The D'Nealian Method: Simplifying Handwriting Education

The D'Nealian Method, occasionally spelled as D’nealian, represents a distinctive approach to handwriting instruction based on the Latin script. It was conceived by Donald N. Thurber (1927–2020) between 1965 and 1978 in Michigan, United States. Drawing upon his background as a primary school educator, Thurber aimed to facilitate the transition from print writing to cursive for learners.

Historical Origins

Born on December 15, 1927, in Detroit, Michigan, Donald Neal Thurber, later known for his contributions to handwriting education, earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Toledo and a master's degree from Eastern Michigan University. His teaching career commenced in 1953 when he began instructing elementary students in Luna Pier. It was during his tenure as a first-grade teacher in 1961 that Thurber critically examined the perceived inconsistencies in handwriting education in the United States. This contemplation led him to embark on the development of the D'Nealian Method, offering an innovative alternative to existing script teaching methods. The name "D'Nealian" is a fusion of Thurber's first and middle names, "Donald" and "Neal." The method made its public debut in the United States in 1978. Thurber eventually concluded his educational career in 1984 as the principal of Chapman Elementary School.

Method Overview

The D'Nealian Method is rooted in the Palmer Method but introduces a unique feature: it incorporates two distinct sets of letters—one for print writing (also known as "manuscript printing") and another for cursive writing. Notably, 13 letters undergo a transformation from print to cursive, while the slant, maintained at 85 degrees measured counterclockwise from the baseline, remains consistent.

Thurber designed the D'Nealian Method to address the challenges associated with traditional script instruction, particularly the difficulties encountered when transitioning to cursive writing.

In the D'Nealian Method, students embark on a structured journey of handwriting mastery. First, they acquire proficiency in a specific form of print writing devised by Thurber. Notably, the D'Nealian print writing shares several key characteristics with its cursive counterpart. Subsequently, in the second phase, students incorporate what are commonly referred to as "monkey tails" into their print writing. In the final stage, these "monkey tails" are interconnected to create the distinctive D'Nealian cursive script. The D'Nealian Method has proven to be an influential and innovative approach to handwriting education, offering a seamless progression from print to cursive writing while equipping learners with valuable writing skills.


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