Cursive First: An Introduction to Cursive Penmanship, 2nd Ed.
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Up until the 1930s, cursive writing was taught first (before manuscript) to school children in the U.S. An educational reform movement in the 1940s led to a switch in the order of penmanship instruction, with manuscript now preceding cursive. The practice of teaching manuscript first has perpetuated the misguided notion that cursive is more complicated and difficult than print for young children to learn. Research, however, appears to contradict this.
Studies have shown that teaching cursive first has numerous benefits, such that it (1) prevents reversal of letters or letter confusion, (2) encourages proper spacing of words, (3) allows for the continuous flow of thought and thinking ahead while writing, and (4) stimulates the development of fine motor skills and coordination. I have also explained the rationale for teaching cursive first in an earlier blog post.
My son has fine-motor issues that make writing a challenge. Motito went to a regular school until 2nd Grade, so he learned to write in manuscript first. In my search for a handwriting program that might help make the switch from manuscript to cursive less excruciating for my son, I came across Cursive First: An Introduction to Cursive Penmanship (2nd ed.), by Elizabeth FitzGerald.
Cursive First is an instructional kit aimed at young children who are learning to write in cursive first or older children who are transitioning from manuscript to cursive. Cursive First can be used in conjunction with Wanda Sanseri’s Spell with Write and Read (SWR) curriculum or as a standalone handwriting program.
The Cursive First kit includes:
The 32-page manual begins with an overview of the benefits and rationale for teaching cursive first and discusses reference tools and ways to prepare the student before beginning the program. The manual provides guidelines for using the practice sheets and card set, explains the sequence for using Cursive First for beginning writers and transitioning writers, and gives tips for detecting visual and perceptual problems.
Cursive Phonogram Card Set
Printed on yellow card stock, the 28 phonogram cards provides practice for reading and writing the first 26 phonograms in cursive to encourage instant recall. The phonogram cards are printed four a page and must be cut separately and laminated. Each card includes instructions for writing the phonogram and a model of the phonogram with pronunciation key. Instructional dialogue is given for teaching cursive letters and numerals.
The set of 45 loose-leaf, reproducible practice sheets provide student instruction and hands-on practice on making cursive strokes and writing numerals and the first 26 phonograms. Capital and lower-case letters are taught separately, while connections between letters are taught in the natural context of multi-letter phonograms.
Our verdict so far:
My son detests handwriting and gets easily frustrated by the quality of his own penmanship. He has recently finished the school-recommended handwriting practice book, and I was looking to try another program. Cursive First by Elizabeth FitzGerald looks very promising.
We have only been doing the program for a couple of days, and I haven’t had a lot of opposition from my son yet. He needs a lot of practice to get his cursive up to a decent state (he must get it from me; my cursive is still atrocious). I like the program’s use of the clock face as a directional teaching device. He gets to remember where to begin the strokes using the clock face hint. In Cursive First the letters letters are introduced according to the first strokes used to form the letter then builds from these strokes to form the next letters, thus reinforcing new motor patterns.
I have made photocopies of the practice sheets in order to give my son as much practice as he needs. So far, we are satisfied with Cursive First and are determined to see the program through.
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