Friday, March 19, 2010

Yes, Cursive First or Only Cursive--Part 1

The question of whether to make certain Montessori language materials in print or cursive comes up rather often on the lists I'm on. I may have brought it up here in the past, but it's worthy of being brought up again!

Montessori traditionally formally only presented cursive to the children, starting with the cursive sandpaper letters, then the cursive movable alphabet, and there are photos showing other handmade materials, such as the grammar boxes, being done in cursive. This was a deliberate act on Maria Montessori's part. And with all the modern research backing her up, it ought, imo, be a deliberate act on the part of others!

"But why? We don't need cursive anymore."

To be honest, we didn't need to know how to print in the first place. People wrote only in cursive for a long time. Print was introduced because somebody thought that print would be easier to learn first since it wasn't all curly, and it would make it easier to learn to read.

They were wrong.

Maria Montessori discovered in her early years working with children, before what would be termed the beginning of the Montessori Method, that children naturally write in curls and loops. Anybody who has had toddlers and preschoolers around them has undoubtedly seen the loopy drawings and "writing". It's much easier for the hand to do loops. I have even read that it requires less muscle involvement to do loops than to force your hand to make straight vertical and horizontal lines! Cursive is therefore much more natural for the hand, especially a young child's.

So, with this observation made, she decided in her first actual classroom that the children ought to have a material with which to learn cursive. Unable to have manufactured what she wanted (a grooved wooden piece), she and an assistant decided to use sandpaper, and the first sandpaper letters were made, by hand, and presented to the children. After a while, she and her helper cut out large cursive paper letters so the children could build words with them. They learned to write in beautiful cursive, read in cursive and she discovered that once the reading idea clicked, they could also read the same words in other writing styles, including print. There was *no* issue in learning to read non-cursive.

With this being the case, why oh why are we having children spend K-2 or even K-3 struggling to make nice straight lines in their writing, only to introduce at that point (if introduced at all) to cursive, which would, after 4 years of print, feel unnatural? Why would we have them only deal with print for 4 years, both in reading and writing, and then have to train them to read cursive when they could have started with it and done just fine right from the beginning? Does it make any sense at all?

We complain so much of people's handwriting these days, but what if people had started with cursive, did cursive for 4 years, and then kept using cursive for writing? Wouldn't 7 years of cursive before entering jr. high be more likely to produce nicer writing than 4 years of print and then mix in some cursive for a few years?

I have more to say, but it will have to wait until the next post.

1 comment:

Evelyn / 2 Pequenos Traviesos said...

Great post! My oldest son began learning cursive when he was in kindergarten. Then we began homeschooling in 1st grade, and in 2nd grade I started using our first homeschooling curriculum. I decided to go along with his handwriting workbook which began with manuscript and then moved on to cursive. It was my biggest mistake to go back to manuscript. When we finally got to cursive again it was like starting all over again. Ever since he has had this attitude towards cursive. He should be in 3rd grade by now. Fortunately, we're doing Montessori. :)