Lower School Blog: The Power of Language—Why We Teach Cursive

Many things are different when teaching language in a Montessori setting versus other early childhood education settings. For example, in a Montessori classroom, children learn to write before they read, they learn the sounds of the letters before the names, and they are introduced to cursive before print. 

When I tell this to other educators, parents, or friends, they often ask: “Why do you teach cursive?” 

Well, here is why:

When children are young, they often make circles, swirls, and grasp writing tools in the palms of their hands. There is a consistent flow of movement as children repeat and work toward perfecting their fine motor skills. Dr. Maria Montessori discovered a correlation between controlling movement and repetition among young children and a child’s fascination with their hand’s control over their mind—so she created materials to further encourage these skills. 

In short, the answer is simple: the introduction of cursive writing aligns with a young child’s natural development.

An additional benefit of cursive writing is that it helps young children distinguish certain letters that often cause them confusion: specifically B, D, P, and Q. Recognizing the differences between these printed letters is a common challenge among new readers and writers, but through cursive, these issues are not only nearly eradicated, but children actually have a leg up on reading and writing. 

Studies show that it’s easier for children to transition from cursive to print than vice versa. Jason Phillips with the Montessori Foundation states:

“Writing in cursive, the act of connecting the letters that form a word, helps the child’s mind to see those letters as a word. The letters of each separate word are connected and then there is a space distinguishing it from the word that follows. This will make it easier for someone else reading the child's writing to be able to distinguish each separate word.”  

Children who learn to read cursive words first make a rapid transition to reading print. In fact, they often have an innate curiosity about all forms of lettering and an enjoyment in puzzling out unusual alphabetical signs.

Last, but not least, research shows that children who learn to write in cursive experience brain benefits that don’t otherwise result from printing letters or keyboarding, which makes cursive an important tool for cognitive development. Specifically, cursive writing trains the brain to learn functional specialization, which is the capacity for optimal efficiency. 

It is important to understand that even before we teach children cursive, we are indirectly preparing the child’s hand and brain to meet their natural tendencies. In the classroom, children practice fine motor skills that will be useful for writing. They do this through sensorial materials and a myriad of practical life activities: arm and shoulder movements while polishing or washing the table, twisting open bottles, etc. Children are also used to doing everything from left to right and top to bottom, as this is how each activity is presented to them. This helps with how to write on paper. 

It is never too late to instill good habits, and exposing your child to cursive will greatly benefit them in the long run. So, let’s take out the pen and pencil and write a letter the good old fashioned way, shall we? 

Happy Cursive Writing!

Mariana Vicéns

Head of Lower School & Director of Education 

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