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D'Nealian is a style of writing and teaching cursive and print (block) handwriting for English. It is a derivative of the Palmer Method and was designed to ease the learning of cursive and print handwriting. D'Nealian was developed by Donald Thurber, who developed the system while teaching in a primary school, and was first introduced in 1978. The name of the script comes from Donald's first name contracted with his middle name ("Neal").
The system was designed as a method to alleviate the problems with teaching children the standard Zaner-Bloser script method and the subsequent difficulty transitioning to cursive writing. D'Nealian manuscript form has many similarities to the cursive version. In theory, it is easier for children to learn and acquire basic handwriting skills using this method than traditional cursive writing.
Notable advocates of D'Nealian include handwriting expert Jennifer C. Heintzelman.
D'Nealian has drawn criticism in many locations, as the addition of so-called "monkey tails" to manuscript ("print-style" writing) effectively adds a "third step" to how children are instructed to write. Moreover, a common issue is that D'Nealian is taught extremely early, to first and second grade students, many of whom are still learning the rudiments of print-style writing. At times, some school districts have abruptly changed their teaching of handwriting, possibly causing difficulties for students who must then adapt to a different style. In many schools, this style is taught in place of block-print and so the child never learns how to print (possibly leading to poor lifetime handwriting skills).
A research review by Steve Graham (1993/94) concludes that "there is no credible evidence" that D'Nealian makes a difference in children's handwriting, that D'Nealian creates practical problems for teachers (who must themselves learn the system and defend it to parents), and that it requires many young children to unlearn writing forms that they have already developed before formal instruction.
- Peterson Handwriting Q & A
- Graham, Steve. (1993/94). "Are slanted manuscript alphabets superior to the traditional manuscript alphabet?" Childhood Education 71: 91–95.
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