Ask Dr. Blank:  Should children still be taught cursive hand writing in elementary school?

As the question implies, the teaching of cursive hand writing (also known as longhand) has been on the decline for some time now. Even when it is taught, and in some states, that teaching is mandatory, the amount of time and effort devoted to its mastery is minimal. The end result is that fewer and fewer children know how to use cursive. At the same time, there is evidence that cursive offers certain advantages. For example, studies have found that students taking notes with laptops did less well on conceptual questions than students taking notes by longhand. The handwriting process seems to elicit more attention, leading to a better understanding of information. The act of writing is a good cognitive exercise because it engages motor-skills and memory skills in ways quite different from writing on a computer. For example, one study found that adults had an easier time recognizing new characters — like Chinese, math symbols, or music notes — when they had to write them by hand versus using characters generated by a computer. Further, there is no downside to teaching cursive. If started early and carried out systematically, it does not take much time and it enhances a child’s literacy repertoire.  So, at the very least, we should be cautious about abandoning cursive in the way that has been happening.

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