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Is Cursive Writing Becoming a Lost Art?

When I was an elementary student in the 70s (no comments form the peanut gallery, please!) penmanship was taught and practiced daily. I enjoyed penmanship class and on non-school days, I filled spiral notebooks with cursive writing -- I wrote out the states and capitals, the presidents, long lists of prepositions, the Gettysburg Address -- just because I enjoyed practicing my penmanship! (Yes, I was that student!) 
It's not unusual in today's educational and political climates to hear heated debates about the demise of cursive writing in today’s educational system. Opponents of Common Core lambast the Initiative for omitting cursive writing from its teaching expectations. Some say cursive is obsolete in a digital world. Others argue that the demise of cursive indicates the demise of education in our country. Some argue that students will not be able to read historical documents. Others counter that they will not need to -- they will be able to quickly and easily find the contents of historical manuscripts online.

I once taught in a K-8 school that taught only cursive writing from Kindergarten on. In addition, students were only allowed to write in cursive. None of the students were allowed to write in manuscript at any time -- ever.

I asked many questions about this. I was told to watch toddlers scribble and "write" -- when toddlers scribble, they always use cursive-like loops and connected rounds. Toddlers generally don't scribble in solitary circles and sticks. As far as physical dexterity, cursive is more natural for children to form than manuscript.

Research also shows that cursive writing increases hand-eye coordination and engages creativity in the brain in a way that manuscript does not. In fact, there is an entire movement called "Cursive First" that puts forth research claiming that teaching children to write in cursive before they learn to write in manuscript increases their reading skills later on and decreases dyslexia issues. Regardless of one’s stance on this data, extensive research proves that teaching cursive first definitely eliminates letter reversals.

I asked how students learn to read if they never learn to write in manuscript, as all the books they read are in manuscript. The answer: It just wasn't a problem -- because all the books students read from were in manuscript, they just naturally connected reading to manuscript and writing to cursive.

In that particular school, I never taught penmanship in my sixth grade class. I didn’t need to . . . every student had beautiful, easy-to-read cursive penmanship -- an English teacher's dream! -- but it had been expected of them since Kinder. Every year, every teacher expected legible writing on all assignments and students who wrote illegibly had to re-do the assignment . . . 100% of the time. Because high expectations were consistent and regularly enforced, illegible writing was a non-issue school-wide. (Incidentally, and perhaps irrelevantly, that school has tested in the top 5% of their state at every grade level for 20 years, with zero exceptions.)

Since leaving that school, reading students' writing is often the bane of my day. I still don't teach penmanship -- there's just not enough time in the day. In Middle School, I'm squeezing reading, writing, literature studies, poetry, and spelling into a 50-minute ELA block. I literally don't have a minute to spare for penmanship; therefore, I tell my students to write in whatever their neatest writing is. Today, I don't care if assignments are in cursive, manuscript, or word-processed -- I care whether or not I can read them!
I definitely print in manuscript much more often than I write in cursive because so many of my students -- and their parents! -- claim that they cannot read cursive. In that sense, cursive is definitely becoming a lost art. Only time will tell whether or not this "lost art" has a significant impact on education as a whole.

What are your experiences with cursive writing? Do you feel it should still be mandated in our schools? Why or why not? I look forward to reading your opinions!
Happy Writing!


  1. I feel it should be mandated. My students who write in cursive on standardized tests get more words on a line, are more legible, and score better on the tests. Other teacher are impressed by there beautiful work, so they make better grades. My dyslexic students do not reverse letters. I always write in cursive in my fourth grade room. If students choose to print later in life, it is because they have a choice, not because they don't know how to write in cursive. It is so sad to see students struggle during their AP tests when they are asked to place their signature on the line. Many can't figure out how to sign their own name. I think that is sad.

  2. Handwriting matters: does cursive matter? Research note: legible cursive writing averages no faster than printed handwriting of equal/greater legibility. (Research sources available on request.) The fastest, clearest handwriters join some letters, not all: joining only the most easily joined letters, using print-like shapes for letters whose printed and cursive shapes disagree.

    _Reading_ cursive (which matters) can be taught in 30-60 minutes, once kids read print. (There's even a free iPad app teaching how: “Read Cursive.”)

    Teach kids to READ cursive: and to write more practically. Examples, in some cases with student work:,,,,, )

    Educated adults are quitting cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers across North America were surveyed at a conference run by Zaner-Bloser, a cursive textbook publisher. Only 37% wrote in cursive; 8% printed. Most (55%) — wrote with some elements like print-writing, others resembling cursive. Why encourage what even most handwroting teachers don't use in their own writing?

    Cursive's cheerleaders sometimes claim research support — citing studies that invariably prove to have been misquoted or otherwise misstated by the claimant.
    About signatures — brace yourself. In state and federal law, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over any other kind. (Ask any attorney!) Questioned document examiners tell me the least forgeable signatures are the plainest: including printed ones.

    ALL handwriting, not just cursive, is individual and uses fine motor skills. That's how any teacher can tell (from print-writing on unsigned work) which of 25 or 30 first-graders produced it.

    Encouraging cursive at school is like sending the kids home in top hats and crinolines.

    Kate Gladstone
    DIRECTOR, the World Handwriting Contest
    CEO, Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works

  3. Personally I don't care much about handwriting as long as I can understand what is being written. I learned cursive at a young age myself, now my kids can understand it but don't really write it.

  4. I think cursive writing is dying out because it is not apart of any of my younger cousins school curriculum. However, learning how to properly type on a keyboard is on it.

  5. My kids learned it in school and they only use it now when I make they write thank you notes.

  6. I think cursive writing should be taught. Sadly it's dying but hopefully teachers will take the time. I learned it and I always write in cursive. I will teach my kids if they don't learn in school. I feel sad for my children's generation. With teachers striking in Ontario it's been brutal.

  7. I think handwriting definitely needs to be taught but cursive? I'm not sure it's important any more.

  8. I admit to loving and holding on tight to cursive. My son was taught it in second grade and his handwriting improved immensely. After that, his 3rd grade teacher discouraged it and his 4th grade teacher left it to choice. While we are traveling and homeschooling, I am encouraging it. My daughter is dyslexic and dysgraphic and cursive was recommended to us as it is harder to reverse letters so we are starting it with her this year.

  9. It breaks my heart to think that cursive might become a dinosaur. I think it needs to stay.

  10. I don't know if it should be mandated, but I am very sad it's going away. I know we're all keyboarders now, but :(

  11. I still have my English students (9th graders this year) using cursive as I, too, see the value in this skill. With the support of my administration, I will continue to expect it on all English assignments for many years to come.

  12. I still have my English students (9th graders this year) using cursive as I, too, see the value in this skill. With the support of my administration, I will continue to expect it on all English assignments for many years to come.


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