We have been looking into suitable kindergartens for Joshua recently and one question we had was with regard to how reading and writing is taught. While Joshua is not yet at what Montessorians would consider the sensitive period for reading and writing (around the age of 3-5) this is still something we believe requires careful thought. During our recent tour of a Cycle 1 classroom I noticed a child working with a moveable alphabet and it was in block typeface. However, when I queried the guide she said that cursive is being taught at the pre-writing/writing stages (i.e. sandpaper letters).
So should children be taught block or cursive? Is cursive still relevant to children today?
Cursive writing was originally developed as a method of writing that involved a smooth joining of the letters when people were still writing with quills and ink (what we would consider old writing materials). When newer materials were introduced, calligraphy was introduced as a class a separate subject to retain the beauty of penmanship.
Maria Montessori had this to say about writing:
The development of the hand therefore goes side by side with the development of the intelligence.
After doing some reading on this topic I have listed below some of the benefits of teaching cursive writing first:
- Cursive writing is a more natural way of writing. The pencil flows along the paper without frequent stops within words.
- The child who can read cursive can also read block letters/manuscript, but the reverse is not necessarily true.
- Cursive is a better exercise for strengthening fine motor skills. It takes a reasonable amount of control to push a pencil through cursive letters and form legible, neat words.
- Words written in cursive are clearly separated from each other. Run-on words are not as common in cursive as with block print.
- Cursive writing “trains the brain” – there are several articles and a lot of research that has been done into the benefits of cursive writing which include helping with learning letters and shapes, and improving idea composition and expression.
Benefits of teaching block writing first:
- Block writing is in all educational materials, books, signs and internet and hence is more relevant to what you would read in day to day life.
- Cursive can be less legible – think of your doctor’s handwriting on scripts!
- Easier for left handers. Left handers tend to drag their hand across their writing (more than right handers) and with cursive this drag is constant and can smudge the print. My husband has adjusted his grip and the paper so that he does not have this drag, many left handers may say they do the same.
This is not an exhaustive list, this is a list of major points that I put together that I felt were the most important to us as parents. Please note that I did not list cursive writing as being faster than block print as this is debateable. Research was split on whether or not it was faster so I have not put this in as an advantage and I believe that the benefits of either are not based on the speed at which you write. Interestingly, my husband says that by default he writes in cursive, but he uses block print for formal applications such as gift card messages.
What do you think about learning cursive? Does it matter? Do you have a preference as to what your child learns? I would love to hear from you on your opinion, though please keep this discussion friendly. What works for one family may not work for another and we should respect everyone’s right to have their say.
If you are interested in reading further on this topic these are some articles I read that may be of interest: