How to Teach Cursive Writing

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  • 0:01 What Is Cursive Writing?
  • 0:43 Choose a Method
  • 1:47 Sequence of Instruction
  • 5:03 Teaching Letters
  • 6:26 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sharon Linde
The transition from printing to cursive writing is exciting for children. They feel more grown-up learning to write like adults. While it looks simple, learning cursive is somewhat complex. Understanding the steps it requires is necessary for instructors, so let's get right to it.

What Is Cursive Writing?

Handwriting or penmanship is a way of writing using the hand and an instrument. Cursive is a type of penmanship in which the letters are connected. The purpose is to make writing faster. Printing relies on straight lines and pencil breaks because you have to pick up and put down your pencil several times for each letter. Cursive writing is always looped, connected, and allows the writer to make fluid, pencil-to-paper connections.

Typically taught to second graders, cursive writing is a rite of passage, marking a time of transition from a less rigorous curriculum to a more challenging one. Before beginning instruction, you'll need to determine which of the two major styles is best for your students.

Choose a Method

Two forms of cursive writing are prominent in schools: the Zaner-Bloser or D'Nealian methods. Though similar, there are two main differences in these methods - their slant and shape.

cursive writing

If you look closely, you'll notice Zaner-Bloser writing is straight up-and-down in printing and slanted in cursive, representing two separate styles. Now take a peek at D'Nealian, which has a slight slant in both its printed and cursive letters. This is intentional, making the transition from printing to cursive easier. D'Nealian printing includes letters with tails so the transition to cursive writing concentrates on connecting the tails. Using the Zaner-Bloser method means students learn printing in one style and cursive in another.

Your school or district may have already chosen a specific method. If not, you'll need to take a look at these two methods and choose which will best meet the needs of your students. The students may have several different styles of printing. In either case, instruction follows the same, predictable sequence.

Sequence of Instruction

Instructing cursive writing relies on specific steps from you as the teacher. Students will need to use many of their senses at the same time as well as several hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. This can be overwhelming for some students. Be aware of the challenge as you move forward and encourage everyone to be patient.

Direct Instruction

Begin by telling students what letters or sequences you'll be focusing on that day. For a stronger connection, relate it to the previous lesson as follows: ''Yesterday, we learned and practiced the letters A, C and D. Today, we'll continue by learning curved letters O, Q and G.''

If today is your first lesson, bring enthusiasm and excitement with you as you begin. After stating your purpose, tell students how to form the letters but don't show them just yet. Allow this specific verbal instruction to create a place in their brains that will connect later to the second step - modeling.

You'll need to be exact in your wording. Every move you make with the pen needs to be explained. For example, when writing the letter C, you'll need to say where to place the pencil, which direction it will travel in, and how and where it will end. Depending on your paper and program, use child-friendly words. Refer to line color; name below-the-line strokes 'kite strings' (Y, Z); loops can be 'balloons' (O, C). Call tall lines 'peaks' and low 'valleys' (V, M). However you name it, be consistent and use the same wording every time.

Time to Model

After telling students what letters they're learning and how to form them, it's time to model the stroke. Make sure all students can see. Use a whiteboard, document camera or other technology that allows the children to see you making the stroke in real time.

Narrate as you go, using the terminology you've chosen. Make several examples of the letter. Next, demonstrate the practice the students will complete. If you're asking them to trace, show them how to trace that letter. If the exercise requires them to copy, model that. Make sure they understand what you expect them to do during the next phase, which is guided practice.

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