January 17, 2013

Cursive Process Series

My cursive posts have been quite popular and I have had a few moms e-mail asking me to post the entire series as we go so that they can follow along at home.  Since I rarely have a chance to post something that I know is being directly useful to someone out there, I'm happy to oblige.  But rather than adding a new post every other day and making my readers who care nothing at all about cursive teaching bored out of their minds, I will just add to this existing post with photos of our chalkboard drawings and the kids' results.  Maybe a few notes about the process.

Here are a few cursive specific answers to questions from readers:

No, this is not a formal method.  These are my own ideas about the best order and method for teaching cursive based on my own reading, research, and experience.  We'll find out, I suppose, if I'm on to something or not by the time this series is over.

Yes, it looks very Waldorf-ish.  While we're not Waldorf homechoolers, handwriting is one of those areas that I think they are on to something with the form drawing and the beauty.  My kids get a little more jazzed about things that are beautiful (yours probably do too) and so we are going to learn cursive - the most beautiful kind of handwriting - by making beautiful artwork in our notebooks.  Still, this isn't Waldorf's handwriting sequence or method.  I don't know what they do in handwriting lessons other than make things pretty.  So while I'm inspired by Waldorf blogs to make our handwriting all fanciful and lovely, I'm not using any official Waldorf directed method here.

How did I decide on the sequence (and what was it again)?  Well, I pretty much just grouped letters by general form, and for each form we will go from the most simple to the most complex.  I did not, however, start with the simplest basic form because I wanted to create a feeling of "Hey!  Now that I'm into this, things are getting way easier!"  I think the loop based letters are perhaps the simplest (and the ones I was taught first) but I chose to start with the A based letters because they are trickier while still being doable, and because there are more words we could write after just learning a couple of them.  So, the sequence will be A,D,G,and C, then loop letters E, L, B, F, K  then H will transition between loop and hump letters, and on to the other hump letters N, M, V, Y, and Z then stick letters I, J, T, U, (and here we'll add Q.  It's an A based letter, but completely useless until you have U, so...you know.) and W,  and finally letters that didn't fall neatly into a family O,P,R,S, X 

Do I do the chalk board drawings ahead of time?  Nope.  I think the kids would be visually overwhelmed with that as their starting point.  Instead, I draw each step and have them trace over my work on the board after each step, before adding an element.  This always looks like 1) line of abstract form across the top that will help their little hands with a motion that they will need in the new letter 2) a large letter in the center, traced and retraced, 3) a line of the new letter all connected, and 4) words or nonsense words that use the letters previously mastered along side the new letter.  5) We decorate!  Sometimes there's an obvious theme.  Other times we just make things all  purdy like.

I think that covers it.  If you have other questions, please feel free to e-mail me or leave them in the comments box.  I will put a link to this post in the sidebar in the next few days and just keep adding to this very post as we add new letters to our own repertoire.

cursive a demo

Lowercase A.  The loops at the top move the hands in the direction of the A.  Once you draw the letter, it helps to mark the point at which the pencil will change directions.  I know they make the same change of direction in print, but sometimes the very idea of cursive can feel so overwhelming that even the familiar feels unfamiliar and these little reminders help.

Cursive D

Lower case D:  The ocean waves along the top use the continuous switchback motion in the A based letters.    The word "dad" is used on the practice line.  And the top waves lend themselves to an ocean theme.

letter g

Lower case G:  Downward loops move the hand in the new loops direction.  Hunter COULD NOT make this row of loops no matter how many times he tried, but he did draw the letter without a hitch.  The words fir the final line are gag, dag, and gad.  Yes...nonsense words.  It's okay :)  The kids loved the rainbow artwork I made and ended up making storm clouds and lightening around their letters, in addition to the rainbow.

  letter c

 Letter C:  Sorry for the blur, but the light is changing a little each day and our chalk board is right untder the window.  I'll have to move that soon!  Letter C theme was a cave with bats flying out and a man beside a fire inside.  The words, still mostly nonsense, were cad, gac, and cac.  Once we add E, we'll get some real words going again!
letter e

 Letter E: We had a sewing theme, with a quilt along the top (because we've simply worn out the loops by this point) and after we made the E and traced it, we extended its ends to make a thread from a spool.  Practice words were age, cade, and gage, but I realized after that cade was supposed to be cage.  Oops!  Oh well.  It got Haven singing Les Mis because he said, "Of course cade is a word!  It's the end of barricade!  Somewhere beyond the barricade, is there a world you long to see?"

cursive L

L became a lion with practice words leg, led, and lag.

cursive B

B was for balloons and bunnies and the practice words were bed, beg, and bag.

B proved to be the absolute hardest letter thus far so we've taken several extra practice days here before working on anything new.


For letter F, we went with a forest theme.  This made use of the line that you'll need to establish first, before forming the letter.  Practice words were fall, elf, and fad.  After the letter B, F felt like a cake walk!

We tossed in i and t by accident (or by request) on a whim doing other things, and our letter H chalk drawing was destroyed by a pint sized house guest before I could snap a picture.  :(  But the theme was house and then the kids added all sorts of other h things to their pictures.  Sorry I can't show you.

Next came K.  We seem to be heading down a path of just decorating a large letter in a field by surrounding it with letter appropriate pictures rather than making the letter itself into something cool.  But let's face it.  There's not much can be made from a K.  Hannah Jane made her K a tree by filling in the inner space with brown and then adding foliage to the top.  Anyway, there's a kitten, keyhole, key and kits in mine.  The keyhole reminded HJ of Alice in Wonderland, so her kitten was a cheshire kitten and it turne dout quite adorable.  The words were kite, keg, and kid.  In hindsight, I might have replaced keg with keel.  Oh well.

For m and N, we made 2 mountain ranges with a stream and a horse, and some sheep.  I anticipated these being easy letters, so we did 2 at once.  It turns out, though, that making the humps in the letters that aren't way spread apart and that are more or less the same height was pretty stinking hard for them.  I emphasized the retracing of the last portion of each hump when starting the next to avoid that big gaping space between the humps and that seemed to help.  The practice words were man, nat, and mat.  Yes, I know.  Gnat is spelled with a G.  But we were thinking of a character in a book named Nat, and I consented to using his name even though we weren't capitalizing it.


For u, we made a skate boarding park.  The boys LOVED this theme.  As with the m and n, the inclination was to leave too much space between the sidewalls of the points (does that make sense?) so that a row of u's looked more like ocean waves than points.  Again, emphasizing the retracing of the upstroke as you make the downward stroke really seemed to fix that problem.  The practice words were gut, fun, and guff.

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