Cursive is a funny subject these days. Most of us adults grew up learning it in about 3rd grade.
Many kids these days aren’t getting cursive instruction at all.
And some adults are very salty about that.
As it turns out, there are some legitimate benefits to learning cursive. So those of us wanting to teach our kids cursive aren’t just leaning into nostalgia.
Seeing that many schools are forgoing the cursive process, it’s not enough to just assume they’ll pick it up.
And for us homeschoolers, there aren’t many affordable cursive curriculums that don’t over-complicate the process.
So here it is – a simple step-by-step guide on teaching your kids cursive.
Step 1: Proper Cursive Writing Position
Starting with the correct writing position is very important for kids, especially when they’re first starting to learn how to write.
Most desks are at the right height for adults and as we practice writing, it becomes easier for us.
Kids don’t have the benefit of the world being tailored to them.
Writing position isn’t something adults often think about it.
So for kids just starting to write (or just starting to learn cursive), it’s important to provide a space that fits them.
They need a writing space where their feet reach the floor, they can sit upright, and they can easily reach the writing surface.
In addition, for cursive writing, it helps to keep the paper at an angle.
For left-handed kids, the paper will be tilted slightly to their right. For right-handed kids, the paper will be tilted slightly to the left.
Step 2: Cursive Letter Teaching Order
With 26 letters in the alphabet (or 52 if you’re counting uppercase and lowercase) it’s easy to get caught up in where to start.
Do you start with A and move through the alphabet? Teach them the letters in their name first? Start with lowercase and then uppercase?
Teaching cursive and print are very different. Many people start with uppercase letters when printing because they all take up the line and they’re considered easier to learn than lowercase.
The opposite is true with cursive. In cursive, it is more important to work on connecting the letters. Therefore, lowercase is much more important to learn.
If kids already know how to print their letters, the switch to cursive should be simple. There are a few letters that change. But other than that, they just need to learn how to connect the letters properly.
We teach letters in this order because the letters are formed similarly. For example, c, a, and d, and g all start with the same motion.
In this way, it is easier to teach kids all of the cursive letters.
I recommend this letter order:
Set 1: c, a, d, g
Set 2: i, t, p, u, q, j
Set 3: e, l, f, h
Set 4: k, r, s
Set 5: b, o, v
Set 6: m, n, y, x, z, q
There is a specific order to uppercase letters as well.
Set 1: A, C, O, U
Set 2: V, W, X, Y, Z
Set 3: P, R, B, H, K
Set 4: N, M, J, F, T
Set 5: I, D, L, G, S
Set 6: E, Q
Step 3: How to Actually Teach Cursive
Okay, I’ve given you a few tips but haven’t actually said how to teach cursive yet. That’s coming right now.
When we first approached cursive I thought it would be so easy. Just show them the letters and have them write it down.
But it quickly became apparent that they needed a bit more.
So we came up with a system.
- Model the letter
- Start with big movements
- Practice writing
- Use the letters in unconventional ways
Model the Letter
We always start teaching by showing, right? But I realized with cursive that they needed to be shown more than once.
And it really helped when I talked about what I was doing out loud.
So for teaching letter ‘c’, I would start by saying
“I start with my pencil on the bottom line. I write up to the middle line and stop. Then I trace my c around and down to the bottom line.”
I try to show them the letters on something large – like the whiteboard. And I’ll model it a few times.
Start with BIG Movements
Next, I like to get the kids up and moving with some BIG movements. Whether we are learning to write letters, recognize letters, sound out letters, or any other letter related thing – the big movements are great.
Making letters in the air has many benefits.
- It gets kids moving. Kids need to move. Especially young kids who are learning their letters.
I think we fail to realize that even older kids need to move. If you’re teaching cursive in 2nd, 3rd, or 4th grade – these kids still need to move! Get them up and out of their seats to practice big letter movements.
- Big movements teach fluidity. Cursive writing involves very fluid motions and this is easy to show using big movements.
- It helps kids truly understand the letters. As adults, we tend to take for granted that not everyone just knows their letters. They are second nature to us. But we had to learn that at one point.
Kids need to know all parts of letters. Big movements can help them learn their letters easier.
- It’s different. Not everyone learns the same way and different techniques will take root with different people. I love exploring new ways to learn things – even letters.
I ask them to stand up and make the letter as BIG as they can in the air.
My kids tend to be pretty reserved so they don’t get really into this. But I know there are some kids that would love this exercise and get a lot out of it.
This is never the most exciting part, but practice is key.
I just use some typical cursive writing worksheets and have them practice their writing. This helps me in two ways.
- It shows me if they actually know how to write the letter
- It alters me if they are forming any letters or parts of letters incorrectly.
I try not to force too much practice at one time.
But if we need to practice, I do my best to add in something new or interesting.
- Use gel pens
- Rainbow write the letters
- Time them to see how fast they can complete a full-page
- Use anything that’s not a pencil – pen, paint, highlighter, marker
- Use invisible ink and then expose it to see how well you wrote the letters
- Have them write in white crayon and then paint over with watercolors to expose the writing
We also utilize copywork. It’s not often their favorite activity. But I’ve found if I keep it short and consistent, they don’t always mind.
Use the Letters in Unconventional Ways
My last step is to get them practicing in different ways. This is very unlike practicing using gel pens.
Whereas writing practice is necessary for learning to correctly form the letters, practicing in unconventional ways is meant to make sure they can read and identify cursive letters.
Make Cursive Name Art (or use another word like ‘happy’ and hang it up)
Step 4: How to Teach Cursive Connections
The last major step in teaching cursive is showing kids how to connect the letters. It’s the one part of cursive that is not covered in print writing at all.
I like to cover cursive connections in a similar order as going through the cursive alphabet in the first place
- Model the letter
- Start with big movements
- Practice writing
Depending on the child, we might cover connections as we learn the letter. Sometimes we learn all the letters and then swing back around to learn the connections.
Start by modeling. I pick one letter to be the main focus and switch up the letter to which it’s connecting. For example, if we’re working on ‘a’ I’ll write an ‘a’ connected to an ‘o’ and then an ‘a’ connected to a ‘d’ and so on.
So first, model the connection for each letter. You can also do this in batches. Many letters connect in similar ways. Teach them all at the same time.
Next, write in the air. Have them write two letters together in the air to work on the connections.
Last, practice. Cursive writing worksheets, cursive practice strips, copy work, etc are all great for this.
Step 5: Tie it all together
Now that you have the steps, it’s time to put it together!
My best suggestion is to follow your kids lead. They may be ready to fly through cursive and they may choose to take their time.
Either way, let them guide you through the pacing of cursive.
And finally – cursive is not better or worse than printing. I love giving kids options and cursive is just that – another option in writing.