Schools given free hand to decide when to teach more efficient, cursive writing style

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 July, 2011, 12:00am


My daughter is in Year Three and is still printing her letters rather than doing cursive handwriting. Her writing is quite neat, but it is slow and laborious. My friend's child goes to a different school and is already doing cursive handwriting in Year One. How important is it that she starts to write cursively?

School handwriting policies vary as to when students are taught to join letters in their writing. Even in schools where the cursive style is taught, teachers' attitudes vary about what style students should use, sometimes from lesson to lesson. But educational research indicates that cursive handwriting helps increase the speed at which students work and helps their fluency. More significantly, it helps improve spelling accuracy.

Ask your daughter's teacher what the school's handwriting policy is, whether cursive writing will be explicitly taught and at what stage. If not, you could ask for guidance on helping your daughter learn.

Some schools make it a priority to get the children joining their letters right from the beginning of Year One. This can take the form of teaching students to begin each letter by starting from the line. That way, they might naturally progress to cursive writing. Although this appears more difficult, it can be much easier than starting to convert from printing at an older age. It also has the advantage of ensuring they form the letters correctly right from the start. Once bad habits are learned, they can be hard to break.

As students move to the upper years of primary, and then to secondary school, the sheer amount of work that's needed for different subjects demands speed and fluency. Of course, the technological age means that handwriting will become less important. So you should also encourage your daughter to learn to speed-type as this will be a crucial skill for her future. Practice makes perfect, and there are some fun educational games to help her practise this skill.

In the later years of primary education, schools tend to spend little time on handwriting exercises. Often the groundwork has been done in the earlier years.

Your daughter should focus on developing a smooth, cursive style of writing in which her hand is relaxed. She should aim for clarity first and then build up speed and fluency.

If you find that the children in her class have been taught cursive script but she has not picked it up, or is struggling, discuss it with her teacher. That way, you can maybe come up with a programme to improve her skills that can be done at home and school. Keep practise sessions short (no longer than 10 minutes) so they do not become onerous. One possible and welcome benefit is that your daughter may even follow some students who enjoy producing beautiful script so much that they take up calligraphy. Some ancient arts never die out.

Julie McGuire teaches at an international school