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Handwriting: Old school yet still relevant

Is it safe to surmise that there’s probably few kids out there who are still taught cursive writing in elementary school?

I mean, it’s not something I use on a daily basis myself anymore (because it’s almost completely illegible!) and I come from a generation that learned how to carefully form each letter separately then as we progressed and became more talented and confident, join them to form actual words (at which point I saw the point 🙂 ).

I definitely know it’s safe to say that most kids sure as heck can’t spell these days; not thanks exclusively to the abbreviated word versions of texting technology, but it sure hasn’t helped.

Unfortunately, by not teaching them cursive writing we may be doing them a great disservice.

In a recent article in Psychology Today William Klemm, D.V.M., Ph.D. writes that scientists “are discovering that learning cursive is an important tool for cognitive development, particularly in training the brain to learn “functional specialization,” that is capacity for optimal efficiency. In the case of learning cursive writing, the brain develops functional specialization that integrates both sensation, movement control, and thinking. Brain imaging studies reveal that multiple areas of brain become co-activated during learning of cursive writing of pseudo-letters, as opposed to typing or just visual practice.”

Furthermore, he writes that in learning to write by hand, even if it is just printing, a child’s brain must:

  • Locate each stroke relative to other strokes.
  • Learn and remember appropriate size, slant of global form, and feature detail characteristic of each letter.
  • Develop categorization skills.

What does all this mean? Basically, that children are missing out on the opportunity to take advantage of an important development tool; one that will not only help them now as their brains are developing, but later in life.

And, if  you ask me, they’re missing out on a rite of passage in childhood. What fun it was to struggle, tongue stuck rakishly out one side of my mouth as I concentrated, to make those letters fit within the solid and dotted lines – and then meet with smiling approval of our favourite grade 1 teacher.


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