Thursday, 2 February 2012


Recently I have been looking for the theoretic information regarding handwriting. It was caused by that I had to chose the font for Igor's sand paper letters. At the end a cursive used in Polish schools won. I didn't choose the English type of cursive as: first I don't know it well as I had never been thought how write it, and second Irish school system does not use cursive until third grade anyway, so when kids are 10 years old. Children are thought to write ball and stick style. Which by the way I consider a disaster. It caused us the big problem while Daria was learning to write. She was the best example that this type of writing is not the best we have. She was in a habit of mixing up b-d, p-q. The others where mirrored. It lasted for two first years in school (Junior infants and Senior infants). This year on vacation I started to teach her Polish style of writing which is used in all school since I remember. She was doing very well. Her writing was getting better and better every day.

When school started in September kids were given notebooks for practising a spelling. The task is given every week: 10 words to write twice and then to make 10 sentences using those words. I need to find that workbook and give here the example of how big difference it is between ball and stick writing in single line sheets and cursive in our home workbooks.

And there we are.

 I decided something has to be done. I asked Daria's teacher whether it would be possible to change her type of writing to cursive and change the notebook to 3 line one. She agreed. Since that day Daria's homework started to look much better.

This is a week later.

We keep this way until today.

I would like to share with you some information I found two days ago.

Samuel L, Blumenfeld in the work "How Should We Teach Our Children to Write?
Cursive First, Print Later!" writes:

[...] The question then becomes: How shall we teach children to write? And my answer is quite dear: Do not teach your child to print by ball-and-stick, or italic, or D’enelian. Teach your child to write a standard cursive script. And the reason why I can say this with confidence is because that’s the way I was taught to write in the first grade in a New York City public school back in 1931 when teachers knew what they were doing.
In those days children were not taught to print. We were all taught cursive right off the bat, and the result is that people of my generation generally have better handwriting than those of recent generations. Apparently, cursive first went out of style in the 1940s when the schools adopted ball-and-stick manuscript to go with the new Dick and lane look-say reading programs. Ball-and-stick was part of the new progressive reforms of primary education.
But ball-and-stick has produced a handwriting disaster. Why? Because by the time children are introduced to cursive in the third grade, their writing habits are so fixed that they resent having to learn an entirely new way of writing, the teachers do not have the time to supervise the development of a good cursive script, and the students are usually unwilling to take the time and do the practice needed to develop a good cursive handwriting.
 The result is that many youngsters continue to print for the rest of their lives, some develop a hybrid handwriting style consisting of a mixture of print and cursive, and some do develop a good cursive because they’d always wanted to write cursive and had been secretly practising it for years without their teachers’ or parents’ knowledge.
Apparently, all of those schools that introduce cursive in the second or third grade must believe that it has some value, or else why would they teach it at all? The problem is that by requiring the students to learn ball-and-stick first, they create obstacles to the development of a good cursive script.
  The reason for teaching ball-and-stick first, we are told, is because first graders do not have the motor skills or muscular dexterity in their fingers to be able to write cursive at that age. But that argument is totally false. Prior to the 1940s virtually all children in public and private schools were taught cursive in the first grade and virtually all learned to write very nicely. All were trained in penmanship and did the various exercises - the ovals, the rainbows, the ups and downs - that helped us develop good handwriting. We were also taught how to hold the writing instrument (or stylus) correctly, cradled between the thumb and the forefinger (also known as the index finger) with the tip of the writing instrument resting on the long finger next to the forefinger, in a very relaxed position, enabling a writer to write for hours without tiring.
On the other hand, when a child is taught to print first, the writing instrument is held straight up with three or four fingers in a tight grip with much pressure being exerted downward on the paper placed in a straight position. When these children are then taught cursive in the second or third grade, they do not change the way they hold the writing instrument because a motor or muscular habit has been established that is not easy to alter.
That is why so many children develop poor cursive scripts because of the way they hold their pens. Children do not easily unlearn bad habits. Which is why I tell parents that there are two very important no-no’s in primary education: do not teach anything that later has to be unlearned, and do not let a child develop a bad habit. Instruct the child to do it right from the beginning.

Cursive Helps the Left-Handed
Also, it may surprise the reader to learn that left-handed children gain special benefits from learning cursive first. When left handed children are taught ball-and-stick first, their tendency is to use the hook position in writing since the stylus is held straight up and the paper is also positioned straight. This means that, as the child proceeds, printing from left to right, the child’s arm will cover what has already been written. This can be avoided if the left-handed child learns to write from the bottom up, the way right-handed children write. But this is difficult, if not impossible, to do when printing ball-and-stick.

However, if a left-handed child is taught to write cursive first, he or she must then turn the paper clockwise and must write from the bottom up, since it is impossible to use the hook position if the paper is turned clockwise. Right-handers, of course, turn the paper counter-clockwise. But left-handers are quite capable of developing as good a cursive handwriting as any right-hander by writing from the bottom up. (In fact, the secret of good handwriting may be in the position of the paper.)

All of this must lead to one simple conclusion: teach cursive first and print later, There are few things that help enhance a child's academic self-esteem more than the development of good handwriting. It helps reading, it helps spelling, and because writing is made easy, accurate, and esthetically pleasant, it helps thinking. As Francis Bacon once said: “Reading maketh a full man. . . and writing an exact man.”
This article is from The Blumenfeld Education Letter, Vol. 9, No. 9 (Letter #97), September 1994. Editor: Samuel L. Blumenfeld.

I would be grateful for any opinion regarding hand writing.


  1. Świetny blog !!!!!
    Proszę pisz też po polsku ;)

  2. Dzieki. Przeważnie piszę w dwóch językach, jednak czasami post dotyczy tylko języka angielskiego jak w przypadku pisania odręcznego, a raczej jego braku w Irlandii. A gdy uczymy się o Polsce to wtedy nie pisze po angielsku. Oczywiście to wszystko kwestia lenistwa albo braku czasu :-)

  3. Very interesting! We still have some time before our daughter goes to school/starts to write and I guess she'll learn the Polish style but I have been wondering what and how we should do when we practice writing at home before she starts school (and she's bound to want to do that as she's already trying to read...)


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