Updated: Sep 12, 2021
Many of us would answer: "Very important!" Cursive is not required by the national educational Common Core Standards. Many states across the country are removing or reducing cursive instruction from the curriculum while only a few states have deliberated and decided to keep it.
What's the best way to respond when parents ask why handwriting is a key component of the Montessori environment? Montessori discovered the importance of learning through movement and the senses. Research corroborates the vital hand/brain connection, proving that new pathways in the brain develop as children use their hands to explore and interact with the world. Of course it doesn't need to be an either/or decision: children can be computer literate and learn cursive.
Fascinating new research points out the benefits of cursive writing for cognitive development. One study concluded that elementary students need at least "15 minutes of handwriting daily for cognitive, writing and motor skills and reading comprehension improvement." A recent article in Psychology Today cited research which shows that:
Students "wrote more words, faster, and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand versus with a keyboard." This study included second, fourth, and sixth graders.
"Cursive writing helps train the brain to integrate visual (and) tactile information, and fine motor dexterity."
The regions of the brain that are activated during reading were "activated during hand writing, but not during typing."
"Written language can be acquired more easily by children of four years than by those of six. While children of six usually need at least two years to learn how to write, children of four years learn this second language within a few months." —Maria Montessori
Observers of Montessori schools are often astonished by the beautiful cursive hand of four-and five-year-old children. Montessori noted that the straight and oblique lines of printing were more difficult for children to form than cursive. The uninterrupted movements of the hand may make cursive letters easier for children to form, and for this reason, some Montessori primary classrooms introduce children to cursive sandpaper letters first. Other Montessori schools wait to teach cursive to lower elementary students.
In the Montessori primary classroom, children trace the Sandpaper Letters with their fingers and often draw letters in a sand tray or on an easel or chalkboard. As they progress, children can copy onto paper the words and sentences they build with the Movable Alphabet.
Handwriting across the curriculum is encouraged in the Montessori classroom. Older children write their own poems, stories, and research reports. One of the best ways for children to learn geography, history, science, and even math, is to work with the materials and write about it, with a pencil!
"We directly prepare the child, not only for writing, but also for penmanship, paying attention to the beauty of form (having the children touch the letters in script form)" —Maria Montessori, The Montessori Method
By Mary Luangamath, M.Ed., AMI 6/12 Licensed
Head of School