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This past weekend, educators from more than 30 Oregon and Washington schools came together to learn how to teach handwriting, at a workshop called “Handwriting Without Tears.” Yes, you read that right. Handwriting.


One of the skills they were learning is how to teach cursive handwriting — and why it’s still important in today’s classrooms, and beyond.

Did you know that students today still spend as much as 58 percent of their instructional day on handwritten work? This runs the gamut from note-taking to science labs, and journaling. Numerous studies have shown that children with good handwriting are better, more creative writers, they feel more confident and proud of their work, and legible written work receives higher grades.

Last month, when the world’s biggest technology company introduced the “Apple Pencil,” it was clear even high-tech experts see the benefits of handwriting.

I know, you’re thinking — OK, handwriting is important, but why cursive?

First, cursive is the fastest and most efficient form of handwriting. Research has shown that cursive is faster than printing, because it’s a more fluid, efficient movement. Today’s education standards call for more critical thinking and expression, especially written expression. Our students need to keep up, and cursive allows students to complete assignments and tests more quickly.

Also, the act of writing in cursive leads to strong physical and emotional benefits and stimulates the brain like nothing else, even in today’s digital age. The act of writing in cursive uses both the right and left hemispheres of the brain simultaneously which helps build pathways in the brain while improving mental effectiveness. Studies also show that learning to write in cursive can boost brain development in the areas of thinking, language and working memory.

Some argue that cursive is no longer relevant because it isn’t included in the Common Core State Standards, but an increasing number of states, and individual school districts and teachers are adding it back into the curriculum.

Our jobs as educators and parents is to prepare children for life after schooling ends. They will need handwriting in the “real world,” too. A recent online job search revealed that positions in security systems, health care and engineering, as well as education, public utilities, and even the legal field, require legible handwriting in their job descriptions. 

Remember when I said that students with legible handwritten work score better in the classroom? Well, if bosses, colleagues and friends can’t read a note, that note is useless.

With all this said, does cursive need to be fancy with slants, loops and curls? Absolutely not. The emphasis should be on legibility and efficiency when teaching and writing cursive. It’s the content that counts, and communicating it well is critical. In fact, most of us develop a “hybrid” printing and cursive style, as we develop our own personal handwriting. 

Success is measured by thought formation, and the speed and efficiency in which it is communicated. Our students deserve to have the proper tools to achieve this success, and this includes cursive. 

Dr. Suzanne Baruch Asherson is an occupational therapist with extensive experience working at the Beverly Hills Unified School District in California and is a national presenter for Handwriting Without Tears, an early childhood education company. Website: www.hwtears.com/hwt

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