Louisiana Elementary Schools Are Teaching Cursive Again

Last year, Louisiana joined 15 other states requiring that children are taught cursive in elementary school. The law went into effect this year, and New Orleans Public Radio highlighted the change.

Susan Roesgen reports:

Educational studies have shown that taking notes in cursive is better for students’ brain development, better than printing or typing on a keyboard.

Teacher Niki Gazley agrees. She’s teaching cursive this semester to her second-grade students at Cedarwood School in Mandeville.

“There is so much research out there about cursive,” says Gazley. “Children are accessing both hemispheres of the brain, when in printing it’s only one hemisphere. So they’re actually… building more circuitry in the brain, which is making them smarter.”

Gazely also says the kids seem to enjoy it, taking pride in carefully crafting each looping letter on worksheets at their desks.

“It’s kind of different from printing,” says second-grader Regan King, “It’s like you’re drawing.”

Cedarwood Principal, Kathy LeBlanc agrees with Gazely that learning cursive at this age will help students long after grade school.

“Learning is scaffolding, we scaffold skills,” says LeBlanc. “Students who master cursive at this age will go on to college more efficient at taking notes, so it’s a skill they will use their entire life.”

Louisiana students will be better off with the opportunity to relearn this skill. Children do need to be able to read important historical documents, as well as, the handwritten letters they may get from their grandma. There are other benefits as well as Dr. William Klemm summarized in a Psychology Today article he wrote in 2013.

He said it helps with hand-eye coordination, but it does more than that (reaffirming what Ms. Gazley said in the excerpt above).

Handwriting dynamically engages widespread areas of both cerebral hemispheres. Virginia Berninger, a researcher and professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington, says that brain scans during handwriting show activation of massive regions of the brain involved in thinking, language, and working memory.

Learning to type makes little demand on the brain: you just have to punch a key. Learning to touch type (typing without looking at the keys) is mentally demanding, and I encourage that kind of teaching too. One should not be taught at the expense of the other.

He also notes that it has a positive psychological effect as well:

Since, reproducing a single letter is rather easy, the child knows that success if obtainable. Positive feedback, instant and specific, comes from the very act itself.

Without realizing it, children learning cursive are also learning self-discipline. I can’t think of any school task more important than that.

As each letter is mastered, the child says “I can do this! I can even do this better!” Then it is just a matter of moving on to mastery of the next letter and eventually to the relatively easy task of joining letters. Maybe the best emotional boost of all is when children learn they have acquired this skill on their own. All the teacher did was show them how to hold and move a pencil and show them the objective. Nobody force-fed this new skill into their brain. They did it themselves.

So I applaud Louisiana for this new law, and I hope states that don’t yet require cursive will join the 16 states like Louisiana and Alabama who do.

6 thoughts on “Louisiana Elementary Schools Are Teaching Cursive Again

  1. States that began mandating cursive in 2012 (when cursive mandate bills began to be introduced and adopted) have not — six years later — announced seeing any of the benefits that the article so glowingly and confidently predicts must happen.

    Handwriting matters — does cursive? Research shows that legible cursive writing averages no faster than printed handwriting of equal or greater legibility. (Sources for all research are available on request.)
    Further research shows that the fastest, clearest handwriters avoid cursive. They join only the most easily joined letter-combinations, leaving others unjoined, using print-like shapes for letters whose printed and cursive shapes disagree. (Many people who think that they “print” actually write in this practical way without realizing that they do so. The handwriting of many teachers comes close: even though, often, those teachers have never noticed that they are not at all writing in the same 100% print or 100% cursive that they demand that their students should write.)
    Teaching material for such practical handwriting abounds — especially in much of the UK and Europe, where such practical handwriting is taught at least as often as the accident-prone cursive that too many North American educators venerate. (Again, sources are available on request.)

    For what it’s worth, there are some parts of various countries (parts of the UK, for instance, despite their mostly sensible handwriting ) where governmental mandates for 100% joined cursive handwriting have been increasingly enforced, without regard for handwriting practicality and handwriting research, In those parts of the world, there are rapidly growing concerns on the increasingly observed harmful educational/literacy effects (including bad effects on handwriting quality) seen when 100% joined cursive requirements are complied with:

    Reading cursive, of course, remains important —and this is much easier and quicker to master than writing cursive. Reading cursive can be mastered in just 30 to 60 minutes, even by kids who print. Given the importance of reading cursive, why not teach it explicitly and quickly, once children can read print, instead of leaving this vital skill to depend upon learning to write in cursive?
    Educated adults increasingly quit cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers were surveyed at a conference hosted by cursive textbook publisher Zaner-Bloser.. Only 37% wrote in cursive; another 8% printed. Most — 55% — wrote with some elements resembling print-writing, others resembling cursive.
    When even most handwriting teachers do not follow cursive, why glorify it?

    Cursive’s cheerleaders allege that cursive has benefits justifying absolutely anything said or done to promote it. Cheerleaders for cursive repeatedly allege research support — repeatedly citing studies that were misquoted or otherwise misrepresented by the claimant or by some other, earlier misrepresenter whom the claimant innocently trusts.

    What about cursive and signatures? Brace yourself: in state and federal law, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over any other kind. (Hard to believe? Ask any attorney!)
    Questioned document examiners (specialists in the identification of signatures, verification of documents, etc.) find that the least forgeable signatures are the plainest. Most cursive signatures are loose scrawls: the rest, if following cursive’s rules at all, are fairly complicated: easing forgery.
    All handwriting, not just cursive, is individual. That is how any first-grade teacher immediately discerns (from print-writing on unsigned work) which child produced it.

    Mandating cursive to save handwriting resembles mandating stovepipe hats and crinolines to save clothing.

    Kate Gladstone
    DIRECTOR, the World Handwriting Contest
    CEO, Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works

  2. What is sad is that we even have to have articles that leave us excited that another state has put cursive back in the classroom. This to me is a discussion we should never be having. How parents stood by and allowed this to happen is beyond belief. I learned that my state of TN didn’t use cursive while knocking on doors for my run for County Commissioner so then we worked with a legislator to get cursive writing back in our schools. It passed several years ago.

  3. The kids have been indoctrinated into thinking that Cursive Writing is old fashioned nonsense. They have been conditioned to hate it, in advance. I got this directly from my young grandson. It’s going to be tough to change his mindset., not to mention, the teachers’.

    1. Methinks that Kate up there is one of those “teachers” who were told to hate it.
      Notice the typical elitist condescending statement from Kate, ” Educated adults increasingly quit cursive.”
      What she probably thinks are clever retorts just come across for what they are, petty insults.

      Wasn’t it magnanimous of Kate to grace all of us stupid people with her wealth of knowledge and “I-know-better-than-you-ism”?.

      Don’t bother putting what I’m sure are your self-appointed titles, or links to your business here, Kate. I for one will make it a point to never use the “services” of someone who is so biased and angry that it clouds their thinking.

  4. What are the states mentioned that teach and require cursive? As a teacher, we debate and vote as a classroom on whether to learn it or not, each year the students find it is important to do so. I commit resources and time to do so on their behalf. Parents are appreciative and students enjoy learning and using it. Why would we not?

    1. I haven’t been able to find a complete list but here is what I’ve found so far: Louisiana, Alabama, North Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee, California, Georgia, and Kansas.

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