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January 3, 2018

Improving Poor Pencil Grip

By Nancy Jang
Grades PreK–K, 1–2

    If you are in the primary grades and have taught penmanship, you know that it all begins with a good pencil grip. Once a student has learned a grip, it’s extremely hard to change. If the grip is incorrect, chances are you will have a very difficult time correcting it. A bad grip often results in poor readability, slow writing, and sometimes it’s just darn painful to watch. True, it's not the end of the world if you make your eights like a snowman instead of starting like an S and then swooping up, but a correct grip WILL allow your students to more easily make their words and numbers legible and more fluently, which is very important in the primary grades.

    Every time I see this one little adorable guy in my class writing, it looks like a struggle. His penmanship is barely decipherable and the expression on his face looks as though he is performing brain surgery. Another one of my boys has his hand curved around the pencil in a claw-like death grip and everything he writes is nearly illegible. I have tried numerous types of grips for them. In addition, every time I buy the special rubber pencil grips at $2 each, both boys lose them. Every. Single. Time.

    So what do I do? Luckily, I work at a TK (Transitional Kindergarten)-2 school and so I decided to go to the experts in TK to see how they teach and monitor pencil grip, and what types of creative tools they have used to help their little students start off on the right grip.

    Here are some of the pearls of wisdom that I picked up from them:

    1.    Here is a quick tutorial from my TK colleague and friend Maggie Slater on how she teaches a child to pick up the pencil and set the pencil into the correct writing position for writing.  

    2.       Another TK-K teacher, Michelle Lambright, also reminded me that she has one-on-one tutoring and CONSTANT corrective instruction on pencil grip during the day. Over the course of the year, the number of kids that need help with pencil grip grows smaller and smaller, so it gets a little easier to help kids individually.  

    3.       For kids that struggle with pencil grip, it’s often due to poor fine motor control in their fingers. Create learning centers that integrate fine motor exercises to strengthen the small muscles in the fingers. Using small tools such as tongs, chopsticks, picker-upper claws, and performing activities such as coloring and cutting all strengthen those little finger muscles to assist with pencil grip.

    4.       Here are a few examples of DIY pencil grips that are cheap and made of things that you probably already have in your classroom:

    Do-It-Yourself Pencil Grips:

    • Clothespin
    • Ping-Pong ball with a hole punched in it
    • Binder clip with a rubber band wrapped around the pencil to keep the pencil from sliding through the binder clip
    • Sock with two holes cut into it for the thumb and index finger

     

    My favorite?

    • Teeny tiny pencils and broken tiny crayons!

    My first graders love to sharpen pencils into nubs and I used to mourn those pencils as I threw them away. Now I save them and use them for my special kiddos that need a little help with their pencil grip. So now, when a student loses their $2 special rubber pencil grip from the teacher store, this special aid is quick and easy to replace!  

    Hopefully these tips will help your kiddos as much as they have helped mine! Do you have any great ideas on how to help your littles with good pencil grip? Please share!

     

    Happy Teaching,

    Nancy

    If you are in the primary grades and have taught penmanship, you know that it all begins with a good pencil grip. Once a student has learned a grip, it’s extremely hard to change. If the grip is incorrect, chances are you will have a very difficult time correcting it. A bad grip often results in poor readability, slow writing, and sometimes it’s just darn painful to watch. True, it's not the end of the world if you make your eights like a snowman instead of starting like an S and then swooping up, but a correct grip WILL allow your students to more easily make their words and numbers legible and more fluently, which is very important in the primary grades.

    Every time I see this one little adorable guy in my class writing, it looks like a struggle. His penmanship is barely decipherable and the expression on his face looks as though he is performing brain surgery. Another one of my boys has his hand curved around the pencil in a claw-like death grip and everything he writes is nearly illegible. I have tried numerous types of grips for them. In addition, every time I buy the special rubber pencil grips at $2 each, both boys lose them. Every. Single. Time.

    So what do I do? Luckily, I work at a TK (Transitional Kindergarten)-2 school and so I decided to go to the experts in TK to see how they teach and monitor pencil grip, and what types of creative tools they have used to help their little students start off on the right grip.

    Here are some of the pearls of wisdom that I picked up from them:

    1.    Here is a quick tutorial from my TK colleague and friend Maggie Slater on how she teaches a child to pick up the pencil and set the pencil into the correct writing position for writing.  

    2.       Another TK-K teacher, Michelle Lambright, also reminded me that she has one-on-one tutoring and CONSTANT corrective instruction on pencil grip during the day. Over the course of the year, the number of kids that need help with pencil grip grows smaller and smaller, so it gets a little easier to help kids individually.  

    3.       For kids that struggle with pencil grip, it’s often due to poor fine motor control in their fingers. Create learning centers that integrate fine motor exercises to strengthen the small muscles in the fingers. Using small tools such as tongs, chopsticks, picker-upper claws, and performing activities such as coloring and cutting all strengthen those little finger muscles to assist with pencil grip.

    4.       Here are a few examples of DIY pencil grips that are cheap and made of things that you probably already have in your classroom:

    Do-It-Yourself Pencil Grips:

    • Clothespin
    • Ping-Pong ball with a hole punched in it
    • Binder clip with a rubber band wrapped around the pencil to keep the pencil from sliding through the binder clip
    • Sock with two holes cut into it for the thumb and index finger

     

    My favorite?

    • Teeny tiny pencils and broken tiny crayons!

    My first graders love to sharpen pencils into nubs and I used to mourn those pencils as I threw them away. Now I save them and use them for my special kiddos that need a little help with their pencil grip. So now, when a student loses their $2 special rubber pencil grip from the teacher store, this special aid is quick and easy to replace!  

    Hopefully these tips will help your kiddos as much as they have helped mine! Do you have any great ideas on how to help your littles with good pencil grip? Please share!

     

    Happy Teaching,

    Nancy

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