Cursive vs. Printing: Is One Better Than the Other?

girl_writing1Recently, one of my colleagues emailed me some interesting thoughts about cursive and asked for my input. I was happy to dive into this controversial topic!

People are often surprised to see that cursive script is taught before print in many Montessori classrooms. In fact, the Montessori materials in numerous 3-6 classrooms are all in cursive: sandpaper letters, movable alphabet, green boards, chalkboards, and all handwritten materials.

However, there are also Montessori schools that teach printing first and then cursive. Is one better than the other? Should cursive always be taught first? Here’s a look at some pros and cons of each.

Benefits to teaching cursive first:

1. Cursive writing is a more natural way of writing. The pencil flows along the paper without frequent stops within words.

2. Words written in cursive are clearly separated from each other. Run-on words are not as common in cursive.

3. The child who can read cursive can also read manuscript, but the reverse is not true.

4. Cursive is a better exercise for strengthening fine motor skills. The connecting letters help the child to produce smooth, rather than choppy, strokes with the pencil.

Benefits to teaching printing first:

1. Print is much more widely used. Most books and educational materials use printing.

2. The printed movable alphabet is easier to use than the cursive one. The cursive movable alphabet is a sort of “imposter” cursive: the letters are formed in a cursive style, but they’re not connected. This can pose difficulty to a child who’s trying to transcribe a story written with the cursive movable alphabet.

3. A child may learn printing at home, but form some letters incorrectly. In terms of muscle memory, they might be better served by learning printed letters correctly first, before learning cursive. They may also be in situations where they are required to print (a testing form, for instance) when knowing cursive only would be a drawback.

4. Cursive is less legible and harder to read. Need proof? Any form that says “Please print”. Post offices prefer printed addresses for the same reason.

5. In terms of writing, it’s true that a cursive “b” and “d” look less like each other than their printed versions. However, current research into dyslexia and other learning disabilities show that there’s far more happening in the brain than a simple flip-flip. Children who struggle with reading and writing are experiencing a disconnect between the part of the brain that “sees” letters and the part of the brain that “identifies” letters.

A child with dyslexia often has dysgraphia, which is difficulty with writing. Teachers once thought that having dyslexic children write with cursive would help them, because the cursive letters look more different from each other than “ball and stick” printing. However, it turns out that because of dysgraphia, cursive is much, much harder for the dyslexic child. The reason is, there’s a lot more to think about. Since each letter connects, the child has to not only form the letter, but think about which letter is coming next in order to join them correctly.

Samples of writing by dyslexic/dysgraphic children in both printing and cursive show that cursive does not aid the dyslexic child. You will still see all the same issues with cursive that you see with print: letter reversals, variations in letter height, spacing problems, and being unable to position letters correctly relative to the line on the paper. That’s because dyslexia and dysgraphia are language processing issues, not vision problems.

Some additional thoughts:

There are many other ways to strengthen fine motor skills than learning cursive. The question is this: is cursive necessary for the refinement of fine motor skills? Is it the best way to teach fine motor skills? We offer all sorts of work in 3-6, from small puzzle knobs and tweezing to punching and bead stringing. Is cursive a necessary addition to this mix? Since most of us learned cursive in elementary school, it’s obviously possible to do so without learning it in preschool.

One common reason mentioned in favor of cursive is that it’s faster. I was delighted to find several studies online that concluded that cursive is not faster than printing. The fastest way of writing, interestingly, was a combination of cursive and printing that joined some letters but left others unjoined. I laughed when I read this, because that’s exactly how I take notes when I need to be writing quickly. For many children, writing in cursive is much slower than using printed letters.

Throughout most of human history, writing consisted stick figures, not circular or flowing figures (and the stick figures were not attached to each other). In at least two common forms of historic cursive, the letters are rounded but not joined (Hebrew Cursive and Latin or Roman Cursive). Cursive as we know it began in the mid-1700’s; almost yesterday in terms of humans and written forms of communication. Cursive is actually a recent development, and one that might be on the way out as technology continues to grow.

Some schools have decided to use D’Nealian script – a sort of cursive/print hybrid – as an answer to the printing/cursive debate. I have no experience with D’Nealian, except that Sister Mary, my Montessori elementary trainer, felt that kids who use it never quite learn printing or cursive very well. She taught printing first and then started cursive at the beginning of second grade. My opinion is completely subjective, but I will say this: in the ten years of my teaching career post-training, almost everything Sister Mary taught me has been proven true, and the children in her classes always had beautiful penmanship.

Can you tell that I have a bias towards printing? I tried to hide it but couldn’t. As a left-hander, I find it much easier to keep from smudging when I use printing (I think it has to do with the angle of the pen and paper needed for cursive.) While I was researching this issue, I began to feel that Montessorians continue to champion cursive is because it hearkens back to an earlier era in the history of the Western world. A time when all the things we value – beautiful penmanship, lovely manners, time spent in nature rather than in front of the television – were the norm for children everywhere. It’s one more way for us to be anti-culture. And there’s nothing wrong with bucking current trends, as long as our decisions are truly beneficial to children, and not just for the sake of being different.

Please share your own experiences with printing, cursive, and handwriting in general. I would love to hear opinions on both sides of the debate. Let’s learn from each other!

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47 Responses to “Cursive vs. Printing: Is One Better Than the Other?”

  • Theresa said at October 8th, 2007 at 5:51 am :

    I, too am a fan of printing for the very young. I can also see the benefits of learning cursive, but I just don’t think it should be first. I think the goal in preschool should be preparing the child to learn to read, and printing does that better than cursive, as most books are in print (this is also why I don’t teach italic handwriting to littles, though I think it is lovely).

    I also think that, as you pointed out, there are plenty of ways in which small motor development are addressed in the Montessori preschool without adding cursive to the mix. I do admit, however that I have not read very much on the proposed benefits of cursive first, so I am open to changing my opinion on this.

    The one thing I will never change my opinion on, however, is D’Nealian. Yuck! Your mentor was right on target about that! My oldest son was homeschooled for Pre-K and K and had beautiful print handwriting. Then I had to send him to school for awhile, where they taught him D’Nealian. His lovely handwriting became rapidly illegible and has never recovered. I saw the same pattern time and time again as a middle school teacher, with kids with completely illegible writing. Most of them, it turns out, were D’Nealian graduates.

    Your historical perspective on cursive is very interesting. I guess if one takes the long view, cursive itself could be seen as a “fad” that may or may not stick around. I personally do not see why it should, given the modern prevalence of word-processing. It could be that cursive will die out altogether and just end up one of those quaint customs of the past.

  • montessori_lori said at October 8th, 2007 at 6:29 am :

    I really appreciate your thoughts, Theresa. Especially your real life experience with D’Nealian. Very good information.

    One thing I read over and over was that typing is an extremely important skill that all kids should learn in school. When they reach junior high/high school, they *must* know how to type well in order to use a computer for research and writing. The only thing they need to be able to do in cursive is sign their name.

  • Lorraine said at October 8th, 2007 at 7:39 pm :

    Thanks Lori for this thoughtful post! I’ve struggled for a while with this and have changed my mind twice already about what to teach first. I guess I’m pretty happy that my daughter writes anything at all. I don’t push her either way right now, but I think she prefers print over cursive since all books are in print. She reverses b’s and d’s some times, but less often than before so I think it will improve with time. And it is funny to read about the fastest writing being a combination of print/cursive… that’s how I write too :)

  • montessori_lori said at October 8th, 2007 at 9:19 pm :

    You make a great point – if Montessori is about following the child, then it might be good to look at what the child prefers. If they prefer one over the other, you can go with that one.

    The reversals do improve with time, and are completely normal, so I don’t think that’s a sign that the child should switch to cursive.

  • Anonymous said at October 8th, 2007 at 9:41 pm :

    Very interesting comments about the cursive vs print debate. I have to chime in as in favor of teacing cursive before printing for the following reasons.

    1- When working with the sandpaper letters I find the cursive letters less confusing for the children, the staring point is always the same (base line, going up. Print on the other hand has how many different starting points(?).

    2- The cursive letters can be taught in four basic groups (later when working on pennmanship). Take c, a, d, g, q, for example. The child practices with the cursive “c” and gains skill, the “a” can be practiced by making the “c” and adding a small line up to close the gap, trace down and leave a loop. When the “a” is looking good he can move on in this same way to the “d” then “g” and so on. Amazingly enough each of the letters fits well into one of 4 groups like this.

    3- My experience over the years has been that the children do not have any issues learing to write cursive and read in print. I use cursive sandpaper letter, the first moveable alphabet in cursive, and the first reading works, books and lists in cursive. The moveable alphabet for phonograms and puzzle words I use in print. Language works after those introduction ones are a mixtre of different fonts, both cursive an pring. By the time the children are reading in “Bob” books there read both print and cursive.

    4- In kindergarten the children begin to practice print on their own from just natural curosity,they see it everywhere. It is easy to pick up because it straight lines,diagonal lines, circles, and semi-circles. I give lessons as necessary, just as I do with cursive to practice and encourage good penmanship.

    5- It is expected that children learn to write cursive by third grade (state standard even). Why teach writing twice?? Those with no exposure don’t like the change in third grade (ask any parent or third grade teacher). For those at least exposed in the primary class who go on to public school and use print the transition should be a lot easier as it was taught during the time of the absorbent mind. Same reason we teach so much math, geo, science, etc. so it will be there later.

    I dont mean to go on and on. Maria Montessori was a genius in her time and still today. Every year I discover something new when giving lessons.

    When I ask others who teach print the usual answers are “thats just what I’ve always done”, “most of my kids go on to public school and have to print” or “I feel more comfortable with it”. While I can certianly see that, my experience is that cursive first works very well. It was a difficult change for me in the begining,now I feel stongly that in the end the children benefit from learning cursive.

    I am new to your site and loving it!! You have great topics for thought!!

    THANKS

  • montessori_lori said at October 8th, 2007 at 9:46 pm :

    Ooo, I like your thoughts. Especially points one and two – those help so much with the “how” of teaching cursive first, if someone chooses to do so. Also interesting that kids kind of learn to print on their own, just by seeing it around them.

    Thank you so much for stopping by, and I’m really glad you like my site!

  • MJE said at October 11th, 2007 at 6:39 am :

    Instead of print or cursive, how about italic? I have been using the Portland Italic series and I think it results in much more legible handwriting. It is, as you say, a combination—rounded strokes, but not all connected. You connect when it is convenient and don’t when it’s not.
    It seems to me that the point of handwriting is that others (and you) can read it. Portland Italic does that.

  • montessori_lori said at October 11th, 2007 at 7:58 am :

    Italic is an interesting idea, but as with D’Nealian, the child may never learn print or handwriting well. And there will be times when they need to print (forms) and times when they need true cursive (signature) so italics wouldn’t be of help in either situation.

    As Theresa said in her comment, when her son was taught D’Nealian (which is basically italic), his handwriting became illegible and never recovered.

  • Michelle Irinyi said at October 13th, 2007 at 6:37 am :

    Hi Lori,

    What a great blog. It’s nice to see both arguments presented together. The most important decision when choosing to teach print or cursive first is to be consistent. I have worked at schools that decide to teach cursive in the Children’s House, but not all classrooms do so. When the children arrive in 1st grade on the first day, some are startled when they realize that Lower Elementary teachers write in cursive on the board, in their copybooks, etc. They immediately panic, which adds to the difficulty of the 1st grade transition period. All of a sudden, they think they can’t read at all!

    Whether you (or your school) decides to teach print or cursive first, my one suggestion is, for the sake of the children, be consistent!

  • montessori_lori said at October 13th, 2007 at 6:48 am :

    Yes, excellent point, Michelle. Inconsistency is so confusing to children. It’s probably a good idea for preschool and elementary teachers to meet together and decide on one approach.

  • KateGladstone said at October 22nd, 2007 at 3:10 am :

    Re worries that Italic may leave someone unable to fill in forms or produce a signature:
    In the fifteen years that I’ve taught Italic, my students and I hav e never seen that happen.
    Writing Italic on “please print” forms doesn’t get the form rejected, even if you use the joined version of Italic. (Italic allows you to use or omit the joins. For forms, I recommend omitting all the joins, but as an experiment my students and I have written joined Italic on “please print” forms and nothing awful happened: nobody rejected, misprocessed, or misunderstood the form.)
    As to signatures: any lawyer will confirm for you that the law doesn’t require cursive for signatures. Legally, “your signature” means however you actually sign your name: print, cursive, Italic, D’Nealian, some mixture, or even anything else you habitually use for your signature (such as a rubber stamp or even a thumbprint if you habitually use that instead of writing your name).

  • KateGladstone said at October 22nd, 2007 at 3:20 am :

    “D’Nealian is basically Italic”?!
    As someone who has taught Italic for fifteen years in a city where half the schools teach D’Nealian, I must correct this.
    When D’Nealian students go from separate letters to joined letters, they learn to join letters 100% of the time and they also learn they must change the shapes and/or starting-points of almost all of the capital letters and most of the lower-case letters (despite the program-brochure claims that “no transition is made”)
    When Italic students go from separate letters to joined letters, they learn to join some, but not all, letters (which fits what we know about high-speed high-legibility handwriting) and they keep the basic shapes and starting-points of the letters that they already know from unjoined writing.
    To see the differences for yourself, compare D’Nealian and Italic unjoined & joined alphabets online at http://www.educationalfontware.com

  • KateGladstone said at October 22nd, 2007 at 3:34 am :

    Learning cursive as a child, I made numerous reversals in cursive
    (such as cursive “J” < -> cursive “f”).

    Also, whenever I tried to write in cursive and use the idea that “each letter starts on the baseline,” I found that this gave wrong results for any cursive letter that happened to come after a cursive “b,” cursive “o,” cursive “v,” or cursive “w.” For literally every lower-case cursive letter, in order to use it in cursive you have to learn two different starting-points for that letter (and also learn which letters require which starting-point for the next letter after them). To see what I mean, write in cursive the words “part, past, port, post” and then, in each word, make a mark at the point where the “r” or the “s” actually starts. In the first two words, the “r” and the “s” start on the base-line, sure — but in the next two words, the “same” letters “r” and “s” start ‘way above the base-line.
    To me, consistency requires starting a letter in the same place every time you write it. Starting a letter sometimes in one place, sometimes in another place (which cursive requires) does not strike me as consistent at all. Of course, I realize that my learning disabilities probably have something to do with my experiencing things this way.

    ;-)

  • montessori_lori said at October 22nd, 2007 at 5:09 am :

    In reading and learning about dyslexia (and its frequent cohort, dysgraphia, or difficulty writing), I’ve discovered that cursive does not actually do away with reversals as I’ve often heard from Montessori teachers. I updated this post to include the reasons why. Hope that helps!

  • Anonymous said at January 15th, 2008 at 3:29 am :

    like most of us, i learned to write in print first then cursive later and i write better in print than in cursive,however, cursive serves me better when writing a longer article because cursive writing can sort of keep up with my brain.i must say, cursive must be taught first for ease of writing because we almost always carry to adulthood waht we have learned from preschool.

  • Anonymous said at April 8th, 2008 at 6:33 pm :

    Two of my children learned D’Nealian at their Montessori school over twenty years ago. Each has beautiful handwriting. Neither had trouble converting to cursive. However, my two sons who learned print, NEVER made the switch. Their handwriting is terrible dispite extensive work with them at home in this area. They type instead of write.

    I guess it depends on the child, not necessarily the method. Girls have an easier time learning to write than boys.

  • Anonymous said at May 14th, 2008 at 12:25 pm :

    Most people these days print. Older people are more likely to be writing in cursive.

    Reading someone’s handwriting in print is likely to be easier than that someone’s cursive.

    I don’t have any sources, but maybe just look at the notes taken by college class.

  • Don Potter said at February 12th, 2010 at 5:20 pm :

    I have first hand experience both learning and teaching cursive-first. I learned cursive-first in 1953 from a very experienced teacher of good cursive penmanship. All of my college notes were taken with a fountain pen in highly legible cursive. My professors felt that my cursive was just as legible as a typed manuscript. I taught cursive to second grade bilingual students when I was a bilingual teacher for public schools here in Texas. My students learned cursive very quickly and were able to do all their work in cursive. Upon retiring from the public schools four years ago, I had the good fortune of reentering the profession at a cursive-first private elementary school. The advantages of traditional American cursive are considerable. This year my second grade tutoring students have already, in five short months, written 3,500 words in their spelling-families with Sam Blumenfeld’s Alpha-Phonics and 600 review sentences from the same program. Cursive allows us to develop “Total Linguistic Function” where the students can speak, read, write, and spell equally well. Teaching printing before cursive is a total waste of time and counterproductive to good reading, writing and spelling.

  • Don Potter said at February 12th, 2010 at 5:29 pm :

    I forgot to mention that Montessori taught cursive, as a survey of her books will quickly confirm. Even the cut-out letters were cursive. There are samples of beautiful cursive from children as young as five years old. Many people have told me that cursive is developmentally inappropriate for kindergarten and first grade children, but no on has ever shown any proof. The kindergarten cursive handwriting at my cursive-first school is proof that such criticism is groundless.

  • Sarah Mathis said at June 27th, 2010 at 12:32 pm :

    I have been using cursive since I was a 3rd grader,even though I have had interest in it since kindergarden. Print seems to take forever to write and space evenly,and I don’t see it is a sophisticated type of grammar.Sure people need to know how to write their name in cursive,but they need to be taught to use a very formal version of it for their signatures on documents at IEP meetings,and on other documents.I am going to my 3rd snr year of high school,and I still don’t have a true signature because no one has helped me with it.
    I recommend getting kids involved with cursive while they are young so it stays with them.
    Cursive goes as far back as the anglo-saxon period which I had been looking up today.
    I would really love to see more people use it.

  • Mike MP said at August 17th, 2010 at 11:53 am :

    We are considering the Montessori school for our kids but ironically are reluctant because of this cursive issue. Simply put, it’s an arcane style unless you want to be a monk or calligrapher. Like scripts of the past, it has outlived its usefulness in society and we can’t come to making our children invest so much of their educational time on it.

    None of the arguments in these posts or elsewhere are strong enough to justify it over printing, which is not only the dominant style, it is also the most universal (i.e. all international translations and many other languages are written in print).

    Adherence to cursive appears more for religious reasons than practical usage. Arguments in favor of its use are not predicated on sociological utility nor do any studies show definitive proof of its need one way or the other. As such, it must be judged on its merit for long term developmental impact and practicality. We believe enough circumstantial evidence suggests that it is not needed.

    We think cursive should be done away with altogether, but don’t have a read as to when either should first be taught.

    And of course this hasn’t helped our decision about sending our child to Montessori….

  • Lori Bourne said at August 17th, 2010 at 12:15 pm :

    Hi, Mike! Thanks for your comment. First of all, please talk to the teachers at the school you are considering. Several Montessori schools I taught at did not introduce cursive until elementary (2nd grade on up). It seems that more AMI-affiliated schools do cursive early, but not all AMS ones do.

    We also taught printing, so it was not that it was “cursive only”. Some Montessori schools do cursive first, but they also do printing.

    Second, your children would be learning cursive in traditional school also. The only thing that would differ would be when (maybe not, depending on the Montessori school, as I said).

    It’s one small thing to consider, but you’ll need more information to make a decision. And, I don’t think it’s a big enough issue to do away with Montessori altogether – there are too many other awesome things about Montessori.

  • Jennifer Moreno said at September 19th, 2010 at 5:01 pm :

    My 6 year old does cursive in his Montessori school. I thought it would be confusing– learning print and cursive upper and lower case means 4 ways for each letter – but it doesn’t seem to be a problem. Sometimes he doesn’t recognize a certain letter, but that is all.

    As a public school teacher, I don’t really buy the argument that we can’t teach cursive because we are so busy teaching the content and forms of writing. I see so many students who write so little partially because the act of writing is laborious for them.

  • Melanie Hogan said at September 19th, 2010 at 5:03 pm :

    I think that one issue that hasn’t been addressed is that the natural movement of the hand is to go from top to bottom. If I’m correct, Maria Montessori used this natural movement and guided her students only using cursive letters – sandpaper letters, etc.

    Some students that struggle with printing and fine motor skills are relieved to find cursive is much easier for them. It helps them gain confidence with their penmanship, while strengthening fine motor coordination.

    To eliminate such a beneficial “art” from a student’s curriculum could have negative consequences for the child’s motor development, confidence, and ability to provide legible handwritten materials if needed.

  • Michelle said at October 22nd, 2010 at 8:45 am :

    I enjoyed the points presented in these posts. They appear well thought out on both sides. I need to ask though – are there any reading specialists out there who have an opinion for children struggling to learn recognize letters in order to read? I have a child who may (not sure yet) have some language processing issues, and teaching him in one language seems enough. He is currently learning to write in cursive at age 5, and he struggles with this. He also struggles to recognize words and letters in printed books. Would it not simplify his learning process if we taught encoding and decoding in the same language? I would love any feedback, as I am truly stuck on this one.

  • Lori Bourne said at October 22nd, 2010 at 11:22 am :

    Hi, Michelle! I don’t know if any specialists will wander by this post (it’s an older one) but I personally think a child like you’re describing would probably do better with printing at this point, rather than cursive.

  • Michelle said at October 22nd, 2010 at 1:40 pm :

    Thanks, I think his teacher feels that teaching him in cursive is the “true to montessori” thing to do.

  • Lori Bourne said at October 22nd, 2010 at 6:08 pm :

    As I mentioned in the article, it really varies by school. Perhaps you could talk to her about taking a different approach with your son. Or, you can work with him on printing at home.

  • dana said at November 8th, 2010 at 2:21 pm :

    I personally prefer d’nealian fonts. The ones I use come from http://www.fonts4teachers.com/D_Nealian_Font_Set_p/dnealianstylefont.htm

    They are awesome and my students love them!

  • Lisa said at November 26th, 2010 at 6:55 am :

    Our children go to a school in England which teaches cursive script from reception. My second, a summer-born boy, has found it particularly difficult and his confidence took a real knock through his entire first year. He was being taught that letters looked one way printed, another way as cursive and then a third way as capitals. Each cursive letter is far, far more complicated to learn than its printed version. I went to talk to the literacy coordinator, but she was adamant that the Dyslexia Society says that this is the easiest way to learn writing. Meanwhile, our son was struggling with the basics and as a result found school to be a really negative experience. I recently spoke to a classroom assistant who confided that none of the helpers liked it as they saw that it was just too difficult for too many of the children. It is very frustrating when it is your own child suffering due to a questionable policy of the school.

  • Lori Bourne said at November 26th, 2010 at 10:01 am :

    Hi, Lisa! Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. A lot of it depends on how old the child is when they start cursive (the earlier the better, if it’s going to be the first way they learn to write). If they miss their sensitive period for it (about age 3-5), then I find it’s better to start printing first and then go to cursive.

    I’m sorry your son had that experience – generally it isn’t too hard for children to learn cursive, but it can be for some. Hopefully you were able to help him at home so that he could catch up.

  • Maria said at January 30th, 2011 at 8:51 am :

    I’ve ben a Montessori elementary teacher for 28 years. I worked on both cursive and print first writing. Also, I wrote cursive since I was in Kinder and first grade in a traditional Catholic school in Puerto Rico. The sisters were from Philadelphia. I started print writing when I had to work on a Montessori first-script school! That was when I was 30!
    For reading, I’ve seen children reading just the same: both printers and cursivers read at the same level. The writing does not affect the reading that much. There are more factors involved, such as eye motor readiness, matureness, motivation, family habits, etc.

    I’m a piano teacher and I stress hand and body position for a relaxed hand. For writing, cursive is far better because it asks for natural round movements. I’ve seen less tension on finger, hand and even arms in cursive than in print writing.
    Cursive also promotes a better grip which is the basic motor skill for developing writing.
    Teachers don’t teach to print after children write cursive. They are all self-learners on print writing and they succeed the first day they try!

  • Mida said at June 12th, 2011 at 3:23 pm :

    I would like help knowing when printing was put in schools. I remember I read that before 1930 or so children in school did not print. I think we start a lot of things to early. If I could rewrite curriculum I would teach arts music and movement until eight or nine years old. I would get rid of the two years of liberal arts ever so expensive college classes. If schools did a good job there would be no need for this. Students who are allowed to play early in many fields who are able to learn without judgement and fear of failure develope into great learners and know where they want to go. Schools are so far out of touch with who children really are. My grandson walked into his brothers fourth grade class and looked at the cursive alphabet, ” look mom its all wrong”. He has now learned that he can not trust education to teach it right. He has also learned to judge. Great for a six year old who could be inquirering rather then judging.

  • Yang said at August 8th, 2011 at 9:52 pm :

    I’d say it’s a matter of preference at this point.

    I prefer cursive and it actually takes effort for me to write in print; so i don’t revert to cursive the next moment!

    I chose to pick up cursive as a matter of personal interest, because of my mother whose writing seemed so ‘pro’ back then compared to what we have. I started learning how to write in cursive when I was around 15. It took years for me to write properly.

    Where I live, cursive is not taught anywhere at all. The last batch of students who were required to learn cursive as part of their curriculum were my father’s generation. To put things in perspective, I’m already in my mid 20s now.

    That said, cursive handwriting is something I prefer by choice. I see it as a practice that ought to be preserved, despite it being slowly phased out. Even amongst my peers there’s only one out of the manywho writes in cursive.

    I’m not too bothered, since handwriting is more of a hobby than an actual communicating skills (unless I want to go back to writing letters), I’ll keep writing in cursive even if it means no one else in the world could read what I am writing, and if I want to have something written in print, I’ll always have my computer and a printer to do just that.

    I’m sorry to necro such an old thread though.

  • Arguedas said at December 7th, 2011 at 12:38 pm :

    I was taught to write in cursive in first grade, but I went to a private school, public schools don’t usually teach cursive right away.

    I won’t write important documents in print, even tho even printing is unique to each individual, it is far easier to duplicate than cursive.

    Perhaps teachers are becoming lazy or the entire school system even. When you compare the quality of education from one hundred years ago to now, you are left wondering how we still have doctors and engineers (whom were probably very smart children to begin with)

  • Lori Bourne said at December 7th, 2011 at 1:06 pm :

    Hi, Arguedas! If you read other posts on this blog, you will see that I discuss in detail the reasons for the breakdown of the American educational system. It’s not what you think – and it’s not because teachers are lazy. They are very hard workers but the system is set up so that children do not learn to think for themselves.

    This video does an awesome job of explaining it: http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

  • Echegollen said at March 6th, 2012 at 3:58 pm :

    I have noticed that many of you said that apparently the fastest way to write would be to mix cursive with print. I can write both but I never mix things up. I guess it is part of my personality. It has to be one way or the other…However I would like to start practicing this new method. My question is: when to join and when not to join?

  • Lori Bourne said at March 6th, 2012 at 6:40 pm :

    Hi! I think that mixing print and cursive is probably a very individual thing. I don’t do it the same way twice so there’s no set way to do it. Join letters that make sense to join (ones that trail up when they end) and don’t when it doesn’t.

  • Amanda said at March 10th, 2012 at 11:16 pm :

    I’m Brazilian, and around here, almost all schools teach cursive first – and only, since it is not necessary to teach print after you know cursive.
    I have learned to read sort of by myself at home, at age 4, because my mom had fridge magnets of the alphabet, which I would play with as a kid and ask her to tell me the sounds of what I had “written”. From then I learned the sound of each letter, and from there to actually reading was sort of a jump. I sometimes confused the sounds of “g” and “j”, but that was for a very short time only. That alphabet was in print.
    At school, however, our material was all in cursive until 2nd grade, the teachers wrote on the board in cursive, and we were taught to write in cursive too. Having empirically learnt how to read in print first never interfered with my writing abilities. If a child had a hard time forming the letters in cursive or had very bad handwriting, then they’d receive extra attention from the teacher and most times worksheets to practice. By 2nd grade, basically all of us knew how to write in legible cursive. From then on, some of our books started being in print, and no one had any problem reading it. Teachers continued to write in cursive, and up until 4th grade, we were required to do all our work in cursive too.
    Then when we reached 5th grade, we could choose whether we wanted to write in cursive or print. There was NEVER a time when we were taught how to write in print… but ALL of us knew how to write in perfect print by 5th grade, and with legible handwritings too – if you have legible cursive handwriting, you’ll have legible print handwriting too. Of course, all of us wanted to try and write in print now that we were allowed to. Some of us loved it and never switched back, but the vast majority did switch back to cursive as soon as the novelty had worn off. I myself don’t think I lasted a whole week writing in print. I find cursive way faster and even easier to write, not to mention quite more aesthetically pleasing.
    Also, in an accented language like Portuguese (my native language, in which I was taught as school), learning cursive makes a difference because it makes sure that the hand is used to the curved movements necessary to write some of the accent marks, like ~ or ç, and to actually incorporate them into the flow of your writing.
    I have recently graduated Law School, and here it’s very unusual – and discouraged – to bring laptops to classes. Teachers prefer that we take notes by hand, since we are required to write our exams by hand and those can be very long – sometimes 15-20 pages, so we have to be used to writing those lengths in a reasonably short amount of time. I have found that writing in cursive always gives me more than enough time to catch up with what the teachers were saying, even if they were speaking fast. Most of my classmated had no problem with speed either. The very few ones who had chosen to write in print sometimes time (they were 2 or 3 in a class of 50). The same way, I haev always written quite quickly in exams, and never had a teacher complain about my handwriting or anyone else’s, even though the same amount of people chose to write their exams in cursive.
    I do realize that, if you don’t start learning cursive early, it might be hard to pick it up afterwards, and it might demand an effort that not all children will be willing to make without hating school. I also do realize that cursive might be harder to learn for someone who’s been taught print first. But I’ll forever be a defensor of learning cursive first, starting young. Learning print will just come naturally after that, without the need to be taught how to write a second time, as it is when you teach print first.
    Another advantage that I see for cursive handwriting is that it’s quite more personal than printing. Thus, it tends to not only show more personality, but also be less authoritarian on children. That might not be too clear… what I mean is that there’s one form of each letter in print, and if you teach that and the child has a hard time making that movement or achieving that form of the letter, they’ll feel like they’re failing. However, in cursive, there are possible variants according to what feels more natural for each person. For instance, some make the high letters like l, f and h more vertical, while others make it more slanted. Some loop more, some loop less. Some make letters more round, some make them less round. Whatever feels more fluid and natural to each child’s wrist and arm will be what they’ll do. They’ll be more likely to develop their own style, which will tend to make them more confident.

  • Lena said at March 20th, 2012 at 2:45 pm :

    I learned cursive first and when I went to college I learned print It wasn’t hard to learn but I still prefer cursive since when taught correctly it looks beautiful. I have seen so many college students with horrible print handwriting (even on those forms that indicate “Please print”). I taught my daughter to print first and I regret it. We are starting on cursive now and transition is more difficult. My other two kids will be learning cursive first. At the moment I don’t believe they have any disabilities that would prevent them from learning cursive first.

    Looks like the schools made the switch to print and people hardly have experience with cursive therefore so many negative remarks about that. I love cursive, it is beautiful, easy, and seems more natural (at least to me). I want my children to learn the art of handwriting and I believe they can enjoy beautifully written words as much as writing a good story.

  • Lisa said at April 5th, 2012 at 10:45 am :

    I have two sons with dysgraphia. The oldest also has Aspergers and he was never taught cursive as it was felt ‘too difficult’. As a result, he cannot read cursive (which comes up more often that one would think) and his signature looks like that of a 9 yr. old, dispite his being 17. He is able to print adequately now but far prefers to type. He cannot take notes while listening to a lecture at all.

    The younger one has dyslexia and we were told the same thing with him. “Never mind cursive, it will be too difficult.” He has struggled with printing for years and hates to have to write anything down. A few months ago a dyslexia tutor suggested that he might find cursive easier because he would not have to keep lifting his pencil off the paper and then have to figure out where to put it down again to start the next letter. I know that this is a problem for him, so I started teaching him cursive and he loves it! He is eleven now and uses cursive every time he writes. For him it is easier because:

    The letters flow from one to the next and he doesn’t have to think about where to start his pencil.

    His words don’t all run together now because of the natural break in cursive between words.

    His grip has relaxed and his arm is doing more of the work because of the fluid motion required from cursive.

    Obviously, this does not ‘cure’ his dyslexia. He still confuses some letters from time to time. But, between the two, this is far easier for him. I wish we had done this from the start for both of them.

  • Lori Bourne said at April 5th, 2012 at 2:34 pm :

    Hi, Lisa! Thanks so much for stopping by. It’s interesting, for years I heard that cursive was better for dyslexic/dysgraphic children, and then last fall I attended a lecture by world-renowned dyslexia expert Susan Barton who said that was not true.

    She showed a writing sample of a dysgraphic child writing in cursive and pointed out that all of the same problems were there except for the reversals: letters not sitting on the line (too far above and below), and word spacing and letter sizes were irregular.

    I think the point that she was making is that dysgraphia is more than just letter reversals. That was news to me. It involves everything from how the pencil/pen is held (fingers, hand, arm, and body) to letter spacing, letter size, etc. So from her point of view, while cursive may stop reversals of “b”s and “d”s, it doesn’t necessarily cure every problem.

    I do think it also depends on the child – some children do great with cursive and for others it seems to confuse them more. I am SO glad to hear that it worked for your son!

  • Cursive vs. Print | Our Montessori Home said at January 2nd, 2013 at 8:10 pm :

    [...] Montessori For Everyone has a good post on this topic, including a great series of comments giving perspectives and rationales for both sides of the cursive vs. print “debate.” Share this:ShareEmailPrintGoogle +1DiggTwitterFacebookStumbleUponLinkedInRedditLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted on January 2, 2013, in Montessori and tagged cursive letters, language, Montessori, writing. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment [...]

  • Jenny said at January 3rd, 2013 at 1:28 pm :

    Hi Lori,

    I thought this was a great post, and the perspectives shared by commenters are really helpful as well. I included a link to this page on my own blog post on the cursive vs. print “debate.” https://ourmontessorihome.wordpress.com/2013/01/02/cursive-vs-print/

    My own experience is that as I have spent time teaching my daughter cursive, she learned print completely on her own, so that now as a five-year-old, she can read and write in both. To me, it verified the idea of spending the actual instruction time on the more difficult way of writing.

  • Lori Bourne said at January 3rd, 2013 at 2:32 pm :

    Hi, Jenny! Thanks for stopping by and adding your own experience. I really appreciate it!

  • G said at April 12th, 2013 at 2:55 pm :

    Great ideas guys.

    I find it interesting that most dyslexia research still states that cursive is most helpful (for most children, not all) including the British Dyslexia Association, the International Dyslexia Association etc. etc.

    My take as a Montessori teacher who does indeed teach cursive first is that it’s easier because of what many said above (all letters starting on line, not picking up pencil, more relaxed grip, flowing left to right etc.) I find that for the few that it is harder, patience is the only thing required. Parents want to teach print because that’s what they know but it’s often slower for the child with dyslexia, they often don’t know where to start the letter and do it inconsistently and it is distracting. It’s not solely better because it stops reversals in almost all letters (yes, occasionally upper case I, F, T can be tricky), but also, Dyslexia often has other comorbid issues like ADD, anxiety etc. and children who are having to start and stop writing can be distracted.

    As far as the comment above stating that cursive starts in different places, all 24 lower case letters start in the same place and there are 4 patters. The only exception, which is unusual, is for o, b, v, w where the letter which follows must start from the top. There is a way to show this very clearly and easily, with all 4 of these exceptions starting in the same place. With anything, instruction simply needs to be step by step, with these being shown later on.

    At the end of the day, with all the resarch, every child is different. “Follow the child” as someone reminded us is our goal; however, we shouldn’t place our own constraints, challenges, or beliefs on the children before really knowing what they can do. :)

  • Edda Manley said at July 27th, 2013 at 5:57 pm :

    The question was raised earlier as to when printing was introduced into the public school system. A British woman, Marjorie Wise, came to Boston to teach at a private girls’ school. She is considered the first person to introduce printing in North America. She travelled to New York and showed the system of printing to the school board there and it was quickly accepted by them. I have a copy of the book she published in 1924, On the Technique of Manuscript Writing, with an introduction by Professor Patty Smith Hill.
    In Kitty Burns Florey’s book, Script & Scribble, she states that Marjorie Wise eventually repudiated the teaching of cursive.
    Many European countries never taught printing first because they quickly found out that if a child could not write in cursive, that child was also unable to read anything written in cursive. This they felt handicapped the children once they entered the workforce.
    Another interesting point is that in Mexico they did not teach cursive for 22 years because the President elected in the 1980′s himself did not like writing in cursive. Around the millennium year they re-introduced it into the school curriculum.