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The transition from printing to cursive writing is exciting for children.

They feel more grown-up learning to write like adults. While it looks simple, learning cursive is somewhat complex. Understanding the steps it requires is necessary for instructors, so let’s get right to it.

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What Is Cursive Writing?

Handwriting or penmanship is a way of writing using the hand and an instrument. Cursive is a type of penmanship in which the letters are connected. The purpose is to make writing faster. Printing relies on straight lines and pencil breaks because you have to pick up and put down your pencil several times for each letter.

Cursive writing is always looped, connected, and allows the writer to make fluid, pencil-to-paper connections.Typically taught to second graders, cursive writing is a rite of passage, marking a time of transition from a less rigorous curriculum to a more challenging one. Before beginning instruction, you’ll need to determine which of the two major styles is best for your students.

Choose a Method

Two forms of cursive writing are prominent in schools: the Zaner-Bloser or D’Nealian methods. Though similar, there are two main differences in these methods – their slant and shape.

Direct Instruction

Begin by telling students what letters or sequences you’ll be focusing on that day. For a stronger connection, relate it to the previous lesson as follows: ”Yesterday, we learned and practiced the letters A, C and D.

Today, we’ll continue by learning curved letters O, Q and G.”If today is your first lesson, bring enthusiasm and excitement with you as you begin. After stating your purpose, tell students how to form the letters but don’t show them just yet.

Allow this specific verbal instruction to create a place in their brains that will connect later to the second step – modeling.You’ll need to be exact in your wording. Every move you make with the pen needs to be explained. For example, when writing the letter C, you’ll need to say where to place the pencil, which direction it will travel in, and how and where it will end. Depending on your paper and program, use child-friendly words. Refer to line color; name below-the-line strokes ‘kite strings’ (Y, Z); loops can be ‘balloons’ (O, C). Call tall lines ‘peaks’ and low ‘valleys’ (V, M).

However you name it, be consistent and use the same wording every time.

Time to Model

After telling students what letters they’re learning and how to form them, it’s time to model the stroke. Make sure all students can see. Use a whiteboard, document camera or other technology that allows the children to see you making the stroke in real time.Narrate as you go, using the terminology you’ve chosen.

Make several examples of the letter. Next, demonstrate the practice the students will complete. If you’re asking them to trace, show them how to trace that letter. If the exercise requires them to copy, model that. Make sure they understand what you expect them to do during the next phase, which is guided practice.

Practice Makes Perfect

Students will move on to the most exciting practice phase, which comes in two forms – guided and independent.

First, make sure you’re supporting students during their initial attempts at the new letters. Circulate through the room, stopping by each student’s desk to offer guidance and support. You may need to do a few things ranging from verbal cues to guiding their hands.

Highlight a few letters that are great and offer praise. Take this time to nip bad habits; once they’re formed, they’re more difficult to undo.After guided practice, students will need time to practice independently. Teachers often assign handwriting for homework. You also can use small sections of class time for independent practice or it can be a station during your literacy block. However you frame it, make sure you’ve given students enough time to get comfortable with the new letter before moving on to the next.Students can practice on and with a few different materials.

Paper, pencil, whiteboards, laminated tracing paper or workbook pages are all good choices.

Teaching Letters

The order in which you teach the letters and strokes depends on the system you’ve chosen; each offers a different philosophy. While you can teach letters in a different order, one straightforward method is:

Lower Case

  1. Round letters – c, then a, o, d, g, and q
  2. Loop letters – l, b, h, f, and k
  3. Top curve letters – n, m, p and r
  4. Bottom curve letters – u, v, w, and y
  5. Dot and cross letters – i, j, and t
  6. Simple – e, s, x, and z
  7. Bottom loop letters – g, j, y, and z

You’ll notice some letters fall into more than one category like round and bottom loop, for example. Teaching method and pacing depends on the curriculum you’re using.

Upper Case

  1. Oval letters – O, Q, A, and X
  2. Loop letters – C, G, L, S, E, and Z
  3. Curve letters – N, M, U, V, W, and Y
  4. Straight letters – H, K, P, R, D, and B
  5. Top start letters – T, F
  6. Loop from middle letters – I and J

An important step in cursive is teaching how to connect, so make sure you demonstrate that step.

Lesson Summary

Teaching cursive writing is an exciting time for students and fun to teach. If your school or district hasn’t adopted a specific writing program, research the two major styles. Next, become familiar with the strokes.

You’ll need to verbally instruct, detailing every stroke movement, then model for the class. Provide time for students to work with guidance and independently.Make sure you’re patient and make sure your students know it.

Learning cursive is fun but can often be frustrating. Vary your practice materials to keep the energy positive and engaging. Try to remember how amazing it felt to sign your name all those years ago.

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