The Art of Cursive

This spring, students are perfecting their penmanship as members of the brand new Middle School Cursive Club! Once a curriculum requirement, now a seemingly dying art, cursive is a looped writing style that, when done correctly, saves time while looking beautiful. Middle School Head Mary Rafferty, the club’s supervisor, was inspired to assemble this group after learning that many of her students couldn’t read cursive handwriting. “Students would say to me, ‘Ms. Rafferty, your handwriting is so pretty, but I can’t read it.”

The Club is comprised of a small yet solid group of students eager to improve their calligraphy skills. “I joined because my grandparents write in cursive and I wanted to be able to read it,” one member explained. “My partner in Spanish class knows how to write in cursive and I wanted to learn too!” added another.

A recent Cursive Club meeting began with the group using sheets of specially lined paper to trace letters and practice their shapes. With cursive, repetition is key. The students’ hands (and minds) get accustomed to the shape and flow of the letters the more they write them.  

“I like writing the upper case letters!” one student shared. “I like lower case!!” her friend countered. While they may not agree on the best “case,” the majority concurred that their favorite letters to write are ‘Z’ and ‘L’, while the hardest letter to master is the capital ‘S’.

Throughout their study, Ms. Rafferty has given her students helpful tips and guidance. For example, did you know that being mindful of your posture and writing with your paper on a slant can help your cursive to flow easier? “When your letters look shaky, you’re being too stiff, “ Ms. Rafferty explained. “Lack of flow is what’s holding you back.”

To demonstrate this, Ms. Rafferty asked her students to stand up and move their arms in circles as if they were conducting an orchestra. She reminded them to move smoothly, avoiding any stiffness. “When you’re writing in cursive you’ll do this same movement, just on a smaller scale,” she noted. She also emphasized the importance of keeping a gentle grip on the pencil.

With their arms warmed up, the students moved to the whiteboards for a new exercise. Remembering to keep it loose and go with the flow, they each wrote a continuous line of loops, making sure they were the proper size and shape. “Not too tight!” Ms. Rafferty urged them. “You’re getting there!” After several rounds, the students moved on to practicing their signatures. “They are looking very official!” Ms. Rafferty exclaimed. “Don’t forget, the upper case letters should be bigger than the lower case.”

When their hands got tired, the students had the option to put down their pencils and work on iPads, using a virtual chalkboard application that allows them to trace letters, words and sentences using their fingers. “Cursive will be faster than print once you get the hang of it!” Ms. Rafferty encouraged them.

To finish their recent meeting, the students were given a special challenge… writing this sentence: The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. What makes this sentence so unique? “It uses every single letter of the alphabet!” one student exclaimed.

The long sentence seemed daunting at first, but their teacher was close at hand to answer tricky questions like, “How do I connect an ‘o’ to an ‘x’?” By the close of the meeting each student had successfully written the sentence in full.

While they gathered up their belongings and headed to their next class, Ms. Rafferty encouraged the club members to continue their cursive practice during spring recess. “I’m going to write letters in the snow!” one student exclaimed. “I’ll be away at the beach,” said another, to which her teacher replied, “Well then you can write your letters in the sand!”