Starting with Cursive

The old argument about cursive and print alphabets has once again surfaced as a growing number of reading specialists and teachers are becoming more vocal about the advantage of cursive relative to reading skill development.

As a result, we have received many more requests from teachers and parents for a tool that is designed specifically for introducing written language using the cursive alphabet instead of print forms. We have responded with a new entry-level cursive curriculum that is unique in many ways.

A New Delivery Concept

We have created a totally new tool for instruction as an E-book. This format offers huge advantages.

  • First, there is no need to purchase an expensive workbook for each child or a manual for each teacher. You purchase one e-book license and download the PDF file.
  • Second, because you print pages as needed, you are not limited to one use as with a bound student book.
  • Third, the pages can also be used for instruction by projecting your computer screen. Fourth, the book is both teacher handbook and student text. Fifth, student pages can be printed in color.

Two versions are available. A Building License allows all teachers to use the file as needed from the building server. An Individual License is also available. Using the free Acrobat Reader program from Adobe, you simply open the book and print the pages from your computer as you need them for lessons.

Peterson Color/Rhythm

Our trademark color/rhythm alphabet models, introduced back in 1972, have proven to be exceptionally effective for process instruction over many years. One-color models on typical wall alphabet cards show what a letter looks like.

Color/rhythm does that while also showing how the letter is made. Color separations illustrate the individual movements needed as well as the sequence of movement.


The Peterson Movement-Based Strategy

The Peterson Method has been successful since 1908 because it allows you to include fluent movement as a goal from the beginning. When your instruction includes a movement goal (move the pencil with your voice), internalization of the sequence is greatly enhanced. A child who can create copies of the letter as the "action words" are chanted, no longer needs to look at a picture of the letter to write. The movement sequence has been stored in the motor system and can be recalled without a visual prompt.

Develop, Practice and Apply

One major hurdle to starting with cursive is presented by your language/reading readiness program sequence. Most programs, no matter what the approach, demand the use of handwriting long before the child can internalize all of the patterns for letters. This points out the need for three kinds of handwriting lessons.

Regular exercise lessons are needed to develop the internal pattern. When you include rhythmic movement as a goal in pattern-development exercises, you will quickly see the need for practice lessons that will allow the child to improve control of the movements. Finally, and most importantly, when the child is expected to use handwriting, we provide the only process for beginning application that makes sense. The child must learn to build words and does so one letter at a time. Only the Peterson cursive concept provides a way to do just that with cursive letters.

Complete Correlation

The e-book is alphabetically arranged so that you can use the movement training for letter-pattern development as part of your reading readiness or language program. Virtually all readiness programs include a writing activity in each lesson. As you introduce the forms, use the Peterson Method materials to handle the physical training as part of each lesson.

Review Before You Buy

The link provided here will take you to a review page where you can open a secured version of the book. You will be able to review all pages on screen. You will find that the book is both teacher guide and student text. Click here to review the program.

Print or Cursive, What Is Our Opinion?


The most important consideration is not related to choosing between print and cursive alphabets. Common sense dictates that both have a place. We know from vast experience, that good physical process instruction will allow success with both alphabets when fluency is included as a goal. Fluency is the important link between handwriting instruction and development of proficient written language skills. Unfortunately, the majority of "programs" offered by educational publishers do not recognize fluency as the goal of instruction.

Long term, we firmly believe that cursive offers the most fluency. And at the same time, it presents the biggest challenge. It is our opinion that one of the most valuable opportunities offered by handwriting instruction is precisely that learning challenge. However, this is true only when fluency is included as a goal, measured and targeted. The reward presented by successful learning is enhanced processing of written language in all forms. This processing reward can only be realized when precise process instruction provides understanding and the student has regular opportunity for skill development practice.

The difference between print and cursive is widely misunderstood. That difference is the direction of movements used to create the symbols. Print forms should be made primarily with down-stroke movements while cursive forms are produced (or should be) by moving the pen sideways. Fluent production with either set of characters demands lateral movement because our language travels left-to-right across a page. With print, the lateral movements are made when the pen is lifted. With cursive forms, the lateral moves can be made without lifting the pen once sufficient practice allows control skills to emerge.

It is also important to recognize that language skills like spelling, vocabulary, sentence structure rules and punctuation also play an important role. These "skills" also must be practiced. Thus the need for correlation between the physical process of transcription and the cognitive process of text generation. Putting thoughts on paper is the most complex form of symbolic language use. Take the time to digest the Peterson concept called "cursive print." You will discover that this is a sensible and understandable way of correlating these two complex tasks to maximize development of skills for composition proficiency.