"Cursive vs. Manuscript: Why Learning Cursive First Benefits Early Readers and Writers" by Zoe Ammatuna
Suzuki teaches its students cursive for a number of reasons. Children the world over first write in this script at the ages of three and four; during this time, the child begins to refine his motor skills and imitates the formation of letters. Cursive is an ideal writing form to teach during this time because the fluid movements and rounded edges of cursive letters are much easier and more natural for young children to form.
Because every letter in a cursive format begins at the same place on the line, children have no difficulty knowing where to place the pencil as they begin to form the letter; with manuscript letters, a child must memorize 12 starting points, depending on the letter he wishes to write. In addition, the child must often lift the pencil as he writes the letter in order to finish it: t – f- y – k – i – j – x.
Correctly spacing between words is difficult because each letter in manuscript is disconnected from the other; in cursive, the child only lifts the pencil when the entire word has been formed. The flow of cursive writing reinforces the concept of reading and writing left to right; it also becomes virtually impossible to form letters such as “d” and “b” backwards.
A few questions about the cursive-first approach to teaching writing have been expressed by a handful of our parents. The most common is “Won’t learning cursive first make my child have a more difficult time recognizing or learning print?” The answer is a resounding “no” – several studies have shown that this is not a risk at all, and contrarily, cursive writing has been discovered to be beneficiary even in other areas of language: these areas include quality of writing, depth of idea development, and complex writing and compositional fluency.
Many parents have asked how they can help their child learn handwriting at home. Our answer is a two-part one: first, we’d like you and your child to work together to build up the muscles in the hand by stinging popcorn to place outside for the birds to eat, to practice cutting, to tear paper into small bits and then paste them to form mosaics. You and your child can learn to sew by sewing simple stitches and then progressing to buttons and sequins
or you trace puzzle shapes onto paper. You can provide your child with turkey baster, medicine and/or eye droppers in the bath so he can squeeze the bulb with thumb and forefinger. Learning to nail roofing tacks into wood, peeling stickers from paper and stringing cut straws are wonderful for this type of muscle development and all these activities must be done often so that when the time comes, your child is able to hold the pencil correctly. Please understand that readiness for writing cannot be forced; it happens as a result of lots in practice in the aforementioned activities.
The second part of our answer contains a request: before you teach your child to write his/her name (one of the great joys of parenthood!) we ask that you understand how to form the letters correctly, whether you are teaching manuscript or cursive. It takes a great deal of patience and effort on the part of the child AND the teacher to undo bad habits, so we have provided you with two links that will allow you to teach the way we do so that what the child does at home and at school is consistent. For cursive worksheets, click here and for manuscript, click here.
If you choose to provide these worksheets to your child, please talk with his language teacher before you begin -- again, we stress readiness for the proper mastery of any new skill and the teacher will be able to tell you when that time comes!
FYI: Children should NOT be asked to complete a full worksheet of letters in the beginning; cut the worksheet in half so that they are able to successfully trace only 6-8 letters, at most.
Please use a regular-sized pencil; fat pencils and markers do not allow the child to properly grasp the writing utensil. This pencil should be held between the middle finger and forefinger of the hand, with the thumb holding it against the two. If you child cannot hold the pencil in this way, he is not ready to write.
The paper should be placed so that the left point at the bottom of the sheet is turned towards his stomach IF your child is right-handed. The right point of the paper should be turned toward the stomach for left-handers.
If you wish to practice cursive letters, introduce them in this order so that the approach strokes are consistent:
For manuscript letters, please introduce them in this order:
And last, but not least, only provide writing instruction if your child is interested and excited to be learning this skill; most children would rather play once they get home and we promise they will write beautifully when the time is right!