Keyboarding Skills vs Cursive Writing

Photo by Katerina Holmes

Few people still write with pen and paper, let alone in cursive script. Keyboarding has taken over this art form. However, researchers believe that cursive writing is important to cognitive development and the brain’s sensory motor region. There’s a substantial learning difference between handwriting cursive letters and typing or tracing those same letters. But with the abundance of smartphones, laptops, and tablets for reading and writing text, is writing cursive still important, or is it an outmoded learning tool? Should we focus on keyboarding skills and ignore teaching cursive writing?

Cursive writing trains the brain to integrate various forms of information at once, including visual and tactile inputs, while applying fine motor skills, according to Dr. William Klemm, a neuroscience professor.  This provides similar benefits to the brain as learning to play a musical instrument.

While cursive writing involves introducing a new set of symbols, for some dyslexics it is a faster way to write and the distinction of letters is more clear. It teaches organization skills and assists children in composing their own thoughts and ideas.  Printing is more difficult due to the frequent stop-and-start motion when forming letters.

One researcher believes cursive writing improves reading and spelling abilities because it requires one to write from left to right so letters will join in proper sequence. This enhances spelling because of the connectivity of the letters, says  Virginia Berninger, researcher, writer, and professor of educational psychology.  Additionally, the hand acquires knowledge of spelling patterns through movements that are used repeatedly in spelling –  a similar phenomenon that occurs when pianists or typists learn patterns of hand movements through continued repetition. Pictures of brain activity demonstrate that sequential finger movements used in cursive activate massive regions of the brain involved in thinking. language and working memory.  

But is learning cursive the right move for your picture thinking child considering that 2-dimensional symbols are often their nightmare? In my experience, some prefer it, and eliminating it from a curriculum eliminates options. Plus the Davis Methods could be a great help here.

It’s quite commonplace for my clients to have difficulty with printing neatly. There are many reasons for this including intentional poor penmanship – a great way to hide poor spelling or hide uncertainty with punctuation, grammar, or sentence structure. Intentional bad handwriting is not necessarily connected to disorientation.  It’s also worth noting that sometimes poor penmanship is the result of inadequate instruction to build the necessary skills. Originally, cursive writing was a class in itself where time was scheduled daily.

But for those who just can’t do it despite honest efforts, there is hope. As with all of the Davis programs, providing orientation tools is the key to figuring out the cause of the problem. When we experience the positive effects of being oriented, we also experience something when we are disoriented. The disorientation experienced is a result of some sort of confusion or emotion.  With writing, there is some sort of stimulus that makes the handwriting messy. These stimuli fall into two basic categories: line and shape triggers, and motion triggers.  There are steps to be done before tackling cursive writing and a licensed Davis facilitator can help you with your journey. It sounds like we are missing out in many ways by avoiding cursive writing.