Sunday, September 11, 2011

Pencil Grip

How important is pencil grip?  "Back in the day" we always changed a child's pencil grip to the standard tripod.  We had a child pretend a pencil was a car.  We told them to put the chubby mom (thumb) in the front seat with the tall skinny daddy (pointer finger) - to hold the pencil -  and then to put the three children in the back (other three fingers).  When we saw children not using the correct grip, we physically changed their fingers and insisted on the proper pencil position when writing.

Then we went through a period in education when we only seemed to care if a child could write, regardless of the way that he held the pencil or marker.  During this same period handwriting practice also seemed to be de-emphasized and we rarely actually worked on daily handwriting practice in the early grades. Instead the emphasis was on the writing process and the thought that went into the writing instead of the handwriting itself.  My own son came through school during this period.  Last week a photographer took this picture below of him signing an autograph at a baseball game and you can see that his pencil grip was never "fixed."  However, he has beautiful handwriting as fine motor skills come easy for him!
So now I wonder... how important is pencil grip really?  The pendulum seems to be swinging again to an emphasis on correct grip and handwriting practice.  I have used several different pencil grips in the past, usually recommended by occupational therapists who are trying their best to help my students who really struggle with writing.  I guess I will still continue to show students the proper grip, especially when they struggle with writing, and I will also show their parents the correct grip and reinforce as changes are made, because I know that pencil grip is extrememly hard to change after a child reaches age 6.  Certainly we now teach handwriting in Kindergarten and then reinforce it again in first grade with more enthusiasm and rigor than we did even five years ago.  Maybe this generation will have neater handwriting... or maybe we should just teach them proper keyboard placement! 


Suzanne said...

Interesting post. I know I don't have very good handwriting, yet I hold my pencil correctly. I also had daily handwriting practice from K-3rd grade. In fact, I remember having straight A's one time except for my B in handwriting on my report card.

My oldest son holds his pencil correctly, too. His handwriting I like to refer to as chicken scratch, though I can read it. My youngest son has the best handwriting, yet he holds his pencil incorrectly. He grips it like your first photo shows with all his fingers pulled toward the lead. Go figure!

Dee Dee Tamburrino said...

Personally, I have been told many times that I have really nice handwriting. As a kid, I tried hard to write like a left-handed child would (overhand curl and dragging your fist across the paper). I thought it was cool.

After several attempts at learning cursive, I gave up and now have a mixture of manuscript and cursive that seems to suit my style.

I am going to pass this blog post along to Mr. Tamburrino who has now been moved from a second grade position to a kingergarten co-teach. He was an architectural drafter before entering the teaching profession and he can write three different ways!

Thanks for sharing the post. The photo of your son's grip cracks me up!! I'll have to pay closer attention to his script the next time I see him.