In the ongoing discussion about early education, a question that always arises: Should we delay the introduction of cursive handwriting in Reception and Key Stage 1 classrooms?
We always emphasise the critical importance of cognitive development milestones and mastering basic letter formation, allowing ample time for both is essential to laying the right foundations for handwriting.
Early childhood is a crucial time for foundational cognitive development. Young minds are rapidly absorbing information, and it’s during this period that mastering fundamental skills through play, such as letter formation and fine motor control, should be the sole focus for any teacher or parent.
Instead of rushing into cursive handwriting, teachers may find greater value in dedicating time in the classroom to ensure students have a strong foundation in the core skills. Research underscores the significance of focused attention on learning through play to achieve early developmental milestones.
It is important to note that the word cursive means joined-up handwriting and comes from the Latin verb ‘currere’, meaning ‘to run’. Let’s ensure children can “walk” before we teach them to “run”.
A child’s ability to grasp a pencil, control hand movements, and form letters plays a pivotal role in overall cognitive development.
Did you know that a child requires the following to enable them to write in cursive writing?
- An ability to work across the midline
- bi-lateral integration
- good postural control
- binocular vision
- secure hand dominance
- good auditory processing
- good visual processing.
However, these critical cognitive skills are not fully developed until a child reaches the age of 7-8 years of age.
Having submitted our findings to the Department for Education (DfE), new legislation was introduced for schools in the reading framework: teaching the foundations of literacy, July 2021 – updated January 2022.
The DfE wrote:
“For writing (spelling and handwriting), children should:
- practise a correct pencil grip
- be taught the correct start and exit points for each letter, which should not include ‘lead-in’ strokes from the line.
- the teaching of joined-up handwriting should be delayed.”
By concentrating on these foundational aspects, teachers can focus on letter formation for longer, thus better preparing their students for the more intricate demands when progressing to join letters.
Delaying the introduction of cursive handwriting until Key Stage 2 does not negate its importance; rather, it acknowledges the need for a strategic and considered approach to learning to write.
As children progress through school, they can gradually transition to more advanced writing techniques, ensuring that each stage builds upon the solid foundation laid in their early years.
It is important not to forget that children develop at different rates, this approach allows schools to tailor the unique needs of each student.
In conclusion, the case for delaying the introduction of cursive handwriting in Reception and Key Stage 1 is rooted in the understanding that there is no rush to join the cursive writing bandwagon.
One size does not fit all. By focusing on key cognitive development milestones and mastering letter formation, teachers can ensure that students are well-prepared for the challenges of cursive writing when the time is right.
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