Within the context of Montessori education there is often debate as to whether children should be taught print or cursive when first learning to write. It’s a conversation that sounds almost trivial in light of the fact that there is an even greater debate (in general education) about whether cursive writing is relevant at all in this age of technology – who needs to write, spell, or even read when computers can do it all for us? We’re being facetious, of course…but it is a horrifying thought!
The good news for those of us who have invested in Montessori as an education method, is that handwriting is an essential part of the Montessori learning process (cursive included, regardless of when it is learnt).
Maria Montessori talked about a child’s “explosion into writing” and spent a great deal of time preparing children for this moment. Montessori is known for discovering the importance of learning through movement and the senses, and research tells us of that there is a vital connection between the brain and the hand, whereby new pathways in the brain develop as children use their hands to explore and interact with the world. In other words, writing (amongst other sensorial exercises) is critical for cognitive development.
Montessori identified 4-4.5 years as the age at which the child is most ready to make the connection between the sounds of his spoken language and the written symbols for those sounds. Children are prepared for writing through activities in the classroom: sound games help children realise that words are made up of sounds; sandpaper letters make children aware that each sound has a symbol; the moveable alphabet enables children to put a thought into symbols by first ‘writing’ a single word, then a phrase, next a complete sentence and finally, a story; the final mode of preparation is working with metal insets, which helps children learn how to correctly hold a pencil and gauge pencil pressure.
Research cited in an article in Psychology Today (talking about how writing in cursive affects the brain) revealed some interesting things:
- Students (aged 6-12) wrote more words, faster, and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand versus with a keyboard.
- Cursive writing helps train the brain to integrate visual (and) tactile information, and fine motor dexterity.
- The regions of the brain that are activated during reading were activated during hand writing, but not during typing.
Whilst handwriting is a part of Montessori learning, the truth is that writing or typing doesn’t need to be an either/or decision: children can be computer literate and learn cursive – and writing, as a whole; well, there’s no debate there!
If you have any questions regarding Montessori schooling and methodology, we’d love to chat more with you – please visit our contact page and we’ll be in touch.