Frequently Asked Questions
about Cursive First


Cursive and Reading

If I teach my child cursive from the beginning, how will he learn how to read print?

The child will have plenty of practice reading bswr ppoth cursive (from cursive cards as well as from his own writing) and regular book face. The Cursive First method includes having the student daily practice reading all phonograms he has learned thus far using the 70 Basic Phonogram cards, all of which are printed in book face.

How will my child learn how to read cursive?

The first phonograms the child reads aloud and writes are his single-letter, cursive “a-z” phonograms. As he learns the “book face” multi-letter phonograms (sh, th, ee, etc.), he is likewise learning to write them in cursive and continues to practice reading his own cursive writing from past lessons. In addition, the teacher will model cursive writing for the child to read.

Will teaching cursive help a child with dyslexic tendencies?

Yes! One of the problems dyslexics have is being able to properly sequence the letters within words when reading or writing. Because it involves a flowing, uninterrupted movement from left to right, cursive eliminates virtually all reversals, a common occurrence in manuscript writing.  Dyslexia experts are rediscovering how helpful it is for the student—regardless of his age—to learn to write in cursive.

Teaching cursive

How young can I start teaching a child cursive penmanship?

Please read the Developmental Considerations article on this site for more on this topic.

Wouldn’t cursive be too difficult for a preschool or Kindergarten student?

Actually, connected writing is more developmentally appropriate for a young child than disconnected ball and stick writing.  Read more on the Rationales for Teaching Cursive First page.

How do I teach cursive if my child does not yet have good fine motor control?

Because children’s movement learning starts with large motor and progresses to fine motor, Cursive First does the same:

  • The child starts by writing with large motor movements and in tactile/kinesthetic media (feeling/movement) to reinforce the motor patterns associated with writing the letters.
  • The movements are reinforced as he rehearses a preset dialogue which walks him through each letter formation.

Child Learning cursive

  • As he develops mastery with the dialogue, he continues practicing his writing while repeating the sounds the phonograms will make in the written language, thus reinforcing the sound-symbol system.
  • Only when the child can automatically write his letter in the large motor and tactile/kinesthetic modes without a visual model will he transition to paper/pencil where the process is repeated.
  • Finally, he is directed to develop fine motor control of the writing instrument and spacial orientation on lines for what he already knows how to do automatically.

If I started my student in manuscript, how soon should I transition to cursive?

The sooner you transition the child to cursive the better. Penmanship is all about motor patterns. If the child has been writing in manuscript, then you want to retrain those motor patterns for the cursive writing as soon as possible.

If my student starts with cursive, when will he learn manuscript?

Penmanship is about teaching motor patterns. You want the child to develop an automatic legible hand. To this end, one method of writing needs be reinforced for several years. Manuscript is not necessary in the early years at all. Do not attempt to introduce manuscript until the child has a solid handle on cursive, at which time you can demonstrate how manuscript is merely the same cursive letters the student has been writing, just disconnected. See SWR pp. 38-39 for more on this. The child will need to practice the new motor patterns for the disconnected writing.

How does Cursive First fit with SWR?

See SWR p. 12. As you work through Cursive First, you will be completing the SWR Scope & Sequence Steps #5, 6, 7, and 10.

When do I know my child is ready to move from penmanship and into the spelling lists?

Once your child is consistently saying and writing the phonograms from dictation only, without any visual aid, he can move into the spelling lists.

In order for a child to learn to spell with SWR, he must be able to write his connected letters from teacher dictation without a visual model. For example, the teacher might give the instruction, “Say /k – a – t/ while you write it,” and the student will say /k – a – t/ while writing “cat.” If the student is stopping and asking how to write his letters during this process, his brain has been redirected away from the spelling lesson and back to penmanship. If this happens regularly, this is evidence that the student needs more penmanship practice and has possibly transitioned into spelling too soon.

Be sure that you are reinforcing daily:

  1. Reading the learned phonogram cards (in cursive and in book face), and
  2. Quizzing the learned phonograms from dictation, without a visual model.

Please note that some children are ready to learn to spell while they are still in the large motor learning phase. Their penmanship is automatic, and they can write without a visual model. They merely need to move to the paper/pencil context. These students can certainly begin in the lists using large motor contexts (white board, lap board, SmartPal®, salt box, etc.) while continuing to develop fine motor skills in a separate lesson.

Here is a video of Britta McColl, one of our Endorsed SWR Trainers, working with a four-year-old boy on his spelling. You’ll notice that he’s practicing his cursive using large motor movements and then writing his new spelling words on the chalk board, again using large motor muscles.

When do I teach the multi-letter phonograms?

All students using Cursive First will start by learning the a-z lower case phonograms.

When the beginning Kindergarten or first grade student starts his spelling lists in the Wise Guide, his introduction to the multi-letter phonograms will coordinate with the instruction in each of his spelling lists. An older student who is transitioning to cursive will immediately start practicing the multi-letter phonograms needed for his starting point in the Wise List.

Can Cursive First be used with older students who know manuscript?

Yes! Cursive First has been used successfully with many older children who were already using manuscript but needed to transition to cursive. There is a section in the Teacher’s Manual dedicated to teaching the transitioning student.

If I start my older student with Cursive First, how long until he will be able to do his lessons in cursive?

This depends entirely on the time and energy you and your student devote to learning this new method of writing. You will need to devote time each day to simple penmanship instruction and practice. Here are two options for including cursive in your lessons:

  • Option #1:  Have the student use his current penmanship while you start SWR. Meanwhile teach cursive as a separate subject.  Once the student’s cursive writing is more automatic, you can start requiring it during your lessons. From this point on, all writing should be in cursive to reinforce the new motor patterns.
  • Option #2:  Spend two weeks doing a “cursive boot camp” and get your student’s cursive writing up to the automatic level. At that time you can start your SWR lessons with the student writing only in cursive.

How can I teach cursive if I don’t write in cursive?

You simply learn along with your student! We’ve frequently heard from teachers using our program that their cursive got much better or that they finally learned how to write in cursive because of our program.

Does Cursive First include instruction on how to teach a left-handed student?

Yes, the issue of handedness is addressed in the Teacher’s Manual.

Cursive in this technological age

Why does my child need to learn cursive when everyone is pushing keyboarding skills? Isn’t cursive outdated?

Evidence is being released almost daily as to the benefits of penmanship and specifically cursive for the beginning student and the link it provides to improved learning and reading. Here are but a few resources for you to explore.

To understand how cursive penmanship — from the beginning — is better for a student and helps with reading development, please read our Rationales page.


How many Cursive First packets do I need?

Each teacher needs only one packet. Whether you are in a classroom, a homeschool, or a tutoring setting, the practice sheets may be copied for all of your students – but only your students – for as long as you teach them. The Cursive First packet may not to be shared among teachers with different students.

What do I get with the Cursive First packet?

Each packet comes with the following:

  • a teacher’s manual
  • the reproducible practice sheets, and
  • a set of Cursive First Cards, including the a-z cursive phonogram cards, cards for writing numerals 0-9, and instruction cards for teaching letters and numerals

Why do I need the phonogram cards and mobile app if I’m not using SWR?

The goal of Cursive First is to help your student learn to instantly recognize the phonograms (letter or letter combinations that represent the sounds of English) in reading AND to automatically and legibly write them in cursive.

The Cursive First cursive cards and the 70 Basic Phonogram Cards work together include information that uniquely equips the teacher to help your student reach that goal. Only the 70 Basic Phonogram cards include information about the sounds for the multi-letter phonograms.

The SWR mobile app helps you learn the phonograms so you correctly teach them. The app is available on both the iTunes and Google Play app stores.

All of these materials are needed to make a complete package for using Cursive First.

Is the Cursive First program required if I want to teach SWR?

No, you do not need to use Cursive First to use SWR. There are instructions in the SWR manual for teaching cursive penmanship, which you can use to teach your students. Cursive First was developed to provide you with the necessary tools to do this successfully and easily. If you have a penmanship program that you like or that you’re already using, you can certainly use that along with SWR. Just make sure that you’re following the recommendations in SWR for teaching penmanship. See SWR Steps 5 & 6 for more on this.

Can I use Cursive First if I’m not using SWR?

Yes, Cursive First has been successfully used with other phonics-based reading systems. In fact, some people have incorporated the phonograms in Cursive First and the corresponding 70 Basic Phonograms to supplement programs which are weak in explicit phonics.

What style is the Cursive First penmanship?

Cursive First incorporates a simple, no-flairs style of cursive writing.


Are the practice pages available in pdf format?

At this time, the pages are only available in paper format. We are considering offering a digital format if/when we release a 3rd edition of Cursive First. Plans for that have not yet been put in motion.

Is there anything else I need besides the Cursive First packet?

  • The 70 Basic Phonogram Cards and the SWR mobile app complete the package. See why these are necessary above.
  • laminated chart of the Cursive First alphabet is an excellent tool to post for your student’s easy reference.
  • A salt box is a highly recommended tool for honing in toward fine motor skills.
  • A Clock Stamp is a useful tool for teaching the clock letters and other math-related concepts.
  • Vis-a-Vis overhead marker (wet erase) may be used on your laminated Cursive First cards for writing directly on the card while teaching letter formation.