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Montessori schools teach cursive writing whereas most mainstream schools do not consistently do this. So today, I am going to take a look at the benefits of teaching cursive letters and why I believe it is important to teach cursive.
The word cursive comes from the Latin 'currere' – to run. It is a style of writing when all the letters in a word are connected and the pen doesn't lift from the page. It is often called 'joined up' writing.
How Montessori prepares children for cursive
In the Montessori classroom, children practise fine motor skills that will be useful for writing. They do this through the practical life activities – arm and shoulder movements while polishing, washing the table, twisting to open bottle and so on (big clockwise movements are important for writing).
They are used to do everything from left to right, top to bottom as it’s how each activity is presented to them. This helps with how to write on paper.
The inset for design material helps the child to master the movements that will be necessary for writing and helps to form the shapes that will be used to form the letters.
Also called metal insets, they are ten flats squares in each of which rests a different cut-out metal shape identical to one of the shapes in the geometric cabinet. Each cut-out shape, or “inset” is blue and has a small knob at its centre and each border, or “frame” is pink. (from Basic Montessori)
"When the child has begun these exercises, he is seized with a desire to continue them, and he never tires of drawing the outlines of the figures and then filling them in. Each child suddenly becomes the possessor of a considerable number of drawings, and he treasures them up in his own little drawer. In this way he organizes the movement of writing, which brings him to the management of the pen." - Maria Montessori
So the child in the Montessori classroom has a long time to prepare before they start to write and do not start until they express a desire to do so. Typically, the children write before they can read. They imitate the teacher, older children and their parents.
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Do all children learn cursive writing at school?
Cursive writing is widely taught all around Europe, but children are not taught reading and writing until they are around 6 years old.
In the UK, children start school at 4 years old so penmanship is simplified to enable younger children to write. Teaching cursive at any age is not a requirement in UK schools during reception or the national curriculum.
"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
What are the benefits of teaching cursive letters?
There are lots of benefits of teaching cursive letters including improving fine motor skills and being able to write quicker. This also aids learning as they children can take more notes and the fluidity of writing and pattern creation can help with remembering spellings.
The joined up aspect of the letters helps the children to remember what each letter is and helps with spellings.
Studies have also demonstrated what Montessori discovered more than a hundred years ago. By tracing the letters, the child can remember the sounds better. A multi-sensorial approach to writing is beneficial.
Teaching your child cursive
This set of tactile Montessori cursive letters from Little Star are a good place to start when teaching your child cursive. They allow your children to become familiar with the style, and the colour coding helps them distinguish between vowels and consonants. The tactile nature of Montessori materials means children are absorbing learning through all their senses. (I was sent these letters for review.)
I like that those letters are made of felt. Many children don't like the coarse texture of the sandpaper therefore those letters are a good alternative. They are also cheaper and of good quality for a home use.
I also love this tracing letter board. It comes with a tracing wooden stick. It is made in the UK by the Little Coach house.
Should you teach your child cursive?
Finding books and materials written in cursive is difficult but children can manage reading print and at the same time, writing in cursive. The fact that material is not readily available in cursive shouldn’t prevent you introducing it.
An important point to help children's writing is to be consistent though so if they will attend a mainstream school, check whether they will learn cursive after reception so you can support their progress at the right pace.
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Carine Robin has a Master’s Degree in Psychology, specialising in child psychology. She worked for various social services in her home country of Belgium, before moving to Ireland in 2006. It was there that she started working in a nursery and discovered Montessori education. After having her first child, her passion for the philosophy grew and she qualified as a Montessori teacher and managed a preschool. Carine has been running a Montessori based parents and toddler group and coaching families for 9 years. She now also runs an online group for over 14000 parents, sharing her knowledge and passion with people from around the world. In 2018, Carine realised families needed more support and launched her popular online parenting courses and monthly subscription boxes, full of personally designed Montessori materials.
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