Children are introduced to both cursive and print over the course of three years in the Montessori Children’s House classroom.
While Montessorians have differing opinions on which to introduce first, all agree on the importance of learning cursive. Dr. Montessori herself observed children struggling with the frequent lifting of the hand and the precision required for printing letters. She saw that it was easier for children to form the cursive letters as they used uninterrupted movement: little or no lifting of and replacement of the hand. Print requires the use of vertical lines and perfect circles, which are very difficult for beginning writers to form, whereas cursive uses gently curved and slanted lines that a child’s hand can form without too much effort.
What Does the Research Say?
Benefits of Cursive
In summary, studies show that cursive handwriting can help a child have a better grasp of:
- Word formation
- Critical thinking
- Writing (improvement in syntax)
If you’re interested in encouraging the learning of cursive at home, here are a couple of activities that you can try:
- Sand Tray. A wonderful introduction is to use a small tray of sand or salt and cursive flash cards (or homemade flash cards using blank index cards) with lowercase cursive letters on them. Show your child how to form the letter by tracing over the flash card with your finger, then encourage them to form the same letter in the sand tray using their index finger. (Don’t forget to introduce letters by their phonetic sound, not their name! For example, “b” should be called “buh” not “bee”!) If your child is able to use the pincer grasp, you could also give them a dull pencil to hold and form the letters in the sand tray.
- Object Matching. You can also match your cursive flashcards to objects in your house that start with that phonetic sound. For example, you might hold up the “s” flash card and hold up next to your stove. “Sss, stove.” Or, “Sss, spoon. Can you find something that starts with ‘Sss’?”