Growth Mindset Research–Why we need to re-consider teaching cursive handwriting.

Quote:  “Cursive handwriting improves neural connections in the brain,” and stresses physiological movement of writing cursive letters to “build pathways in the brain while improving mental effectiveness.” Iris Hatfield

What you may not realize–and what many educators and parents do not realize– is that by learning cursive you are learning how to communicate in another method from printing and keyboarding. In practicing cursive you are building the neural pathways necessary to stimulate brain activity that enables language fluency and vision-motor control important for cognitive development, learning, reading, sports, and other everyday tasks. In most three grade classrooms computers and key boards now dominate every classroom. With the entrance of the information age has come a shift to emphasizing the development of knowledge skills over physical skills.  Keyboarding is in vogue and cursive is out as one of the Common Core Standards for best education practices.

What you may not realize–and what many educators and parents do not realize– is that by learning cursive you are learning how to communicate in another method from printing and keyboarding. In practicing cursive you are building the neural pathways necessary to stimulate brain activity that enables language fluency and vision-motor control important for cognitive development, learning, reading, sports, and other everyday tasks. In most three grade classrooms computers and key boards now dominate classrooms throughout our nation. With the entrance of the information age has come a shift to emphasizing the development of knowledge skills over physical skills.  Keyboarding is in vogue and cursive is out as one of the Common Core Standards for best education practices.

Without recognizing it, those repetitive cursive handwriting drills we did as children were some of our first and most basic steps in developing our cognitive abilities. Fine motor skills are the building blocks our brains need to connect and make sense of the world around us through our 5 senses. Understanding and knowing how to form letters on lines to a certain shape and size, at a certain angle, in real time and space comes through the fine motor control of the hands and arms. Cursive handwriting naturally develops sensory skills, as they are called, by taking advantage of a child’s inability to fully control their fingers. Through repetition the child begins to understand how much force need be applied to the pencil and the paper, positioning of the pencil to paper at the correct angle, and motor planning to form each letter in fluid motion from left to right. This physical and spatial awareness allows them to write but more importantly builds the neural foundation  of sensory skills needed for a myriad of everyday tasks such as zipping up clothes to tying shoes, picking up and using objects, copying words from blackboards, shaking hands, and most importantly, reading! Unfortunately we are abandoning the activities that allow for this cognitive and physical development to take place.

Over the past few years doctors and neuroscience specialists alike have been working to understand and educate the masses on the effects of educating the mind alone.

As Pulitzer Prize nominated neurologist Frank Wilson wrote in his book, “The Hand: How its Use Shapes the Brain, Language, And Human Culture,” “teachers should not try to educate the mind by itself.” If educators continue to dissolve the disciplines that involve the hands and the body in full movement, much of the knowledge will be poorly processed and inadequately learned.

So what do we need to do as parents if neuroscience science experts and their brain research studies show the positive effects of teaching cursive handwriting as a basic building block of cognitive development?

Challenge: Find ways to educate school leaders on the neurological benefits of cursive handwriting and make parents aware of the positive effects on brain development and cursive handwriting One solution is to promote this problem is for schools to require and teach all three modes of writing–  printing, cursive and keyboarding. All of these modes have benefits for brain development and are necessary tools for brain development.

Consulted resources and research:

  1. The Hand: How its use shapes the brain, language, and human culture. Frank R Wilson. First Vintage Books Edition, September 1999.
  2. http://www.newamericancursive.com/docs/NAC Why Teach Cursive.pdf
  3. http://www.helium.com/items/197736-cursive-handwriting

 

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