Monday, April 13, 2015

Memoria Press: New American Cursive {Schoolhouse Review}

What do you do when your child asks to learn cursive?  Well, you find a way to teach him!  When I saw the opportunity to review New American Cursive Penmanship Program Workbook 1 from Memoria Press, I begged to be included.  Elliott had just recently asked me to teach him cursive, so I didn't want pass up a great opportunity to engage my son in an activity that he was interested in pursuing.  I already knew I was going to teach cursive in our homeschool anyway, but this review came at the perfect time!

How Does New American Cursive Work?

New American Cursive was developed by Iris Hatfield, who has 35 years of experience in the handwriting field.  It was designed to simplify letter forms, improve the process of teaching cursive handwriting, and allow children to learn cursive at an earlier age.

The book starts with an Introduction with information about why we should teach cursive, and why we should teach it in first grade, rather than waiting until third grade, which is traditional in schools that still teach it.  The information was very interesting and enlightening, and something I will highly take into consideration with my younger children.

Next is the Teaching Guide that covers the basics of posture, pencil position and paper position.  The guide then goes on with information about how to teach the letters using a multi-sensory approach.  This is a spiral bound workbook, but it's bound at the top to accommodate both left and right handed writers.  Instruction starts with the basic dots and lines that are used to form letters.

The letters are introduced in alphabetical order, and both capital and lowercase letters are taught together.  Each letter includes three simple pages.  First is the Instruction Page which includes a large visual for how to form the letter, with Mr. Meerkat giving instructions, and only a few letters to trace.

The Letter . . . page offers ample opportunity to both trace and write the letter in capital and lowercase form.  This page also includes a word to trace, so that children can begin to feel how to connect letters even if they haven't learned certain letters yet.

The third page for each letter is called Fun Exercises & Artwork, and it includes lines, letter combinations and/or short words for children to again practice connecting letters.  These pages also include white space for children to have the freedom to draw and practice their fine motor skills on their own terms.

After every three letters, there is a review, which gives more opportunity to practice previously learned letters.  Once the full alphabet is introduced, there are a few more lessons with common words and passages.  There are also reproducible handwriting pages, and an evaluation sheet that looks useful for classroom teachers.  The inside covers of the book include the letter charts.

How Did We Use This Program?
I am using this with Elliott, who is in second grade.  The teaching guide doesn't give daily lessons, but it's easy enough to find a rhythm that will work with your student.  We've found a comfortable pace by spreading the instruction and practice of one letter out over the week.  My son generally hates the physical act of writing (he'd rather type any day) so this lets us go at a comfortable place for him.

Day 1 - We do the introduction page and half of the practice page.  I want Elliott to take his time, and really work at letter formation, rather than just trying to rush through the page just to be finished.  If he knows he only has to do half of the capital letters and half of the lower case letters, he is more likely to slow down, pay attention, and put forth his best effort.

Day 2 - We review letter formation before finishing the practice page.  Then as instructed in the manual, he finds his best letter.  This motivates him to do well too, because he doesn't want to choose from a bunch of sloppy letters.

Day 3 - We do the Fun Exercises & Artwork page.  Elliott has been drawing a large capital version of each letter and turning it into a face!  For instance, on capital F he turned the second horizontal line into a handlebar mustache.

Day 4/5 - Depending on the week, we might have a review page to do, or this gives us time to do more practice on a letter, or work on his signature or something else.  The reproducible pages in the back give you the option of letting the student practice whatever they need at any given time.  Then other weeks we take an 'off' day because we're busy outside the house.  The flexibility of this program is really nice.

What Do We Think?
Elliott likes it about as well as he can like a handwriting program.  He loves the Fun Exercises & Art pages.  While we're working on his attitude about legibility, he is eager to learn the next letter, he likes the short lessons and he really doesn't complain.

Although there are separate lesson plans, the teaching guide in the front offers enough guidance to be open-and-go, which I like.  Unfortunately in the effort to simplify the process of cursive handwriting and reduce "unnecessary" strokes, I do think the beauty of some of the letters was eliminated.  Perhaps because they look significantly different than how I was taught, or because they were simplified for younger students, but the capital F, T and Z in particular look much too plain, like print to me.  It does meet the goal of being simpler for younger children, but in reality it's lost of some of the beauty that is cursive.  However, the curriculum itself is easy to implement, and my son likes it, so for that I love it.

The Details
  • New American Cursive was designed for the average 1st grader, but can be used for older students
  • It retails for $22.95
  • There are two more workbooks for continued practice--they're now on my wishlist
  • StartWrite compatible so you can create your own worksheets in New American Cursive 
  • You can find more information on their website, or on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and Instagram!
Memoria Press Review

Coincidentally, we just started using First Start Reading with Emory for Kindergarten, which the Crew is also reviewing, so be sure to check out the crew reviews for more information on both of these programs!

Memoria Press Review

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