What’s Happened to Cursive?

I don’t even have to say writing! My experience is primarily based on scoring student assessments from various grades including Regents exams which require students to write both short and extended responses. Simply said, students print their response in varied forms with some so small you could misplace a line on the page for a response. What’s also interesting is to find that I have grandchildren who cannot read cursive. With many documents, particularly those of a historic nature in cursive, what a loss this creates.


We all should be aware that a program to foster cursive writing has significant benefits for all students. Reading students responses on NYS assessments shows that students who respond clearly in cursive writing tend to score higher due to clarity of their expressions which result in complete sentences/thoughts, containing deeper insight and depth of understanding texts.

Neuroscience studies contend there is a growing body of evidence regarding brain benefits of cursive handwriting. The research supports the claim that forming letters with the hand by using a pen or pencil is cognitively different than pushing a physical or virtual key on a keyboard. Learning to form letters by hand creates a connection with the movement of the hand to the visual response of seeing the letter on the page. Multiple processes coexist simultaneously: movement of the hand, thought of the letter, and visual cue of the letter. The result is reading and writing concurrently, a necessary skill.

Understanding Language

In learning cursive, students fully understand the English language and connect words to motor memory. It supports spelling skills by enabling students to recognize words when they read. Cursive can make students more intelligent because it helps train the brain to integrate various forms of information at once. There is the benefit of visual and tactile inputs while applying fine motor skills. This may be similar to learning to play an instrument.

While cursive may be demanding to learn, it teaches organization skills, and assists students in composing their own thoughts and ideas. Students struggling with dyslexia can acquire important benefit from learning cursive to help hand-eye coordination, memory, vision-related difficulties, and other brain activities. Cursive needs to be a part of a curriculum to support acquisition of language and application.

Limitation of Typing

Everyone needs to learn to type in the world we live in today. However, typing doesn’t have the same effect on the brain as cursive because it doesn’t require the same fine motor skills and simultaneous activity. In addition, typing does not help the brain learn and remember better. Cursive primes the brain for learning.

Finally, current learning challenges tied to new standards and academic expectations rest solidly on the importance of language. Schools would be well advised to consider implementing cursive handwriting, if they have not already done so. There are a number of handwriting programs that may be called upon such as Zaner-Bloser to the old, out of copyright Palmer Method. Cursive is a skill that will sustain students throughout their lives.

Dr. Bruce H. Crowder is a senior researcher for Educational Vistas, Inc. His work is primarily focused on creating pathways for deeper learning for all students through student performance and a dynamic curriculum replete with strategic teaching. Dr. Crowder may be reached at bcrowder@edvistas.com