My son was in 2nd grade the first time he was required to fill out a form in print. Up to this point I stressed only cursive. He knew his print letters, because that's what we read. It wasn't what we practiced writing. He had just received his yellow belt for Tae Kwan Do and had to go fill out a little form and print his name. He just looked blankly at the teacher. I quietly explained that we wrote only in cursive at home and the instructor couldn't believe it! It was at that point that I realized that it was time to practice BOTH!
It turns out that I really didn't have to teach printing to my son. He already knew what the letters looked like and when I told him I wanted him to print, he did. It wasn't hard and it wasn't a stretch for him. I had always required cursive, so when he was told not to use it by his Tae Kwon Do instructor, he froze!
Teaching everything to my daughter was totally different than teaching my son. Hello, Joy, they are totally different people! My daughter picked up cursive in Kindergarten fairly easily, but she was in a private school for first grade. The teacher didn't want her to write in cursive. This confused her a bit. Even now, in 5th grade, she doesn't write her print letters correctly. They look ok. She just makes them in strange ways. But then again, she is a very outside-the-box thinker and that might just be how her mind works!
Last year, I had the privilege to teach 2nd grade to two bright MKs here in Indonesia. Both could print very well and were very excited to start cursive. I used my program with them and they could easily write in cursive by the end of the semester!
So, after teaching printing and cursive in several different ways and orders, what would I do now? I've taken my past experiences and compiled them into several tips that I will probably use with my toddler when he is ready to start school.
How I Teach Handwriting
- Even after all my experience I believe it is best to teach cursive first. There are so many reasons this is important and you can read about some of them in my post The Great Cursive Debate.
- When I start working with my preschoolers, I do not teach writing. I teach letter recognition and phonics, but we do not practice writing. I do many other pre-writing skills, but we don't actually form the letters. Preschoolers do not tend to have the eye-hand coordination to write and it causes stress. Of course, there are exceptions to this. 🙂
- In Kindergarten, I start going through my cursive program. This is typically the only copywork I do with them at this point. When we had worksheets or workbooks, I often wrote the words in cursive above or under the line for them to copy. I only did this when they knew most of the letters they were writing. (If you are doing the program with an older student, the steps are the same. Typically, they will go much faster.)
- It is important at this point to master a letter before going on. The idea is that they can write the letter on their own, without having to look at it. The neat part of this, is that you can print out as many pages as you want!
- After a student has gone through the complete cursive program and feels proficient in writing, I start using copywork for them. Copywork in your daily school day has many benefits as well. You may find my post on Copywork NOT Busywork interesting. This started my Joy of Copywork series.
- If your student has not learned printing, at this point I would introduce printing (or manuscript). I would do it by showing them forms to fill out, and telling them when it would be appropriate to use it. If your child doesn't take to it immediately, you could use a program like my Joy of Handwriting - Manuscript version. (This gives me an idea for practice pages for manuscript! You might be seeing it sometime soon!)