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 Children do need to be able to read important historical documents, as well as, the handwritten letters they may get from their grandma.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.