I Believe in Cursive

cursive handwriting

Almost every year, I develop a new learning theory that is not based on research or educational best practices of any kind. It is simply an opinion based on my experiences with students. This year’s theory relates to the deterioration of spelling skills and the de-emphasis of handwriting instruction– cursive handwriting in particular. I partially blame e-mail and texting for the spelling problem, but I think the fact that schools do not demand better penmanship is a larger contributor to the increase in poor spellers I see every year.

I suspect that students spell better when they spend time learning, practicing, and using cursive handwriting in the elementary grades. Cursive connects letters together creating a muscle memory between your hand and brain. Your brain will then remember common letter connections, patterns, and rules and subconsciously guide the hand to order letters correctly more often. Try to spell your own signature with a different letter order. It is difficult to force your hand not to put the letters of your name in the correct order. Your hand is on auto-pilot to write the name correctly. Students can achieve the same success with common words and common spelling patterns if they correctly write them in a connected way on a daily basis.

Here are a few activities I am asking my students to complete this year. They work well at school or at home to reinforce the correct spelling of the words we use most often and the patterns that repeat frequently. If you are looking for a new way to study for that weekly spelling test, have your child practice writing the words in cursive.

cursive handwriting spelling patterns

Make a list of words that a student often misspells. Have the child write the word in his/her best cursive multiple times. Provide a sample to copy, so the letter order and letter formation are correct.

Group words that have similar letter patterns and write the portion of the word that is the same in all words multiple times. For example, if the student has a handful of words in a list that end with the letters le (settle, riddle, struggle), require the student to write the letters le together 5 times or 10 times or 10+ times.

I watch my students’ papers and track the cursive letter connections that are hard to form. M and n are particularly tricky because kids want to add an extra “hump” and don’t see that the hump is actually a connector piece. O is also hard to connect to the next letter because it ends “high.” Letter pairs like os and ol are challenging. Compare the difficult connections with misspelled words and make a list of those letter groups. Practice writing the letter pairs together correctly.

cursive handwriting connections

Always provide a sample with the correctly formed letters. Sometimes, this is the hardest part because my own cursive handwriting is adequate at best. I have tried harder this year because I need my students to be able to use cursive more effortlessly, so I can prove my theory.

I will admit that I completed a mini Google search about handwriting and spelling. There are articles here and there that support my theory (ha, I knew I was right). While I also have my students complete a lot of keyboarding and typed writing assignments, I think there will always be a place for handwritten documents. If you have read any of my letter writing posts, you know how I feel about handwritten thank you notes! Does anyone else have an opinion?

To purchase cursive handwriting practice pages at my TeachersPayTeachers store, CLICK HERE.

So That’s How You Spell It

grocery list

This is the grocery list Miss Priss gave me. Can anyone guess what we need from the store?

I always have a student who is a poor speller. There are kids who just never get the hang of the common patterns in the English language. I think our use of text speak and lack of handwriting practice is partly to blame, but I will save that discussion for another post.

I have a few tricks to help my students with common spelling errors, and I give some practice work for the summer too. In the age of spell check, correct spelling will be about recognizing the best way to spell a word rather than having to generate the correct spelling from memory.

If your child needs some practice over the summer or some reminders when school begins again in August, try a few of these spelling tactics. Your son or daughter might not be heading to the National Spelling Bee, but they might catch a few more errors in their writing.

Use What is Already There

  • I often have students misspell words that appear in the test or assignment. Practice looking back through a paper and comparing your spelling to words that are provided in questions or directions or even a word bank.
  • This strategy can also be useful if a child sees a word that rhymes. Rhyming words may have the same spelling pattern and the base part of the word can be copied. If you can spell rock, you might be more likely to spell sock with the CK ending. 
  • The same tactic would work if a child needs to change an ending on a word. If you see the word humid and need to write humidity, a child could make a reasonable guess using the original word given.

copying paragraphs

Practice Copying Words Correctly

  • The more often you spell a word correctly, the more likely you will spell it correctly in the future. There is muscle memory, and your hand memorizes the way letters connect (which is why cursive handwriting is important IMO). Think about writing your name. When I got married, it took awhile to retrain my hand not to automatically begin the letters of my maiden name.
  • If your child’s handwriting is really poor, and you have moved on to keyboarding, you can complete this same activity on the computer, although I think the act of handwriting is more effective.

Practice Adding Endings to Words

  • This is a great reminder about the spelling rules that we are taught directly or pick up through reading. Start with a base word like hop. Add a variety of endings and say aloud why/how the word changes. Hop becomes hopped, hopping, hops. For the ED and ING endings, we doubled the final consonant to protect that vowel sound. For the S ending, we did not need to protect the vowel sound because we were adding the consonant S. In this case, look at the word hoping. How is it pronounced? Why? What is the difference between hopping and hoping.

Practice Locating Mistakes

  • Look at a sentence or small paragraph with errors. Find the errors and make the necessary corrections.

Here are some other 4th grade tips for words that are often confused.

Separate

  • There is A RAT in the middle of the word sepA RATe.

Affect v. Effect

  • Affect is a verb (action– also starts with A). It will often have a helping verb nearby. If you can’t remember your helping verbs, I have a list here in the grammar plan. The storm did AFFECT our electricity.
  • If the word has ED on the end,  it should probably be AFFECT. We were AFFECTED by the power outage. This example also has the helping verb clue.
  • Effect is a noun. It will often have A, AN, or THE nearby and be the subject of the sentence. The EFFECT of the storm was devastating.

Desert v Dessert

  • Desert is a dry place because of little rainfall.
  • Dessert is the yummy treat you have after a meal. It has two S’s because you want two servings!

Their, They’re, or There

  • Their is possessive; it shows ownership. If you can replace their with the word his or her, and the sentence makes sense, use THEIR. We went swimming at their pool. We went swimming at his pool.
  • They’re means they are. Read the sentence with the words they are. If it sounds right, use the contraction. They’re swimming at the neighbor’s pool. They are swimming at the neighbor’s pool. In fact, any time you are dealing with a contraction, use the complete words to check yourself. The replacement word test for their and they’re will work when checking it’s and its. Try using it is and his or her.
  • There is a location. If the replacement words used above sound funny, use THERE. You can also sometimes replace there with at that placeWe will be swimming there. We will be swimming at that place.

Too

  • Too has an extra O because you have more, extra.
  • If you can replace too in a sentence with also or so, you probably need TOO. That soup is too hot, and it burned my tongue. That soup is so hot, and it burned my tongue. I want to eat soup too. I want to eat soup also

I have teaching materials for commonly misspelled words, spelling rules, and spelling patterns. To purchase spelling resources from my TeacherPayTeacher store, CLICK HERE.