Cursive: More than Pretty

A comment on my last blog provided some food for thought regarding the merits of teaching penmanship, specifically script or cursive. When I was a middle school principal, I was part of a curriculum committee that spent considerable time and energy evaluating the continuation of the cursive writing program at the elementary level. Unfortunately, that program ultimately succumbed to budget cuts. Many years later, I find that some of my students from a number of different school districts can neither read nor write cursive. This is a loss of more than simple penmanship skills, for some brain researchers are finding a link between cursive writing and brain development.
While competency in keyboarding skills enhances computer skills, some educators bemoan the loss of penmanship practice. In a Wall Street
Journal
article from 2010 Gwendolyn Bounds reported the following with
regard to printing: “Using advanced tools such as magnetic resonance imaging,
researchers are finding that writing by hand is more than just a way to
communicate. The practice helps with learning letters and shapes, can improve
idea composition and expression, and may aid fine motor-skill development.”
Moreover, some cognitive scientists believe that simply being able to print is not
enough. An article by Dr. David Sortino, a psychologist and current Director of Educational Strategies reports that cursive stimulates language development and fluency and enhances neural connections in the brain. “Further, Shadmehr and
Holcomb of Johns Hopkins University, published a study in Science Magazine showing that their subjects’ brains actually changed in reaction to physical instruction such as cursive handwriting lessons. The researchers provided PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scans as evidence of these changes in brain structure. In addition, they also demonstrated that these changes resulted in an ‘almost immediate improvement in fluency.’”
If your children’s schools have discontinued cursive instruction, do not despair. You can purchase a cursive handbook and practice at home. You may very well see some significant improvement in more than penmanship.

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