Why are schools opting to teach continuous cursive?

Boy writing at homeBoy writing at home

“I believe that the practice to impose a continuous cursive handwriting style, especially on children as young as five, may be misguided, despite the good intentions.” This is a quote made by Angela Webb, Chair of the National Handwriting Association (NHA), in her recent article published on the NHA website and is a quote that has resonated with myself.

Handwriting on the National Curriculum

Since the teaching of handwriting was formally re-introduced to the National Curriculum, the NHA have seen a number of schools opting to teach continuous cursive – with a ‘lead in stroke’ or ‘entry stroke’ – throughout the school, with this teaching often starting in Reception. A possible reason for these schools reverting to continuous cursive could be related to the Interim Assessments put forward by the Department for Education. Teachers have been feeling pressurised  to “tick boxes” in order for them to meet the Interim Assessments, which appear to have far reaching negative consequences when it comes to the teaching and learning of handwriting.

At Morrells Handwriting, we know how important it is to lay firm foundations for children when they are learning to write but with the NHA seeing the teaching of continuous cursive beginning as early as Reception, how are the foundations possibly being implemented?

Angela Webb stated within her article, “the fingers simultaneously perform a range of complex fine motor movements in a series of different directions, and this required a high level of gross fine motor coordination”. If schools are teaching continuous cursive in Reception, there is not enough time being spent helping children to develop the fine motor skills they will require to be able to learn how to write in using any teaching method. This is why many children find writing in cursive “challenging, not only those with known coordination difficulties”.

Referring back to Angela’s article, she writes “When writing in continuous cursive, the arm and hand must move slowly across the page”. From years of experience working with schools, I know that it is crucial for children to aim to write legibly and at speed, as this is what they are required to do in exams. Continuous cursive does not aim to achieve this, as the method requires the child to write “slowly”; the only way this can be done is for a child to be allowed ample time to develop their fine motor skills first, followed by the learning of letter formation, then the joining of letters and finally the speeding up of their legible handwriting. This is “much more natural and can be tailored to the maturation of the individual child” and is the reason why “it is recommended in the National Curriculum” and if the teacher’s have been told to listen to the experts, why are schools continuing to implement the teaching of continuous cursive? A teacher would not go to their GP, only to ignore their advice and end up following medical advice they have found on the internet.

Morrells Handwriting has focused on creating resources that take a child through each simple step of learning to write, in chronological order beginning with letter formation and finishing with the joining of letters; the child’s handwriting speed is developed throughout each of these learning steps.

References

  • NHA Article 
  • Cripps, C (1995). A Hand for Spelling. Wisbech LDA.
  • Ellis, A. W. (1982). Spelling and writing. In A. W. Ellis (Ed.), Normality and pathology in cognitive functions (pp. 113-146). London: Academic Press.
  • Hildreth, G. (1945). Comparative speed of joined and un-joined writing strokes.
  • Journal of Educational Psychology, 36 (2), 91-102.
  • Laban, R. (1960). The Mastery of Movement. MacDonald & Evans. London.
  • Margolin, D. I. (1984). The neuropsychology of writing and spelling: Semantic, phonological, motor, and perceptual processes. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 36 (3), 459-489.
  • MacArthur, C. A., Graham, S. & Fitzgerald, J. (2006). Handbook of writing research. London: Guildford Press.
  • Prunty, M. (2014). Developmental Coordination Disorder: A Focus on Handwriting. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK.

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