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Phoenix Forward magazine

Is learning cursive writing still necessary?

If you ask kids why a cursive “Q” looks like a “2,” or where exactly you start when writing a cursive “G,” they likely won’t be able to tell you. According to a 2013 article in USA Today, at least 41 states have dropped cursive writing from their curricula because Common Core State Standards don’t emphasize it.

The reduced focus on cursive isn’t surprising, says Jessica Yi, a former elementary school teacher with 10 years of classroom experience who manages the special education program for the University of Phoenix® College of Education.

She notes that education trends often go from one extreme to another: Teachers at one time were required to spend substantial amounts of class time teaching cursive writing; now they’re being told to abandon it.

While Yi says she generally agrees with this shift, she still believes cursive has a role in the classroom — just a much smaller one than in the past.

“I’m not completely opposed to teaching [it],” she emphasizes. “But the way I view cursive writing is that students should be able to read it and write their signature. That’s it.”

As a teacher, Yi says, she had her second- and third-grade students practice one cursive capital and lowercase letter a day during the first five minutes of class.

Cursive has a role in the classroom — just a much smaller one than in the past.

She acknowledges the benefits of teaching cursive — including that students use more of their senses when forming letters on paper — which can improve word retention. 

Cursive writing also helps students relate to a time before computers and printing. Imagine, she says, trying to read the Declaration of Independence without knowing how to parse the connected letters.

Students who aren’t familiar or comfortable with cursive also may find that they can’t understand writing on billboards, TV shows, restaurant menus or personal checks — necessary real-life skills.

Some proponents of cursive writing point out that it can be a boon to students with disabilities like dyslexia because the connected letters help kids see each letter in order, so they’re less likely to jumble the letters.

Yi says she’s also found that students who have trouble with handwriting can benefit from learning to type. This was true for one of her students whose printing and cursive writing were indecipherable.

“I asked [the student’s] parents if they had an extra laptop for him to use,” Yi says. “After he started typing all of his assignments, his grades improved significantly because I could read his work.”

Class time is precious, though. Common Core standards require students to be able to type as early as third grade, and Yi advises, “If you have to choose between teaching cursive or keyboarding for 30 minutes a day, pick keyboarding.”

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