Fundamental skill? Calgary workshops offer tools to teach cursive handwriting

A series of workshops over the weekend will offer Calgary educators and parents tools on how to help teach their children cursive writing.

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For generations of Canadians, cursive handwriting was something that was taught in school, typically in the primary grades. During these lessons, children would spend time carefully crafting the loops and curves that make up the letters in the cursive alphabet.

However, it appears that fewer Canadian schoolchildren are learning the skill, as many classrooms now appear to be foregoing the lessons altogether, says occupational therapist Lindsay Amey.

"In Canada, it certainly seems to be hit or miss," she told CTVNews.ca, noting that there is little consistency across the board. "It seems to be largely dependent on whether the teacher plans to teach it explicitly."

And while it may seem unnecessary to provide children instruction on cursive writing, especially in today's digital age, Amey says research shows learning handwriting has benefits.

In particular, she says that cursive writing can improve brain development in the areas of thinking, language and working memory. As well, it can help reinforce reading and spelling skills, she said.

A 2014 review examined the advantages of taking notes in class with a laptop computer versus writing out notes.

In three different studies, the researchers found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions compared to students who took notes by hand.

"We show that whereas taking more notes can be beneficial, laptop note takers' tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning," the researchers concluded.

As well, Amey said, cursive handwriting can help kids focus more due to the "flow" and "unique connections" between the letters.

"It actually sustains your attention more, and commits what you've written by hand to memory better," she said. This results in students who are able to better retain concepts, she added.

Amey, who is also a national presenter with the organization Handwriting without Tears, said that even though computer skills are critically important for schoolchildren to learn, they still need the skills to form letters correctly. In fact, they need both skill sets, she said.

"What we know is that the kids who are most successful have skills in using technology and keyboarding, and also have skills in either printing or handwriting," she told CTVNews.ca.

"The primary tool in primary classrooms is still a pencil… kids still need to learn how to hold their pencil and how to make their letters."



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