LITHBTH Educational Services
Cursive First
Cursive First: An Introduction to Cursive Penmanship
2nd Edition
By Elizabeth FitzGerald, M.S.
Use together with Wanda Sanseri's
Spell to Write and Read and The WISE Guide

Cursive First Wins Reader Awards


Cursive First has been voted 1st by homeschoolers for their favorite Handwriting programs. Readers of the Practical Homeschooling Magazine rated all the products with which they were personally familiar on the basis of product quality. Thanks to all the readers who voted for Cursive First!


Why teach cursive first?

Historically cursive was taught first to our nation's children. Today, reading and dyslexia experts are rediscovering that teaching cursive first--before print or manuscript--improves long-term penmanship skills, helps children learn to read, virtually eliminates reversals, and enables children to read what is written by others. Cursive First introduces children to writing numerals, the cursive alphabet, and the most common phonograms of the English language. The package coordinates with the instruction found in the highly successful Spell to Write and Read and The WISE Guide by Wanda Sanseri, and can be used with the beginning writer or an older student transitioning from print to cursive.

For an abridged version of the first chapter from Cursive First (2nd Edition) on the Rationales for teaching cursive for initial penmanship, click on link below.

The Teacher's Manual includes discussion and instruction about

* the rationales for teaching cursive first

* developmental considerations and preparing the child

* the reference tools used to teach penmanship

* how to teach cursive penmanship to beginning or transitioning writers

* how to use the Practice Sheets

* detecting visual and perceptual problems

The Practice Sheets

* include detailed instruction and dialogue for teaching numerals, cursive strokes and the first 26 phonograms

* utilize narrow ruled, dotted lines for practice

* provide brief and specific practice of phonograms under current study

* teach lower case letters separately from capital letters

* teach connections between letters from the very beginning and in the natural context of multiletter phonograms

* provide solid and dotted line models for writing, but quickly wean the student from tracing to more active learning and writing

* can be used as masters to copy as many times as needed for each child in your classroom or family

The Cursive Phonogram Card Set

* provides practice for reading first 26 phonograms in cursive to encourage instant recall

* includes instructional dialogue for writing the phonograms and sample of cursive writing

* ready to cut apart and laminate for durability

* includes instruction cards for teaching numerals and cursive letters

* printed on yellow cardstock to differentiate them from other phonogram or spelling rule cards


Advantages of Cursive First, 2nd Edition

MULTIPLE AGE ADAPTABILITY - Cursive instruction manuals are marketed for students in second or third grade, the time at which the transition from manuscript is taught. There is only one I have found for children as young as kindergarten. Cursive First can be used with the young child just learning to write his phonograms or with the older student transitioning to cursive.

EFFICIENT PAPER USE - Most penmanship books have page after page of beautifully illustrated practice sheets with very little room for actual writing practice. Kathy Libby has said, "Perhaps large American educational publishers, those that provide expensive, beautiful, four-color practice books, ought to reevaluate the quality of their materials. I observe that the amount of actual practice per page is reduced by colorful cute pictures, robbing attention and space from the goal of developing fluent cursive" (Francis, 2000). Every practice page in Cursive First is completely dedicated to practicing penmanship without wasting paper or distracting young writers with busy pictures.

PHONOGRAMS ORDERED FOR MOTOR PATTERN REINFORCEMENT - Other manuals introduce the letters in alphabetical order, but knowing the alphabetical order is important for dictionary work, not for learning how to write them. In Cursive First, the letters are introduced according to the first strokes used to form the letter, thus reinforcing new motor patterns.

LOWER-CASE LETTERS TAUGHT SEPARATELY - The prevailing practice with penmanship books is to teach capital letters on the same page as their lower-case partners. According to Spalding, the student needs to have learned the lower-case letters well before being introduced to the capital letters (Spalding, 1990). Hilde Mosse also warned, "The best way to teach writing from kindergarten on is to use one style of letters only." (Mosse, 1982) Capital letters are used much less frequently than their lower-case partners. Also, by delaying the teaching of capitals, we demonstrate to the child that English has rules which dictate where the capitals are required. The lower-case letters are introduced in Cursive First before capital letters are taught. The exception to this rule is teaching children the capital letters that start their names.

CLOCKFACE REFERENCE TOOL USE - No other manuals for cursive incorporate the clockface as a directional teaching device. This crucial element of Spalding's method for writing instruction was too valuable to lose. The clockface is used in Cursive First for writing the first six phonograms, several of the numerals, and as a reference point for many other letters.

MORE THAN A COPYBOOK - Many penmanship books amount to nothing more than copybooks with little or no instructions to guide the student or teacher. Libby noticed that instead of teaching handwriting skills, most workbooks use the instruction set known as "trace and write," leaving the children to figure out the starting and stopping points of letters (Francis, 2000). Cursive First offers detailed instructions for the teacher to ensure that the student is properly taught the penmanship skills necessary to a fluent, neat and legible cursive hand.

NARROW-RULED PRACTICE PAGES - Penmanship publishers use wide-lined paper for Kindergartners and first graders with narrower lines for older students. Contrary to popular opinion, writing on larger spaced lines is harder for young children than writing on narrower lined paper. Larger lines require greater control of the writing instrument to maneuver the larger space and is more of a drawing than a writing activity (Spalding, 1990). Young children can use smaller lined paper and excel at it. The lines in Cursive First are 7/16" (11 mm), narrower than usually found in writing paper for young children. The narrower lines also make these practice pages appropriate for all ages wanting to learn cursive penmanship.

COST-EFFECTIVE & REPRODUCIBLE - Penmanship instruction is typically packaged in expensive consumable workbooks. Cursive First offers the teacher practice pages to copy for all of her students as many times as needed so that mastery of the letters and multiletter phonograms can be achieved. Teachers can use pages in the order presented or pull out sheets that meet the individual needs of a particular student. Some sheets will need to be duplicated more than once whereas others may not be used at all. Cursive First provides the teacher greater flexibility and cost-effectiveness.

NUMERAL WRITING INSTRUCTION - A kindergarten student not only must master the skill of writing his letters and words, but must also be a fluent writer of his numerals for arithmetic. The marking system used in Spell to Write and Read (SWR) incorporates numbers to indicate phonogram sounds and the spelling rules used within a word. The student is expected to write these soon after formal instruction in SWR has begun. Most penmanship workbooks ignore numerals, leaving that to the math workbooks to teach. The problem with this segregation of skills is that many of the same writing skills that help a child become fluent in his letters are also necessary for numerals. Cursive First includes instructions for teaching the young student how to write numerals and suggests using this context for beginning penmanship practice.

WISE GUIDE COORDINATION - Cursive First was designed to coordinate specifically with the phonograms used in SWR and with the order of presentation for the multiletter phonograms found in the companion book The WISE Guide. This penmanship manual goes beyond teaching the letters of the alphabet to incorporate the practice of penmanship within the context of the 70 most common phonograms of the English language.

TEACHING TOOLS INCORPORATION - Finally, unlike other copybooks, Cursive First includes a set of cards to assist the instructor in teaching the numerals and phonograms. The cards can be used within reading and spelling lessons to further reinforce the sound-symbol relationship.


Endorsements from Cursive First users and Reviews...

To read a complete Curriculum Review by Jennifer Schmidt, see her blog.

To read Cathy Duffy's Curriculum Review, see her web site.

My two oldest children learned manuscript printing according to WRR & TRHS at the time. After hearing about the idea of teaching cursive first, I chose this method for my third child. He developed a nice handwriting, eliciting our first and only compliment from Grandma regarding homeschooling. He easily reads and uses both print and cursive. The letters are grouped by similar strokes in the Cursive First packet making them easy to learn. Instruction for the multiletter phonograms matches The WISE Guide. I decided to use the practice sheets for my older children, and their cursive improved as well! Cursive First is something I plan to provide and emphasize for all of them at the beginning of each school year. - Rhonda Bedee, SWR Trainer, TX

If you've been thinking about bypassing traditional printing you should consider Cursive First. It is a very thorough curriculum, and it also comes with a set of three numeral cards, the cursive alphabet, and three instruction cards, and what I always appreciate is the teaching dialogue ? that is included as well. - Kathy Davis, Curriculum Reviewer Read more of Kathy's review at Homeschool Buzz.

Cursive is so much easier for the teacher and the student because it eliminates confusion as to where to begin letters and how to write them. My children learned the cursive quickly. Although I was concerned that they would have problems recognizing bookface letters, they had no problem reading print in books as they were learning the cursive. The house diagram in Cursive First gave good spacial reference for my son when learning how to write on lines. The practice sheets provided the right ratio of letter models to the amount of blank room left for practicing. Using a half sheet of paper was encouraging to my children that the practice was doable. - Betsy Williams, Homeschooling Mother, CA

Cursive First is an easy to implement, yet thorough, introduction to cursive. Mrs. FitzGerald makes some very interesting points, that are well worth considering, about teaching cursive prior to printing. While this program was written to accompany Spell to Write and Read, it could be used alone or with another phonics based program. - Martha Robinson, M.S., Curriculum Reviewer, FL

Last year I taught my first grade daughter penmanship with Cursive First. In just 10 to 15 minutes every other day, beautiful penmanship was achieved and it soon become her best subject! Teaching the penmanship verbally with the instruction cards made it very easy to teach the correct formation of each letter. The style of cursive used in the program is an easy-to-learn form of writing. I will be using Cursive First with my preschool son this year, based on the fact children continually revert back to the style of writing they first learn. For this year, I went ahead and purchased the 2nd Edition of Cursive First because so many neat extras were added. The price is far less than it's worth. Not only will my child be learning phonograms in a fun way, but the Teacher?s Manual is full of tips for proper penmanship instruction, ways to establish good writing posture, the correct way of holding a pencil, and other wonderful habits to establish early on as taught in the classical teaching of penmanship. Twice the benefit! I can't wait to use it in full force with the SWR program. We are thankful for this user-friendly program. A lot of time and research obviously went into this excellent program! - Mrs. Yrigollen, Homeschooling Mother, CA

I had been teaching my youngest boys with a different cursive program last year and while there are many very nice things about that cursive, I now see that Cursive First is much better. I am using it to teach three children and am quite pleased with it. My 7-year-old was pretty good at cursive when we started, but my 6-year-old was balking and had a lot of directional problems. He is doing much better now and just wrote the word "hill" today on the "I" page all by himself with beautiful handwriting. I like how Cursive First starts with the clock face letters; I have never seen a cursive program that does that. I just do a few lines every few days with my 4-year-old, and since the clock letters are taught in such an orderly way, I don't think he'll have the directional problems that the 6-year-old did. The program is arranged in such a logical and methodical order, and it saves me a lot of money because I can copy the practice pages to use with all three kids. I have two more younger kids, so I will be able to use Cursive First with five children (at least). That is a great bargain to me! - Britta McColl, Homeschooling Mother, WI

We began using Cursive First at the beginning of the year with my 3rd and 1st graders. My 3rd grader also hated to write. Now that he is learning to spell with SWR and writing in cursive, he is blossoming in his writing skills and rarely complains about having to write. It is, however, a process to transition from manuscript to cursive. It will take some time. I jumped for joy the day I saw my son labeling his math word problems in cursive. That is when I knew it was going to stick eventually. He says he likes cursive because it is so much easier. Who would have known? - Peggy Rose, Homeschooling Mother, CA