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American Cursive Handwriting Review by Kathy GelzerMichael and Debra Sull
P. O. Box 115
Gardner, KS 66030
American Cursive Handwriting is a beautiful “self-study” workbook and curriculum for learning the Spencerian style of penmanship. It is available in several formats. I received the student edition, which comes with loose three-hole-punched pages in shrink wrap as well as the reference edition, which is wire bound. Otherwise, the books are identical. There is also a hard-cover, limited-copy collector’s edition.
Author Michael Sull says this about his purpose in writing the book: “My goal is to make this the most thorough single-volume instructional source on cursive handwriting currently available.” Looking at the eight chapters and seven appendices, I think the author has succeeded!
This 349 page book has a lot of nice extras. The first page is decorated with an ornate “This Book Belongs To ___________” design, reminiscent of fancy bookplates. The preface is written by Richard T. Muffler, who is the White House calligrapher. Several pages of handwriting samples comprised of essays, poems, and letters offer the reader an excellent example of beautiful writing. In these handwriting samples, I wish the dotted diagonal line showing the proper slant for writing had been omitted. They would be easier to read if that were the case.
One-page models of all the lowercase and uppercase letters and numbers demonstrate exactly how to execute these forms. I’m not exactly sure if these pages are implemented into the curriculum lesson plans or if they are simply for extra practice as deemed necessary, but if there is any question about how to write each symbol, here is where you would find the answer.
The first three chapters cover some preliminaries: a definition of American Cursive with a background on Spencerian and Palmer methods. This American Cursive is described by Michael Sull as “essentially the same style that Palmer and subsequent penmen developed by modifying Spencerian penmanship into a simpler form of handwriting.” Here the author establishes the purpose of the book and includes a very persuasive argument on the importance of handwriting, a comparison of traditional and modern handwriting, and specifics on how the curriculum is to be used.
Permission is given to flex with this program depending on your child’s ability and maturity. Every student should work through all of the material, regardless of level. Parents and teachers are invited and encouraged to enter into this penmanship study themselves.
How to go about it? The author recommends you read through the book first and study the examples to become familiar with how your handwriting should look. After that, the lesson plans can be accomplished in about thirty minutes a day. It is suggested that these writing sessions be broken down into two fifteen time periods per day. Given there are 122 lessons, this course could be completed in one semester. After that, one should continue to practice cursive writing daily.
One entire chapter is devoted to specific proper techniques including position of paper, letter slant, posture and movement, how to hold the writing instrument, and handwriting rules. Illustrations are helpful in teaching the student all of this.
I really like how crystal clear the actual lesson plans are. The lesson format is as follows: warm-up exercise of choice, write eight to ten lines, and complete a copybook practice sheet. As mentioned earlier, this should only take about a total of thirty minutes per day. Every day, students should review the model sheets of all letters already learned. I personally find the dotted lines running diagonally down the copybook practice sheets a bit distracting. I understand their purpose in helping the student achieve the correct letter slant, but wonder if the lines could have been printed in a lighter shade.
Much bonus material is found in the appendices: using fountain pens, writing the personal letter, lower case “t” and capital “F” options, additional information sources, an order form for the American Cursive Handwriting diploma, personally signed by author Michael Sull, and a glossary of handwriting terms.
It should be noted that this is a self-study curriculum for grade five and up. There is a separate primary grade supplement available for purchase for grades two through four. Even though the curriculum is described as a self-study, I believe young students will need supervision and monitoring.
American Cursive Handwriting would be an excellent method for teaching cursive writing to children or to adults who want to improve their penmanship. It is thorough in its treatment of the subject, and the dedication of the authors is seen throughout.