Cursive – joined handwriting – it’s good for our minds!
Research suggests that printing letters and writing in cursive activate different parts of the brain. Learning cursive is good for children’s fine motor skills, and writing in long hand generally helps children retain more information and generate more ideas. Studies have also shown that children who learn cursive rather than simply manuscript writing, score better on reading and spelling tests, perhaps because the linked-up cursive forces writers to think of words as wholes instead of parts.
Researchers have suggested that cursive can serve as a teaching aid for children with learning impairments like dyslexia.
HERE COMES THE SCIENCE…….
The cerebellum, a part of the brain located in the old brain, is directly associated with stimulating our kinaesthetic intelligence.
Interestingly, at one time, the cerebellum was considered responsible only for the development and management of gross motor skills, such as running, skipping etc. However, recent studies show that the cerebellum also acts to support limbic (emotional) functions such as attention, impulse control and cognitive processes located in the frontal lobe.
In addition, the cerebellum connects regions of the brain that perform mental and sensory tasks, which allow us to perform these skills automatically, without conscious attention to detail. This allows the conscious part of the brain the freedom to attend to other mental activities, thus enlarging the cognitive scope associated with learning and intelligence (Sousa, 2006).
Furthermore, researchers believe that when children are exposed to cursive handwriting, changes occur in their brains that allow a child to overcome motor challenges. He says, the act of physically gripping a pen or pencil and practicing the swirls, curls and connections of cursive handwriting activates parts of the brain that lead to increased language fluency. That is, cursive writing ability affords us the opportunity to naturally train these fine motor skills by taking advantage of a child’s inability to fully control his fingers. This means cursive writing acts as a building block rather than as a stressor, providing a less strenuous learning experience.
Moreover, cursive handwriting stimulates brain synapses and synchronicity between the left and right hemispheres, something absent from printing, typing or keyboarding.
Therefore, it is no wonder that some boys experience such positive effects when they participate in a cursive writing program. In other words, a serious advantage as to why girls are about nine months ahead of boys in their linguistic skills (reading, writing etc.) is because the corpus collusum, the middle strip that separates our left and right brain hemispheres is larger in girls than in boys, which allows for a girl’s brain to crosstalk. Cursive writing allows the boys to catch up.
SO BASICALLY – cursive writing links the two sides of the brain together and works spatial, visual and kinaesthetic skills together with procedures for spelling and phonics, creating patterns which the brain can remember better.
It improves dexterity and concentration and because it looks nice it appeals to the ‘feel good’ part of our brains. It is satisfying, therapeutic and ‘carries’ learning further, allowing the brain space and time to notice spelling, giving thinking space for good grammar and content.
Particularly good for boys and Dyslexic people.
How you can improve your child’s Handwriting
With the telephone, fax machine and e-mail is handwriting now outdated? By no means! The need to be able to write well and quickly is greater today than it ever was. This advice looks at ways in which you can help your child to get better at handwriting. You will see that we have used ‘he’ for children – this is just to make it easier to read.
Although children in schools everywhere now spend a lot of time learning how to use computers and electronic gadgets, after speech, handwriting is still the most accessible, versatile and creative way of getting and keeping in touch. It holds its place as a basic skill in the primary school curriculum, allowing children to express themselves and enriching all areas of learning. It becomes a life-long source of pleasure to all who master it, and gives delight to all who receive or read it.
How can you help?
- Most importantly, you can show your child that you value and admire the skill.
- Have a small selection of handwriting materials readily available at home. The class teacher may be able to advise you about this, but pencils felt-tipped pens and some sheets of lined note paper are enough for a start.
- Let handwriting play a part in your family’s daily life, for example…..
- making lists and labels
- keeping a family diary
- leaving notes for each other in busy households
- keeping in touch with distant friends and relatives
- Designing and making home-made notelets and greetings cards.
- Display your child’s work – if you haven’t got a noticeboard, you could use the fridge door. After being on display, favourite pieces could be pasted into a scrap book to build up a unique record of progress and achievement.
- Encourage your child to sit properly when he is writing. He will get the best results if
- he is in a good light
- he sits on an upright chair
- he sits at a comfortable height
- he keeps his back straight
- his head is high enough to see the pen/pencil point forming the letters.
Many children like to do their homework lying on the floor, but don’t let them! They can’t develop good handwriting that way and they can’t present their work in a way that does them justice. Good posture is vital for any child, but it is particularly important if your child is left-handed, because people who are left – handed have a tendency to develop a cramped, curled hand position which makes writing very hard work. Sitting properly helps to prevent this. So do your best to provide somewhere where your child can work, even if it’s the end of the kitchen table.
What materials are needed?
You can make a start with whatever pens, pencils and paper are to hand, but, as your child gets better, he will begin to have particular preferences, and you might need to widen the choices available.
Remember though that you can produce beautiful results with the simplest materials. A soft pencil and a sheet of inexpensive plain writing paper can produce a page of beautiful calligraphy as surely as the most expensive materials.
If you’re choosing pens, remember that young children get on best with those that have a bit of ‘bite’. Ball points tend to run too easily over the paper and this is a particular problem for left-handed children. Fibre-tips and felt-tips are easier to control.
Learning to write well can use up quite a lot of paper, so it is sensible to save the better quality sheets for final drafts and special topic work. You can use cheaper recycled or re-used paper for daily practice and it’s a wonderful way to make use of junk mail.
Guidelines can help your child to produce regular, well-sized writing. You can easily make a set of guidelines from an A4 sheet ruled in black fibre-tip with the lines 1cm apart. Draw a margin round the page and encourage your child to decorate each piece of work with a handwriting pattern. Border patterns are more than just decoration. They help to develop a feel for the rhythm of fluent writing, establish basic hand and arm movements and also encourage regularity in the size and shape of letters.