Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Cursive is Faster

A year ago Katie Zezima wrote an article for the New York Times about the decline in handwriting. There were over 220 comments to that article. The most frequently stated reason for why people chose to write in cursive was that it was faster to produce. At the University of Western Ontario, Canada, Marvin Simmner PhD conducted a study that showed students who wrote in cursive indeed were faster writers than those who printed. 
When we look at printing it certainly looks like it would take less movement and energy to produce, so logically then it should be faster. The reason printing is not faster is because every letter requires you to lift the pen from the paper, sometimes more than once. Those pen lifts take time, and the short bits of time it takes for each pen lift add up. The visual I like to compare this to is if you have a stack of books at one end of the table and you want to move them to the other end of the table, you can either slide them over (similar to cursive) or lift them and carry them (similar to printing).
Even printing by young children is changing yet again. Teachers are accepting their individual ways of forming the letters. For example, a lower case "p" can be made like a candy cane starting with the hook part and going up and around to the left. Similarly, with the lower case "m & n," one or two humps is acceptable without the straight stroke first. As long as it's a reasonable facsimile of the letter, it is acceptable.
Now that children are on school vacation, parents are looking for activities to keep the little ones busy. I'll end with a few suggestions for activities that help develop both the fine and gross motor skills that are used for handwriting:
Give children an empty detergent bottle and a pail of water.  They can fill the bottle, twist on the top and then "paint" the driveway or sidewalk with water. This activity helps to build hand strength  and dexterity in the fingers.
If you have containers with various sized nails, screws, nuts and bolts children can keep busy sorting them by size and type and putting them in smaller containers or small plastic bags. Older children can also learn the names of the fasteners and what they are used for. This helps develop the fine motor skills.
Summertime is a great time to have Wheel Barrel Races in the grass. One child holds the legs of the other child who tries to get to a line a few feet ahead walking on their hands. This is great for strengthening the arms and wrists.
Edda Manley


  1. I love your book movement analogy. It's perfect! Also, thanks, Edda, for the summer activity suggestions. My 5-yr old granddaughter is having trouble with her fine motor skills. This sounds like it will help her.

    Linda Green

  2. Regarding the speeds of printed, cursive, and other handwriting styles:

    What is the "Campaign for Cursive's" position on the research showing that the fastest and most legible handwriters avoid cursive? As documented at the link below, suchnhighest-speed highest-legibility handwriters join only some letters, not all of them: making the easiest joins, skipping the rest, and using print-like shapes for those letters whose cursive and printed shapes disagree.

    Citation for the above research:
    Published in: The Journal of Educational Research,
    Vol. 91, No. 5 (May - Jun., 1998), pp. 290-296; on-line at http://www.sbac.edu/~werned/DATA/Brain%20research%20class/handwriting%20speed%20style%20legibility%20berninger.pdf

    Since there are actually handwriting programs in the USA and elsewhere that teach this way (names and URLs on request), it's interesting to compare the above with how the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines "cursive."
    (According to "Campaign for Cursive" leader Kathleen Dickinson, it is the Merriam-Webster Dictionary's definition of "cursive" that is relied upon by the "Campaign for Cursive.")

    Note that the Merriam-Webster entry for "cursive" — on-line at http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cursive — specifies that cursive writing "often" has "the strokes of successive characters joined."
    Does the "Campaign for Cursive" indeed accept this authoritative dictionary specification of "often" joining rather than (for instance) "always" joining?

    Yours for better letters,

    Kate Gladstone — CEO, Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works
    Director, the World Handwriting Contest
    Co-Designer, BETTER LETTERS handwriting trainer app for iPhone/iPad
    Sent from my iPad 2 — http://www.HandwritingThatWorks.com

  3. Here's a link to research on teaching UK students
    of French how to read French cursive handwriting:

    As you know, French cursive is very different from the styles used in English-speaking countries — even if the UK students who had to read it had ever been taught a joined
    handwriting for English. (Like many people in the
    UK these past twenty or thirty years, most of these students had little or no training in writing any joined script.)

    The cursive reading training was successfully
    done by a means other than cursive writing.
    Specifically, the students were taught to read
    computer fonts that match French textbook
    handwriting examples.

    It's a fortunate thing, of course, that reading a
    style isn't the same thing as writing it. Otherwise, we would be unable to read so much as the letter "a" in a standard type-font, because that is not the "a" we learn to produce in either print-writing or cursive.