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The Importance of Teaching Handwriting in the 21st Century

In this report, Hanover Research reviews the available literature on the importance of teaching handwriting in the 21st century. The report provides a special focus on cursive handwriting instruction.


As classrooms advance into the 21st century, they may be leaving something behind: pen and paper. The Common Core Standards—released in 2010 and so far adopted by all but five U.S. states1—have pushed cursive handwriting to the wayside in favor of keyboarding and other tech-based literacy learning. Though the Core allows states to supplement the required curriculum with cursive writing (or to delegate the decision to individual districts), several have reduced such instruction or opted out entirely, citing cursive’s lack of relevance to modern life.

The goal of this report is to examine the relevance of a handwriting curriculum for a 21st classroom. To do so, the report is divided into the following two sections:

  • Section I: Literature Review – Teaching Handwriting provides an overview of benefits of teaching handwriting in the 21st century.
  • Section II: Literature Review – Teaching Cursive discusses the arguments put forth by the advocates and opponents of teaching cursive in the 21st century classroom.

Key Findings

  • The Common Core standards for English language arts curriculum will no longer explicitly require cursive instruction for elementary school students, setting the stage for a national debate on the importance of handwriting instruction.
  • Experts recommend at least 15 minutes of handwriting instruction each day for students. Research has shown that improved handwriting skills has benefits for cognitive development and motor skills and can lead to improved writing skills and reading comprehension.
  • A survey administered to roughly 150 participants in attendance at the conference “Handwriting in the 21st Century? An Educational Summit” questioned participants about handwriting instruction. According to the findings of the survey, respondents believe that handwriting should be taught through grade five, both cursive and manuscript should be taught, and that handwriting instruction is more important than keyboarding instruction.
  • Opponents of cursive instruction argue that it is no longer relevant in an increasingly digital society, instructional time is better devoted to other classroom subjects that are included on standardized tests, and cursive writing is not necessary for academic achievement.
  • Proponents of cursive instruction, on the other hand, suggest that cursive benefits students’ motor skills and cognitive development, is a necessary back-up skill to technology, can boost academic achievement, and aids students with learning disabilities.
  • A review of the literature found that the issue of teaching handwriting—and more specifically, cursive—is being debated in districts and schools across the country. While some districts have dropped cursive from the curriculum entirely, more districts appear ambivalent by simply devoting less and less time to the subject. However, a few districts are actually strengthening their overall handwriting and cursive curriculum. Cursive instruction varied by grade level with a “cursive first” approach beginning in kindergarten in some cases and some schools continuing instruction through grade five.

1 “In the States.” 2011. Common Core State Standards Initiative.

(Continued- Download the full report)



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