Teaching Pencil Grip: Strategies & Activities

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

Pencil grip is an essential part of handwriting. This lesson will discuss how to teach pencil grip and will introduce some strategies and activities for doing so. We will end with a short quiz to see what you have learned.

What is Pencil Grip?

Do you have neat and easy-to-read handwriting? Or do you maybe have a messier scrawl? Either way, the clarity of your handwriting probably has a lot to do with your pencil grip, or the way you hold the pencil.

Take a moment to actually pick up a pencil. Now hold the pencil as if you were going to write your name. In which hand are you holding the pencil? Are you holding it with two fingers or three? Or are you grasping it in your palm? Is the pencil completely upright or is it slanted? These factors tell us about your pencil grip.

Learning proper pencil grip is an important first step in handwriting. It is not as simple as just just picking up and pencil and holding it in a way that feels comfortable. Unfortunately, this is what many students do, and this can lead to problems with handwriting such as poorly formed letters, muscle fatigue when writing, frequently snapped pencil lead or even ripped or torn paper! Most students with handwriting problems were not taught how to correctly grasp the pencil, or may have been taught too early, before they had full control of fine motor skills such as writing, or too late, after bad habits had already set in.

The ideal pencil grip is called the tripod grip because it uses three fingers. Pencil grip should be taught beginning at about age 5, or around the time a child enters Kindergarten. With the tripod grip, the pencil is held between the index finger and the thumb and it rests on the middle finger. This grip is the favorite of handwriting teachers because it allows maximum control of the hand muscles and is comfortable.

Now that we understand what pencil grip is and why it's important, let's take a closer look at some strategies and activities that make teaching pencil grip a snap.

Strategies and Activities for Teaching Pencil Grip

As mentioned previously, students should begin learning proper pencil grip around the age of 5. In other words, proper timing is an important strategy in teaching pencil grip. This is usually the time when a child's preferred or dominant hand emerges. It is important to know if the child is right handed or left handed before pencil grip is taught, as the dominant hand should be used.

Consistency is just as important as timing and handedness in terms of teaching pencil grip. Students should practice regularly, and teachers must correct any issues early on to prevent bad habits in pencil grip. Now let's explore some specific activities for teaching pencil grip.

Cropped pencils

When students use shortened pencils, or those that are about half the length of brand new pencils, they are almost forced into the correct grip between the index finger and thumb. There simply isn't any room left on the pencil to deviate from the tripod grip when cropped pencils are used. Over time and repeated practice, the proper grasp becomes a habit and students can progress to full length pencils.

Pick, pinch and flip

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