Teaching Cursive Part 4 (of 25) — Making Decisions About in Which Order to Teach the Cursive Letters

Many possibilities exist for the order in which to teach cursive letters.  So the question becomes, how to decide?

Should one teach small letters first, capital letters first, or a mixture of the two?  Should letters be presented in the order of the alphabet, similar letters together, or those letters most-used to be learned first?

I taught cursive for many years, and made a number of sets of masters with letters taught in different orders each time.  After a great deal of experimentation, here are my conclusions.

Teaching the small letters first, and capitals later (the most common system) often gives the result that many students never completely master the capitals.  When this happens, students don’t ever feel completely confident with their cursive, and those students are the ones who are first to revert to printing in subsequent years.

I’ve even had teachers (in their 20s and 30s) tell me that this happened to them as children, so they never felt confident with their cursive, and are embarrassed to write on the board with it.

My recommendation is to teach similarly-formed small letters together. Teach the capitals of those same letters at the same time as the small letters, and give students immediate daily practice with these capitals.  As my class masters just a few letters, I immediately make supplemental cursive masters with my students’ names on them.  Students love learning to write the names of every student in the class with proper cursive capitals.

Over the years I’ve made several sets of cursive masters, with the letters in different orders.  My objective this time was to give priority to the vowels so that as many real words can be written as soon as possible, even from the first day.  This give tremendous pleasure and motivation to the learners.  Here is my most recent planning list of cursive masters:

Planning Sheet for My Latest Set of Cursive Masters

My two priorities here were to get through the vowels as quickly as possible, in addition to grouping together similarly-formed small letters.  Capitals for the same letters are added on the the worksheets at the same time.  By the time I got to the last worksheet, there was only “z” left, which is why it is alone.

I would suggest making a worksheet of numbers and punctuation FIRST, rather than putting it at the end.  I just forgot to do it that way this time, which is why it is the last worksheet.  By including numbers, it’s easy to correct students’ writing of figures in math and on tests.  By including punctuation, it helps to correct all the students who don’t have a clue where to start a comma on the line and pull downward, or the students who finish the top half of question marks and exclamation marks right down on the line, and place the period part actually below the line.

Any grouping you choose, as a teacher, will be fine.  Just know in your own mind why you are choosing it.  For example, the vowel “o” might make more sense to follow Worksheet 1 (c, a,  d) in terms of formation, but since “e” is more commonly used in words, I chose to go ahead with “e” and “l” in Worksheet 2.

The next post will discuss which style of cursive writing to choose.

-Lynne Diligent

Part 1:  What NOT to Do When Teaching Cursive in the Classroom

Part 2:  Help for Teachers/Other Adults Who Need/Want to Learn Cursive on Their Own, or in Preparation for Teaching Cursive

Part 3:  How to Prepare the Paper to Make Your Own Cursive Masters

Part 5:  Which Form of Cursive Should I Teach?

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5 Responses to “Teaching Cursive Part 4 (of 25) — Making Decisions About in Which Order to Teach the Cursive Letters”

  1. rmd Says:

    I like the Getty-Dubay method of grouping letters based on their formation. So a, d, g, and q are grouped because of the commonality of the “a” formation. And b and p are grouped. And r, n, and m are also grouped. It makes it so much easier for children to work on common movements.

    • Lynne Diligent Says:

      –Yes, a, d, g, and q make perfect sense to group together. Regarding r and n and m, there is a lot of confusion in students between the r and n so grouping them together tackles this difference immediately. I do it at a different time, but I do tackle the same problem.

  2. rmd Says:

    fair point ..

    Getty-Dubay’s r, n and m all start the same way, on the mid line, with a down stroke to the base line, a bounce off the base line, then a “branch” halfway up between the base and mid lines (at the “branch line”);

    You continue to the mid line to form an “r”, and bounce off the mid and continue to the base line to finish for an “n”

    so they make an “r” a one stroke movement with a bounce off the base line. it’s ingenious. I taught it to my son and it worked great.

  3. rochelly Says:

    I have been noticing that very few cursive styles have the lower case letters above or below the midline – but usually right at the midline. I noticed the cursive font “PM 48” is below the midline. In art, the “golden mean” is more attractive than the exact middle, and I’ve lately felt that if the lower case is a little below or a little above the midline, it looks more attractive. I believe the Declaration of Independence is like this. So, I have been looking for writing paper where the dotted line is a little below the middle and I can’t find any. I am in the midst of teaching my six year old cursive and it would be nice to have paper like this. Also, you had mentioned about the speed of cursive. I am so glad to hear it is faster if you slant it. I was thinking that smaller lower case would be faster – another good case for not having it at the midpoint–but I was curious as to a study to show what is the best slant for speed. Thanks for your opinion.

    • Lynne Diligent Says:

      I don’t know where you are located, but you can get paper like that in Europe, Latin America, and Africa. Instead of being divided with a middle dotted line, European paper has each line divided horizontally into four sections within each line. Europeans (at least French) are taught to write the cursive lower-case letters half the size of American students, and you can make the taller strokes either double or triple, so this paper would work out well for your needs. Alternatively, you can make a copy of your own paper to look like this, and then photocopy it for teaching your child. On the lined photocopies, you can write originals neatly for your child to trace, and make photocopies of your originals so you can give the photocopies to your child to trace.

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