Teaching Cursive

How does a parent teach her child to transition from print to cursive when using the copywork approach? For my part, it was trial and error. Here's what I finally settled upon for our family. Maybe it prevent some people from having to reinvent the wheel.

I introduce one new cursive letter per week. I like to write it quite large on a dry erase board. (I draw the three guidelines first with a ruler.) My child draws it in the air until she forms the correct strokes. One day is spent on the capital letter, another day, later in the week, on the lower case, and the third day of the same week, we review previous letters and work on combining them. I have learned that it is important that I allow a time each week to teach how how to combine the cursive letters. Each of these lessons takes about 15 minutes. It takes us 26 weeks to do this or two 12 week school terms to get through the entire alphabet.

It is important to remember that sloppy cursive is generally due to improper slant. The letters should be uniform with a slant that looks like this //// not mixed like this /\/. Letters that touch the middle line need to always touch the middle line, not dropping below or poking above.

I do not like cursive programs because they usually assign too much work and are boring. This is due to the fact that the models chosen are meaningless word combinations, or words out of context. Those programs that do provide practice with living books generally use literature that my child is not currently reading so there is no emotional attachment to the passage- and this is a crucial element in a CM education.

I have used Ms. Readman's free cursive sheets quite successfully with my children but recommend just the capital and lower case letters that she provides. I found that the giant three-lined paper my child used in 1st grade was too large for 3rd grade and regular notebook paper was too small. I like Ms. Readman's practice 36 or 48 sizes. If you print it as landscape, you can fit more words on one line. I use this paper for second grade print copywork as well as third grade copywork. My children switch to regular notebook paper when they enter fourth grade.

Three days per week we have cursive practice as our copywork lesson and on the fourth day, we have a normal copywork lesson in print style. However, as the year progresses, and she learns more cursive letters, I gradually begin to add cursive words and phrases to the print copywork session. Some of the letters in the words she will not have yet studied, but that's okay. It's just a few and I just encourage her to copy what she sees. By the third term, all copywork is written in cursive style. I provide a copywork model for her to look at and just whip this up right before the lesson. (I don't use Italic simply because I am familiar with the classic Zaner Blozer method and don't want to relearn a whole new handwriting just to teach it to my child.) Some time around the middle of the last school term, my children generally no longer need a model, and just refer to a cursive chart that I keep posted up in the schoolroom.

We learn cursive in pencil. The following year, in fourth grade, my children switch over to pen. I give them their own whiteout pen and they feel pretty pleased about this. (They only use whiteout for copywork and fancy papers. Narration errors are neatly crossed out.)

Here are several samples of my children's work showing the gradual progression from print to cursive.
Click on pictures to enlarge
First Lesson. Her goal is to form six perfect letters. She doesn't have to erase, just cross out the ones she doesn't like. She only does half of this page per lesson. Lower case 'a' is done for lesson two.

She just writes ONE word in cursive since she is unsure of herself and the rest is in print.

Now she is able to write one short sentence. She did this lesson in two sessions. Notice the model is write in front above where she will write.

She also took two sessions to complete this quote. She has learned about 20 letters now and is feeling more comfortable with cursive.

All letters have been learned over a 24 week period or so. She no longer prints but still has a cursive model in front of her for a few weeks.

This is where my 8 year old daughter is now. This page is yet to be corrected. She attempted this without a cursive model, but she has a cursive chart near her if she forgets anything. Now she has the last 10 weeks of school to grow completely comfortable with cursive. She is excited about this new skill learned through hard work and fine literature.

*Please note that generally, NOT always, boys are one year behind girls in their ability to write well as studies show that their fine motor skills develop slightly later than girls.

one step at a time...