Without any direction, it is hard to find an ending. Yet, that is exactly what we were doing in teaching cursive. We had no program, no guide, no direction. Only the enthusiasm of a child to learn how to write in cursive. So when we were given the chance to review New American Cursive: Penmanship Program Workbook 1 from Memoria Press, I was thankful to do so. And I have been pleased.
New American Cursive was developed by Iris Hatfield. With a passion for handwriting, Ms. Hatfield created a program that is ideal for teaching young students how to write in cursive. It is designed for students as young as first grade. One reason Ms. Hatfield felt like a more efficient, effective program was necessary is because students that can write fluidly can get their thoughts onto paper more quickly and the thought can flow unimpeded.
New American Cursive
The lessons in the NAC workbook are not time consuming and can easily be completed in sessions no more than 15 to 20 minutes. (Unless you have a very creative child who enjoys drawing, like L does. She always enjoyed spending quite a bit of time on the creative section of each lesson but I’ll share more about that in just a minute.) To complete each lesson, you must have the workbook and a pencil. It is also recommended that some classical music be playing to calm the student, improve their writing rhythm, and help focus their attention during practicing. L loved this part. She thrives when listening to classical music so this helped make this practice time even more enjoyable for her.
The workbook comes with several pages for the instructor. There are a couple of pages telling you more about Ms. Hatfield and why she created NAC. There are a couple of pages discussing why teaching cursive is needed and why starting it young is good. These are followed by a Teaching Guide, which will help you implement this program well.
For the student, each letter has three pages of exercises.
- There is an instruction page showing and describing how to form the letter correctly.
- There is a practice page for the student to trace the letters and then write them.
- There is a play page, where the student has some fun exercises and free space for artwork or trying new letters.
Mr. Meerkat, the mascot of NAC, helps the student learn the basics of cursive writing throughout the book. Mr. Meerkat shows the student, through examples, how to slant the page, hold the pencil, and form each letter. The mascot is cute and fun to see how he is going to show up in each lesson.
Some of My Favorite Things
My first favorite thing is the way the book is bound. When I first saw the spiral binding on it, I just knew we were going to have problems. But Memoria Press bound this with the top of each page on the binding so that the spiral is always out of the way of the student’s wrist and arm while writing. It doesn’t matter if the student is a leftie or a rightie; the binding does not get in the way.
My next favorite thing is the clean, simple way each letter is taught. There are no confusing terms. The pieces of the letter formation are not broken down into such small pieces that you are putting four or five different slants and curves together to form the letter. It is clear and precise and understandable. It is simple enough that L, a bright 8 year old, can do this with very little assistance from me. I do check all of her work and watch her from afar, correcting when necessary. However, she is fairly independent with this program because she is an instruction follower.
Another favorite thing is that each lesson pushes the student’s ability slightly beyond what they have already worked on. Within each letter, there will be a series of letters or words containing letters the student hasn’t learned yet. The student traces these and it stretches the mind just a bit farther.
The final favorite thing I want to share with you is the creative freedom given to the student at the end of each lesson. This is a space where the student can create on his own or draw whatever she want. L chose to use this space to be create with the letter studied. When she finishes this book, she will have a bound collection of some very creative drawings. It will be a neat memory book.
I have been pleased with this program. I am going to explore whether I want to purchase New American Cursive: Penmanship Program Workbook 1 for J to use next year when she is in first grade or if I am going to invest in the New American Cursive StartWrite Program. Either way, I like the way this program is working and the progress L is making with it.
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