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Is Cursive Obsolete?

If you're like me, you've seen lots of information about whether or not schools should teach cursive. Some schools have made the decision to not have cursive be mandatory for students to learn anymore. But there are benefits for students to learn cursive, especially those with dyslexia or other reading related learning disabilities.

What benefits do cursive have for students who struggle to read?

The biggest benefit, is that each letter of alphabet is shaped different in cursive. None of them can be flipped around to look like another letter. In print, there are four letters that can be flipped to be different letters.

The ability to flip these letters around to become new letters can be very confusing to all beginning readers. It is why it is common for children until the age of 7-8. Though it can be common for all children, this can be a continuing struggle for individuals with dyslexia and other reading related learning disabilities. Using cursive, eliminates the problem of letter reversals.

Additionally, every lower case letter in the cursive alphabet, begins on the line in the same spot. This gives consistency for the early learner to have success in their writing. It also lessens the chance of accidentally reversing letters.

At the word level, writing in cursive gives students a distinct start and stop point. They do not pick up their writing instrument until the end of the word. This helps to lessen the chance of words being smushed together, as it is natural to leave a space when you pick up your writing instrument.

During therapy lessons, when a new sound is introduced, we also look at and practice how to write the letter in cursive. We start out practicing the letter with big arm movements in the air, tracing the letter while we say it. This helps to cement the letter name with the letter shape for the student. We then move to writing the letter on paper, again, saying the letter name while writing it. I always have students write letters using paper and pencil as much as possible, as this gives feedback while they are writing. Using pens or dry erase markers is very smooth and does not give as much feedback. The more feedback they receive, the more multi sensory the writing becomes, which in turn helps the students to learn more effectively.

Once students become fluent in cursive, it can also be a faster way to write. Potentially, this could help their hand to keep up with their brain when writing. Additionally, if they are fluent in cursive, they can free up more brain space to focus on spelling and eventually thinking through what they want to write.

Overall benefits of writing in cursive for individuals with dyslexia and other reading related learning disabilities:

  • fewer or no letter reversals

  • all lower case letters start at the same line

  • distinct start and stop for words

  • can be faster

Recent research suggests that mastery of handwriting involves a network of brain structures that involve the basic skills that are needed for children to become fluent readers and writers. More information can be found in these articles:

Why Bother with Cursive by Diana Hanbury King

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