When six-year-old Delainey started kindergarten, she was beyond excited. She knew that her class at Christ the Savior Academy would get to learn something that many other kindergarteners in Wichita are not taught: cursive handwriting.
These days, cursive is usually delayed until third grade. In some schools it has even been abandoned altogether. But Christ the Savior Academy is doing something different: teaching students cursive in kindergarten.
CSA kindergarten teacher Mrs. Lauren Jabara realizes that “cursive is turning into a lost art.” Why is that? “Because many schools opt to teach keyboarding instead of handwriting,” Jabara said. “But at CSA, we’re producing children that will have the advantage of beautiful handwriting.”
More than that, they are likely to have a competitive edge academically. A 2018 study by the American Psychological Association revealed that first graders who learned to write in cursive received higher scores in reading and spelling than those who learned to write in manuscript.
Christ the Savior Academy believes there are five reasons why students should learn cursive in kindergarten.
One: It’s fun and developmentally appropriate.
With more than a decade of experience as a kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Jabara has noticed a shift in her students’ enthusiasm about penmanship class ever since she began teaching cursive in kindergarten.
“There’s this notion that cursive is an advanced skill and that it’s for adults,” Mrs. Jabara said. “So, when you tell a kindergartener that they get to learn a skill that is reserved for older students or adults, they are naturally very excited.”
Mrs. Jabara says the notion that cursive is advanced is actually a myth. In reality, cursive is easier developmentally because it always has the same starting point for every letter, and requires only three movements: the undercurve, the overcurve and the up-and-down. These movements are more natural for children than the straight lines and perfect circles that print requires.
Two: Cursive helps children with learning differences.
Delainey wasn’t the only one excited about cursive. So was her mother. That’s because Delainey has a mild case of cerebral palsy, and her mother was aware of the growing body of research confirming the benefits of cursive for learning-different children and children with fine-motor issues.
“Cursive is less intense from a motor-skills standpoint. It also aids in muscle memory,” Michaela, Delainey’s mother, said. “So, for someone like my daughter, who struggles with fine motor skills, it is great. She is exceeding our expectations with regard to her writing, and it is fun to watch her just light up as she shows us her work.”
For children with dyslexia or dysgraphia, cursive eliminates reversals and helps children do a better job of spacing between letters and words.
Mrs. Nyleen Lenk, a literacy intervention specialist and CSA first grade teacher, noted that “research shows that for intervention to be successful for students with dyslexia and dysgraphia, you must begin treatment before they are nine, otherwise, the student will always struggle.
“By starting cursive at five, we are beginning their remediation right away. Research shows that cursive benefits all children, so why not?”
Three: Children who learn cursive earlier do better in school later.
“By joining letters, cursive writing reinforces the blending of sounds within words. This helps students learn to read better and also helps them with the spelling process because they learn those phonics blends,” Mrs. Jabara said. “The movements of cursive also reinforce muscle memory for those words or sounds.”
Not only do studies indicate that students who learn cursive by first grade score better in spelling and reading later on, scientists have discovered a direct relationship between the quality of handwriting and the quality of the written text. The relationship between handwriting and composition quality can even be seen on MRIs. The brains of those with good handwriting show more activity in areas associated with cognition, language and executive function than the brains of those with poor handwriting. (British Psychological Society, May 1, 2009)
Four: Children who learn cursive will be able to read historic documents.
“Because many students no longer learn to write cursive in school, it is becoming kind of like a foreign language,” Mrs. Jabara said. “Students who never learn cursive will never be able to read cursive, which means they won’t be able to read documents from original sources, such as the Declaration of Independence.” And what about that nice note on the birthday card from grandma?
Five: Cursive enhances the ability to express creativity.
Children long to express their individuality and creativity, and cursive enables them to do so. A person’s handwriting should be an important step in developing a personal style and voice. Education is not about producing robots. It should give students the tools to express themselves.
“What I’ve noticed in students who learn cursive is a pride of work,” Mrs. Lenk said. “When they’ve done their work artfully and with skill, they come to me beaming. They are craftsmen and have produced a thing of beauty, and it is delightful.”
Christ the Savior Academy, located near 13th and Rock Road in Wichita, is a classical, Christian School, with classes from Junior Kindergarten (age 4) to 5th grade. The curriculum combines the wisdom of the Church and the best of secular culture to teach students to read well, write well and think well. It is a time-tested model used throughout Ancient Greek, Roman and Medieval times. Oxford, Eton and Cambridge have used the classical method to produce leaders for centuries.