By: Maggie Downs

A noticeable shift has occurred when it comes to handwriting: Cursive is on the comeback. Once considered a relic of the past, cursive writing instruction is again happening in classrooms, with nearly half of U.S. states mandating its inclusion in the curriculum. In California, cursive was recently signed into law — beginning in 2024, first through sixth graders in public schools are required to learn to write in cursive.

Why is this happening now? Driven by a multifaceted appreciation for the cognitive, cultural, and practical benefits of cursive, this resurgence reflects a growing belief among educators that they are equipping students with valuable skills that extend beyond mere penmanship.

One compelling reason for the revival of cursive writing is its cognitive benefits. Research suggests that learning cursive can enhance brain development, particularly in areas related to language, memory, and fine motor skills. When students engage in the intricate movements required for cursive writing, this activates different parts of the brain compared to typing or printing. This stimulation can improve neural connectivity and contribute to overall cognitive growth, aiding students in various academic pursuits.

Proponents also argue that writing by hand fosters better retention and comprehension of written material. The fluidity of cursive allows for smoother, uninterrupted writing, enabling students to focus more on the content they are producing rather than the mechanics of forming individual letters. This fluency can lead to increased writing speed and efficiency, facilitating note-taking and expressing ideas more fluidly during examinations or class discussions.

Using longhand also helps put students into a flow state of writing, which can be a helpful tool for those of you teaching Introductory English or learning about Methods for Teaching Secondary English Language Arts.

Plus cursive writing holds cultural and historical significance. It connects students to documents and artifacts from the past, enabling them to decipher handwritten letters, historical manuscripts, and the signatures of influential figures. So these legislative initiatives reflect a broader societal desire to ensure future generations possess the skills necessary to engage with handwritten documents and maintain a connection to tradition — a connection that’s increasingly relevant in a time dominated by screens.

Additionally, educators are increasingly acknowledging the practical benefits of cursive writing in today's digital age. While typing has become ubiquitous in most modern circumstances, there are still situations where handwritten communication is preferred or necessary. Proficiency in cursive equips students with the ability to write legibly and efficiently when they’re filling out forms, signing documents, or composing handwritten letters—a skill that remains valuable despite advancements in technology.

What happens if you’ve been tasked to bring cursive into your classroom? Here’s how to introduce it (and possibly improve your own handwriting in the process!):

  • Start with Basic Strokes: Begin by practicing the basic strokes used in cursive writing, such as upward and downward strokes, loops, and curves. Mastering these foundational elements will provide a solid basis for forming letters.
  • Learn Letter Formation: Progress to learning the formation of individual letters. Start with lowercase letters, as many cursive scripts connect letters in lowercase words. Practice forming each letter slowly and deliberately, paying attention to the correct sequence of strokes.
  • Practice Regularly: Like any skill, proficiency in cursive writing requires consistent practice. Set aside dedicated time each day to practice writing in cursive. Use worksheets or writing guides to reinforce letter formation and spacing.
  • Focus on Fluidity: Aim for smooth, continuous movements when writing in cursive. Avoid lifting the pen unnecessarily between letters, as this disrupts the flow of writing. Focus on maintaining a consistent rhythm and pace as you form words and sentences.
  • Utilize Resources: Take advantage of online resources, books, or apps designed to teach cursive writing. These resources often provide guided lessons, practice exercises, and interactive tools to help learners improve their skills.
  • Provide Feedback and Guidance: If you're an educator teaching cursive writing to students, provide constructive feedback and guidance to help them improve. Offer individualized support as needed, addressing common challenges such as letter slant, size consistency, and spacing.
  • Encourage Creativity: Cursive writing offers opportunities for personal expression and creativity. Encourage students to experiment with different cursive styles and variations, allowing them to develop their unique handwriting identity while adhering to the fundamentals of cursive script.
  • Integrate Cursive Across Subjects: Incorporate cursive writing into various subjects to reinforce its relevance and application. Encourage students to write assignments, take notes, or complete exercises in cursive, emphasizing its practical utility beyond penmanship practice.
  • Promote Continued Practice: Encourage ongoing practice and reinforcement of cursive writing skills beyond the classroom setting. Suggest activities such as journaling, writing letters to pen pals, or creating handwritten projects to maintain and enhance proficiency over time.