Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Lost Art of Cursive Writing

Fifth grade, circa 1974 or 1975. Rows and rows of cursive handwriting drills. I always enjoyed handwriting practice, because I have always loved to write--it came easily to me. In fifth grade, my beloved Mrs. Pressman selected the four students with the best handwriting (all girls, imagine!) and sent us off with the student teacher to learn how to do calligraphy. It was great fun, and the beginnings of my fondness for beautiful writing.

Jump ahead 30 years later. Chris learned cursive in third grade, probably because he had a great "by-the-books" teacher who emphasized the three Rs. She was a stickler for cursive, and we found that his handwriting improved tremendously once he started writing in cursive. It seemed to work better for him than printing, the poor lefty.

Then in fourth grade he seemed to take a step backward and began printing everything again. When we asked his teacher about it, she said that she'd asked him to print because she found his cursive difficult to read! Unfortunately, he's never gone back. I asked her to have him write in cursive again, but she didn't. She probably prefers printing herself!

Jump ahead to sixth grade, when he's needing to take more notes in class. In conversations with his teachers, we've discovered that very few of the middle schoolers write in cursive. It appears to be a lost art. I Googled "cursive lost art," and found this New York Times article from 1996! So it appears that it has been a lost art for 13 years already!
Mike and I are both lucky to have the good handwriting gene, and I believe that it's a useful skill. One will not always have a keyboard at hand!!

I went to Border's to look for handwriting practice books, but the only ones I could find were geared for much younger kids. Then Mike reminded me of "Handwriting without Tears," which is a program that is designed for kids of all ages--especially ones with fine motor skills issues--to improve their handwriting. (They use a much more vertical approach than typical cursive.) We've been having him practice his writing each evening, and already it's improving tremendously! Now if we can only get him to use it at school! Cursive is so much faster than printing!! I think it will be a useful tool to be able to take notes more quickly. Here are some samples of his work:

We are determined to make a cursive writer out of him once again!


  1. We have really struggled with my oldest's handwriting period. Until she was in 2nd grade and her pragmatic teacher said she wasn't concerned because soon everything will be done on the computer. We can only hope (if only for reducing the wasted paper).

  2. Hey Marie,
    I enjoyed this post. I skipped third grade and the summer between 2nd and 4th I had to teach myself cursive. I had no help or resources and it was difficult to learn. I found myself falling back on printing because it was easier, faster, safer (as far as avoiding failure). My fourth grade teacher gave me such a hard time. Printing is still my default mode when in a hurry or uncertain. Although using cursive is a struggle, at the same time, I find it very relaxing to do it. It's one way to slow down and be attentive in our fast paced world. Because my son is in prison, we correspond by mail at least weekly and I find that letter writing, which is becoming another lost art, is also very soothing.
    An interesting note, I once invited your parents, the Stixruds, and Benneth and John over for games and it turned out all four of us women had skipped a grade!! (If you write back that your mother never skipped a grade I'll know my meds might have needed adjusting!!) Keep up the great blogging. Mica

  3. I've been taught cursive when I was in 3rd grade in France. One thing that's missing on your how to book is the lines to define just how tall regular letters should be. For example so that his "n"s are not as tall as his "d"s or "l"s. Look for french style notebooks, they're great to offer guidelines when he's writing!