Handwriting: The curse of cursive?


Handwriting and joined-up thinking


ONE CONCERN I GET A LOT FROM PARENTS IS HOW THEY CAN SUPPORT THEIR CHILD IN IMPROVING THEIR CHILD’S HAND-WRITING. NOT ALWAYS AN EASY ONE TO ANSWER!

Hand-writing is as personal as our fingerprints or signature. The way children shape their letters, distinguish one word from another and put them all together on a page to make up (what parents understandably hope) to be beautifully clear writing, can often present a challenge. A frustrating one at that, especially when we consider that very often the ideas contained within the writing are fantastic. If only they could be read – and credited just as easily!


Whilst there is far more to a student’s success in literacy than just cursive (joined-up) handwriting, it’s a key skill that children are expected to master from the age of around 6-7 years old. So how can you help?


TAKE INTO CONSIDERATION YOUR CHILD’S AGE AND STAGE.

Firstly, there’s a lot to consider in terms of your child’s age. The younger your child is, the easier it is to encourage them in particular habits. It’s also far easier to support them in avoiding developing the less desirable ones (spidery-scribble and gravitationally-challenged – we’re looking at you!). For younger students, tracing printed words and moving from this back-to-basics approach into putting them back into joined-up words and tracing this again ( there are humongous amounts of online worksheets to be found*) is a great way of boosting your child’s awareness with their pen.


OLDER STUDENTS.

Whilst younger students and their hand-writing is very much a learning curve (excuse the pun!), for older students – think eleven-plus, it can be a harder area to tackle. By around the age of 10-11, hand-writing habits – a personal writing style and a muscle-memory for the way words are written – has already set in. Added to this is a sense of resistance. Nobody really likes having to change something they’re used to ‘getting by’ with, not least a 14 year old with far more engaging distractions to keep them away from their pen! So how can you help?


DOODLE WITH FOCUS.

Before they begin writing anything on paper, get them to doodle some shapes that mirror clear cursive-style word shapes. Think along the lines of:

This helps warm up hands and deal with the kind of letter-shapes that cause most issues, so when they do get started, they’re starting to re-set that muscle memory and make more distinctive shapes of their letters.


FOCUS ON LITTLE AND OFTEN.

Are there particular words that you see your child particularly struggle to make legible? Pick out two or three and ask them to spend a few minutes each day practising them – give an example of what they should look like (again, this is where sourcing some fab online examples of ‘perfect cursive’ can come in brilliantly). When a child has a model of what something should look like, it helps to set expectations and support progression to the presentation you’re looking for.


SET THEM UP FOR SUCCESS.

Use lined paper. Make sure your child isn’t rushed. Writing that’s rushed is bound to suffer in its presentation.


FILL IN THE LINES!

A majorly common factor in illegible handwriting is the ‘squashed by gravity’ look. These are the pieces where the letters look like they’ve been on a serious crash diet and are squashed to the line they’re written on and often at a quite angular slant. So how to resolve? Keep your child mindful of the fact that the line space (of around 1cm on traditional lined-paper) is there to be used!

CELEBRATE THE SMALL STUFF!

When you see changes, celebrate them! Most children respond to positive praise (even the most nonchalant of teens secretly quite like a few kind words – or brief acknowledgement if this is a stretch in itself for them to take). Give generously and hopefully, their writing will continue to do so.

Resources* we love:

https://www.tes.com/teaching-resource/cursive-handwriting-booklets-and-sheets-updated-6443893 (this one is great for younger students)**

https://www.nala.ie/sites/default/files/publications/better_handwriting_for_adults.pdf **

https://www.handwritingworksheets.com/flash/cursive/paragraph/index.html **

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