About a week ago, one of the second grade students that I work with each week asked if I wanted to see her write her name in cursive. At the time, we were using sticks to write words and draw pictures in the section of their playground that is entirely sand and dirt and of course I said, “Yes, let me see.” She preceded to write her name in curly letters and while I told her how beautiful it was; I couldn’t help but notice that the letters weren’t connected as they should be. This brought me back to the days when I was learning cursive in first grade and my teacher mandated that we connect our letters in a smooth motion and that our letters had a slight angle to them. After she had written her name, I asked this student if they practiced cursive often in her second grade classroom and the answer was, “not really.” Interesting. Learning cursive was one of the most memorable parts of my early elementary school years that I couldn’t imagine that students weren’t practicing as much today.
For the amount that I practiced cursive from first to third grade, I was shocked that there was no mention of it in my forth and fifth grade classes, in middle school, high school, or even in college. When we were first learning cursive, I remember my teacher saying “You have to practice now because when you get to forth grade you will have to write everything in cursive.” I learned that this was far from true.
After looking more into the disappearance of cursive in today’s elementary schools, I found an array of articles reminiscing on teaching cursive and describing how Common Core State Standards have prioritized other standards over penmanship. Katie Dando, a spokeswoman for the Council of Chief State School Officers who also promotes Common Core, states that,
“The Common Core State Standards allow communities and teachers to make decisions at the local level about to teach reading and writing…so they can teach cursive if they think it’s what their students need…The standards define the learning target that need to be met to ensure students graduate from high school prepared for success in college and careers…The decision to include cursive when teaching is left to the states, districts, schools, and teachers.”
Another source attributes the downfall of cursive writing to an increase in technology. When thinking about the limited free time that teachers have in the classroom, it is more common that teaching students about technology comes before cursive writing. While many teachers note the importance of being able to write in cursive, it is just not a top priority in the classrooms. If teachers are not teaching cursive, how will students read historical documents? How will they sign their names? Does cursive writing encourage fine motor skills? And, will this affect their note taking in the future?
Besides signing my name, note taking is really the only place where I use cursive today. While this may seem trivial, it has really helped me. Writing in cursive is faster and allows me to take down the bulk of important information during a lecture without having to take my pen off the paper after each letter. This cursive isn’t perfect, and I would have been embarrassed to show my second grade teacher as many of my capital “G,” “Q,” and “Z” letters remain in their standard, non-cursive shape due to convenience when I am scribbling down notes quickly.
Learning that cursive was becoming extinct from early elementary curriculums was heartbreaking and while I didn’t need to write everything in fourth grade in cursive, I have recognized other benefits. This has increased my fine motor skills related to my penmanship, allowed me to read cursive documents and handwritten letters, and made my short-hand note taking much more efficient. Though it may not be included in the Common Core State Standards, teachers should encourage the teaching of cursive as no matter how advanced technology becomes, handwriting will always be important.