January 28, 2019 / by LiteracyUntangled

Cursive Writing: Why does it matter?

Cursive Writing: Why does it matter?

My grandmother had the most beautiful handwriting. As a child attending school during the 1910’s to 1920’s, she was taught the classic “Palmer Method” of cursive handwriting. I loved the look and feel of her handwriting, even if it was only a simple shopping list. Most students today not only can’t write in cursive, they can’t read it. Cursive appears to be an art and way of life from the past, so why does it matter?

When a child begins to learn to write they are simultaneously employingmultiple processes and body parts: visual (eye/hand coordination), tactile (hands), and fine motor skills (hands). Through brain mapping, researchers have found that the act of writing in cursive stimulates both the left and the right hemispheres of the brain, in ways that print and typing do not. This synchronicity between the two hemispheres increases brain development in the areas of language, thinking, and working memory. The more the neurons were activated and connections made, the greater the learning and retention of new information, benefiting the student further down the road.

Researchers, Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer, found that students who took notes by hand performed better on conceptual question than students who took notes on laptops. The notes take on laptops tend to be strict transcription of the information given, little actual processing of the information. Conversely, the notes taken by hand were shorter and the note taker reframed the information into their own words, analyzing and processing the information at a deeper level. When a group of college students were asked to transcribe a paragraph in cursive, it was found one week later, they retained the information better than the students who were asked to print or type the same paragraph.

So, what are the benefits of cursive for a dyslexic student? Here are a few:

– The left/right brain synergy promotes improved language and memory functions in ways print and typing do not.

– Repeated fluid practice developes muscle memory which aids with spelling, the hand acquires a memory for spelling patterns.

– Increased writing fluency, the pen moves fluidly allowing ideas and thoughts to flow.

– Lifting the pen between words, end of one and the beginning of another, draws attention to word units, where words begin or end.

While there are numerous benefits to learning and using cursive writing, some students with disabilities may find it to be an additional burden. They are being asked to try and process many things at once. If a student is struggling, talk to them and really listen to their answers! Cursive may be something shelved for a better day.

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