Cursive writing seems like an old-fashioned skill that has no place in today’s modern classrooms. With laptops, e-books and cell phones in every school, is there still room for the art of handwriting? Teaching Kids How to Write (and the Great Brain Benefits) will help you decide.
The Cursive Comeback
It turns out that this skill is making a comeback in schools. Over the past few years, teachers have started putting penmanship back into the curriculum. Cursive writing has now become standard in several states across the country.
What is the reason for the cursive comeback? According to numerous studies, learning cursive writing is an important skill that benefits children and adults.
Benefits of Learning Cursive Writing
A recent article in the Concordia University education blog lists several reasons that cursive writing is an important part of learning.
Good manual coordination. Using a pen or pencil to shape letters in an even row is a great way to develop manual and hand-eye coordination.
Reinforcement of learning. Reading letters in print is one way to learn. Writing those letters out reinforces this learning. Studies have also found that writing in longhand is the best note-taking method for adults and children.
Helps children with dyslexia. Children with dyslexia and other learning disorders often find it easier to process letters when they are forced to slow down and write them.
Real-life applications. Learning to write cursive script is a skill that students will use when they’re adults. They’ll need a good, legible signature when they sign contracts, write checks and sign correspondence.
Opportunity for creativity. Cursive writing is an art form. At one time, students were judged on their penmanship. Learning to write offers children a new outlet for their creativity.
More Good Reasons for Learning Cursive Writing
Sense of mastery. Many of us remember that it was difficult to learn proper cursive writing. Going from printing to cursive was a major step. Once we perfected it, we had a real sense of achievement. Today’s children deserve to have that same sense of mastery.
Professionalism. Even today, employers judge potential employees on how neatly they write. People who have sloppy, childlike handwriting are perceived as less intelligent than other people.
Retaining history. If children don’t learn cursive writing, they could miss out on learning history. The Chinese government recently discovered that eliminating many ancient characters from their language has resulted in a situation where few people can read and understand their most important historical documents.
Many of our historical documents were written in longhand. If our children can’t read them, will our history be lost?
Writing by Hand Is the Best Note-Taking Method
The benefits of cursive writing have become clear. Schools across the country are increasingly adding cursive handwriting to their classes.
Studies have found that learning to write involves several brain functions. In a study, researchers found that forming letters by hand activates a “reading circuit” in children’s brains. Learning to read by using only a book or a laptop did not fire this circuit.
This is the same reading circuit that adults use to read and write. The benefits of cursive handwriting last into adulthood.
The Great Brain Benefits of Writing by Hand
A 2014 study found the same effect in college students. Researchers found that students who took longhand notes remembered the material they were studying better than those who took notes on a laptop.
The American Psychological Society conducted two studies published in Psychological Science comparing students who used laptops to take notes and those who used handwritten notes. Among the findings:
- The students who used handwritten notes understood the material better.
- They retained better knowledge of the material in the following weeks.
- They were able to think conceptually about the material they learned.
As the researchers said, “Apparently, there is something about typing that leads to mindless processing. And there is something about ink and paper that prompts students to go beyond merely hearing and recording new information.”
Writing in Longhand Is Also Great for Adults
On the Little Things blog, Joanna Silver lists nine great benefits that adults can derive from writing by hand.
- It calms your brain. This is another of the great brain benefits of writing longhand. It allows your brain to slow down and stay fully engaged with the material you’re writing.
- It relaxes your mind and body. Writing by hand requires your full concentration. This intense concentration allows you to focus and block out distractions. The act of writing works like meditation to calm you down.
- It keeps you mentally sharp. Writing by hand keeps you mentally and intellectually young and staves off the effects of aging on your brain.
- It eases stress and anxiety. This is probably why writing in a journal is often prescribed to people suffering from emotional disorders.
Crossing the Midline
In an article for How Wee Learn, one teacher writes that children need learning activities that “cross the midline.”
Here’s her definition.
“When speaking of midline, I am referring to an imaginary line that spans from our head to our feet, dividing our left side from our right. Crossing the midline occurs when we reach across our body with our left hand to grab something from the right. When we cross our legs. When we read and our eyes go from left to right.”
These activities strengthen the part of our brain called the corpus collosum. This part of the brain is responsible for allowing us to maintain our balance and perform complex hand-eye movements.
Cursive writing is a wonderful way to strengthen that part of the brain. It is an ideal activity for crossing the midline.
Are you teaching in one of the states that has reintroduced cursive into the curriculum?
Are you glad to see a return of cursive writing to the classroom? Have you experienced any of the great brain benefits of writing in longhand? Let us know.
Let Us Know in the Comments Below!
If you’re teaching in a school that still doesn’t allow cursive into the curriculum, I feel your pain. As teachers, we know it’s good for kids, but may feel we’re helpless to do anything about it. I was once told by an administrator that I couldn’t use cursive even for a warm-up activity; it wasn’t approved by the state. We’d love to hear your experiences.
Perhaps, like me, you’re tired of being told by folks with no classroom experience, often no education experience, how to do your job.
Perhaps it’s time for something different. There are other ways to teach, and having your own online business can open a world of opportunities and options to you. You can read more about it here.
Whatever your path, I wish you all the best.
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