Cursive First Handwriting Samples

This is a follow up to our podcast episode on Cursive First.  I am going to lay out, in a series of pictures, a rough outline of the process that I used to teach cursive writing and phonics to my five year old son.  You will see writing samples for a one and a half year time frame.

The reading program that I incorporated the Cursive First into is called STEPS (Sequential Teaching of Explicit Phonics and Spelling). Handwriting is included in STEPS but it was easy for me to take out that part of the program to use the Cursive First. I did switch to STEPS handwriting paper that does not have “skip lines” as soon as we were done with writing the numerals. Some children have a hard time transitioning to regular lined paper so I went ahead and taught that early on.

Cursive First fits more neatly with the SWR (Spell to Write and Read) curriculum. The author of Cursive First, Elizabeth FitzGerald, is a trainer for the SWR program. This program is easily obtainable, in fact I got my copy off Amazon. I do like that SWR has a Biblical base whereas STEPS was created for public school use. Perhaps I will do a more thorough curriculum review of both in the future….

I give you a brief description of these two reading methods to acknowledge that the writing samples of my son’s will look a little different than both these methods because I blended the two together. Beyond the writing, I find both the SWR & STEPS to be very similar in their method, phonograms, and spelling rules. STEPS just happened to be the curriculum I already had from my previous teaching days.

*Disclaimer: My son is not “gifted” in reading and writing. In fact, he really dislikes writing to this day & would much prefer to do math! He does love to read, and has consistently read above grade level, but I attribute that more to an effective reading method rather than “giftedness.”*


I started with teaching the appropriate “tripod” pencil grip, sitting posture, and writing position. I taught the clock face reference tool (or the handwriting circle reference tool used by STEPS). Then I used a variety of tactile and kinesthetic activities such using a salt box as shown below.

Salt Box for Cursive Teaching

The Cursive First book provides instructions for creating a salt box.


Salt Box showing lower case letter A

This is an example of a cursive letter “a” written in the salt box.


Cursive Work of a 5 year old

This is some of Riley’s very first pencil and paper work back on 6/6/2008. I used stickers to highlight for him his best work. (Age 5 yrs. 7mos.)


Number practice

I continued by teaching numbers with tactile then pencil & paper practice. This is a review practice sheet Riley did once I completed teaching all the numbers. We spent one week learning numbers.


Teaching Cursive Strokes

We worked on cursive strokes using the salt box (shown above) and sidewalk chalk before moving to pencil and paper.


Teaching Cursive Strokes with Phonics

It is important that the child know the names of the strokes. (i.e. “up and over”) and positional terms (i.e. “base line”) to be able to progress to writing the phonograms. Learning positional terms is a great school readiness activity.


Cursive First Phonogram Quiz

I began introducing the phonograms at a rate of 4 per day. Every day started with a “quiz” of all the previously learned phonograms (and in the beginning, the cursive strokes too). STEPS and Cursive First recommend the order in which to teach the phonograms based on the strokes that are used. As you can tell, some of his letters are shaky but coming along.


Phonograms and sample spelling test with Cursive First

Once the basic phonograms were taught, we started a spelling log (spelling dictation and highlights). This is a sample spelling test on 8/18/2008. (Age 5 yrs 10 mos.) The capital letters were supposed to be taught later as needed, but Riley seemed ready so I went for it.


Spelling Test with Cursive First after 1 year of kindergarten

This is a spelling test sample at the end of kindergaten almost exactly one year after initial instruction began. Riley was 6 yrs 7mos at the time. The phonograms shown in the lower right corner had progressed to more complex multiletter ones.


1st Grade Handwriting After 1.5 years of Cursive Teaching

This is a sample of Riley’s work half way through his 1st grade year. He had been receiving instruction since the beginning of kindergarten.




  1. James Hosler says:

    With so many examples from such an extensive stretch of time, this is a very helpful and inspirational post. Thanks you.

  2. Shana S. says:

    Had your child received any instruction in “traditional” handwriting prior to starting cursive? We purchased the Cursive First program for my son who will be 5 this fall, but he had already started learning basic letter formation in a program he was attending. I’m hoping this doesn’t cause any problems/confusion for him. Seeing your sons progress is very encouraging to me!!!


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