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My friend Cathy called to talk about her daughter’s first grade teacher. Lilly, her six year old, started complaining about school a few weeks ago, and over the past two weeks the situation has gotten steadily worse. Cathy finally coaxed it out of Lilly that the problem is all about handwriting. Lilly’s teacher requires that all school assignments, including spelling tests, be written in cursive. In cursive! In first grade! Lilly’s handwriting is apparently not up to par, and she’s had to do lots of extra practice sheets to work on her cursive writing. No wonder she hates school!

When I taught third grade, I taught cursive. My students had handwriting workbooks, and right after recess we’d come in and do a page or two of handwriting. The students LOVED handwriting time; it was definitely the quietest part of our day! I still remember looking across the room to see my students, usually with their tongue stuck out the side of their mouth, really concentrating on those loopy lines and “letter shields.”

Third grade seemed like a reasonable age to teach cursive; their fine motor skills were fairly good, and their understanding of locatives (words used for spatial and temporal concepts such as “up” or “next to”) was solid. But first grade? C’mon! My first-grader is still working on her letter and word spacing. I can’t imagine her trying to link two letters together to write in cursive.

Some folks question (opens in a new window) whether we should teach cursive at all, given that most students will do most of their writing assignments on the computer anyways. Others suggest that maybe kids’ interest in learning cursive (opens in a new window) should be the deciding factor as to whether and when to teach cursive.

What’s your opinion? Should we still teach cursive to kids? And if so, at what age should we begin?

About the Author

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

Publication Date
October 21, 2008