an issue with from the very beginning: all of those children had learned to print first, as had he. They were far more experienced with it and it being the first way they were taught how to write, it's hard to say how long it would take for cursive to be more natural and swift.

Think about it: If you incorrectly learn how to read notes on sheet music and spend 4 years playing everything incorrectly, then you start learning the correct way, how easily are you going to correctly play the songs you already know by heart? How long will it take you to learn to play it a different way?

Some more evidence for cursive first or only:

More and more of those involved with special education are calling for the use of cursive--and not just with special education students. There are no letter confusions in cursive like with print. 'b' and 'd' are very distinct, as are 'p' and 'q'. Many children without learning difficulties struggle with b and d in particular. They learn it's a stick and a ball, but then can't remember which side of the stick the ball goes on.

Many children with learning disabilities having visual processing and sequencing issues, so print is found to be harder for them. As it should be. Traditional cursive all starts on the bottom and moves on from there, ending so the next letter can be written. Print letters start all over the place, which requires an ability to correctly judge open space and control hand movements to keep the letter the necessary size. And because the letters all start from a different place, there are more sequences to remember. Really, this doesn't just apply to those with LD since a young child learning to write has the same issues! Add to the letter spacing: word spacing. Kids starting writing or who have LD already have an issue with spacing, and word spacing is even more complicated. With cursive, the entire word is linked and the spacing is obvious from one word to the next--you lift the pencil, leave a space and start your new word. Even if the spacing and sizing within a word are inconsistent, the words are obvious. In contrast, with print words, sure, you lift your pencil and leave a space, just like for cursive, but you have to do that with every letter within the word and it's not always so obvious! And many kids don't like the "finger trick" where they put a finger from the other hand down in between writing words.

Why else should our kids be learning cursive early?

Recent research has shown that it activates the brain better, which is interesting since the research shows fewer hand muscles involved and print is clearly less demanding in some ways than cursive. Because it's not so "linear" in style as print, cursive tends to activate both the left and right side of the brain better than print.

There are many historical documents, even things written by hand not less than 20 years ago, written in cursive that a child who can't read cursive will grow up not knowing how to read. Not to mention, despite the common belief that nobody uses cursive nowadays, plenty of people DO use cursive and will be at a severe disadvantage if they find themselves working for someone who writes messages in cursive or has a college prof who writes notes on the board in cursive. "Yes, but that's reading." True, but if they start with cursive, they will already know how to read both cursive and print. Which leads us to necessary questions:

*If learning to write in cursive (first or only) means your child can:
--read print and cursive
--won't have to switch handwriting later on
--means you'll be able to read everyone's writing (well, as long as it's legible ;) )
--prevents certain problems
--benefits the brain
--and is lovely ;) (okay, I just had to add that)

--it's more natural to start with cursive
--your child will still be able to print forms later on (they will have seen so much print and have better developed fine motor skills, so writing in print won't be a big deal)

then why wouldn't you start with cursive? :D

I could go on and on, but I won't. Instead, I will leave you with some links so you can check it out more yourself, if you wish:


http://www.peterson-handwriting.com/Publications/PDF_versions/AdvantageCursiveRef.pdf (I think this might be part of one of the other links.)


My Boys' Teacher said...

I totally agree with everything you said in both posts.

That said, we are learning print:) Learning cursive first is all well and good if the decision is made early...if your home is Montessori from the start for example.

Unfortunately, many people don't discover Montessori until their child is three or four and ready for preschool. For many kids (like mine) that's too late...my oldest learned his letters at age two.

I occasionally get criticized on my blog for teaching the boys print. I get really riled up when I read some blogs written by Montessori classroom teachers who wax poetic about the stupidity of parents who taught their kids print. They act as if the parents have ruined their life! I notice this is usually first or second year teachers. My theory is that inexperienced teachers only know how to do Montessori when everything is going "perfectly" and when there are bumps in the road they haven't learned yet to adapt. (These are usually the same teachers who secretly believe children should be removed from their parents care at birth if possible.)

My point is, that some people will read these excellent posts on cursive (I starred these by the way) AFTER they have already taught their child print. They will be wondering "NOW what do I do?"

Can you write a post on "plan B"?

D. said...

"Can you write a post on "plan B"?"

LOL! Indeed I can. Give me a couple of days. :)