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Cursive First, An Introduction to Cursive Penmanship

by Elizabeth FitzGerald

Reviewed by Martha Robinson

Purchase details: Cursive First, An Introduction to Cursive Penmanship by Elizabeth FitzGerald. 54 unbound pages. $15. Available only from LITHBTH Educational Services.

Elizabeth FitzGerald begins the teacher's manual with an introduction of why cursive should be taught first. In most countries other than the United States, cursive is taught before printing. In fact, in the United States, "up until the 1930s cursive was always taught first and penmanship was highly stressed in American schools." The author emphasizes that cursive is much easier to learn when the child begins study early -- as early as preschool years.

Mrs. FitzGerald created Cursive First to be used with Wanda Sanseri's Spell to Write and Read. Consequently, cursive is taught in alphabetical order for single lower case letters, then order of multi-letter phonograms used in Spell to Write and Read and The Writing Road to Reading, and lastly upper case letters.

"The House Diagram"and unique stroke names help students understand the heights of different letters. Letters such as "f" have an "attic stroke"that goes to the top line and also a "basement loop stroke" that goes below the base line. Other strokes include the "short uphill" stroke, the "clock face" stroke, the "tag" stroke, and the "tail" stroke.

Lessons are one-half page with five lines of practice for each. A couple of basic strokes are taught first, and other strokes are introduced as needed. The final two pages are full pages of lines for the child to practice writing his or her name and the entire alphabet. All pages are reproducible for use within the family.

A set of twenty-eight heavy cardstock flash cards (four per page) is included with Cursive First. A neatly-written cursive letter is shown on the front of the card while the phonograms, key words, and instructions for cursive letter formation are shown on the back. The "house diagram" and the clock face are on the other two cards. The author recommends lamination of the cards after they have been cut out.

Recommendation: 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. resources related to this review:

Review of Spell to Write and Read
Review of Handwriting Without Tears
Review of Italics, Beautiful Handwriting for Children
Review of Something Worthwhile Handwriting Exercises
Review of Educational Fontware
Review of SmithHand Handwriting
Interview with Bruce Smith, Ph.D. on developing elegant handwriting
Interview with Michael Sull, master penman
Interview with Dave Thompson, president of Educational Fontware

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