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How We Hold a Pencil is Important



How We Hold a Pencil is Important

At first glance this may seem like a silly blog, a filler even, but there is a lot more to holding a pencil than what meets the…paper.  Holding a pencil correctly can help make or break a child’s career as a student writer.  Occasionally a student will hate writing and often there are legitimate reasons.

For one, the student’s hand can get tired rather quickly. Then, some students who have notoriously bad hand writing get tired of being corrected or criticized for it, and sometimes they stop trying.  Illegible handwriting has been linked to learning problems, especially where it concerns spelling, reading, and of course, writing.

Holding a pencil correctly makes the process of writing more comfortable and enjoyable.  A child’s writing becomes morel legible and everyone is happier.  When poor writing mechanics are remediated, there are often good results in areas of learning, not only in penmanship.

The Grip

There are many ways to hold a pencil. We will explore only one of those.  Ask a child to hold or pinch the pencil between thumb and index finger, then make it loose, using the index finger on top to guide it up and down, resting the pencil on the third finger comfortably.   The index and middle fingers should act like they are nearly connected, but in a relaxed manor. Hold about an inch or so away from the point, not too close, not too far back.pencil

Have children wiggle the pencil back and forth while it is loose in the fingers.  Teach them a rhyme or jingle using a “sing song-y rap like rhythm.”

This is the way I hold my pencil,

Not too lose and not too tight.

This is the way I hold my pencil,

Don’t have to do it with all my might.

This is the way I hold my pencil,

Either with my left hand or with my right.

This is the way I hold my pencil,

Writing not too dark or not too light.

This is the way I hold my pencil,

Holding it correctly makes my writing take flight.

(On the last line begin making circles with the pencil, and get louder as their “writing takes flight”.)


More on Holding a Pencil

 In the 5th edition of Romalda Spalding’s, “The Writing Road to Reading,” holding a pencil like a dart is addressed, using the index finger and thumb with the index finger resting on the middle finger for greater control of movement.  It is suggested that the pencil be held straight up, more perpendicular to the paper than slanted back.  The child needs to practice this grip because it is a looser grip than he/she is used to, but once it is learned, it is very freeing.   A teacher must remind a student to write, “Not too dark and not too light”.  If the teacher employs a rhyme such as the one above, she can hum it or sing parts of it to a student as she walks around the classroom during writing practice.pencil

A Direct Link to the Brain and Hand Writing

Holding a pencil correctly leads to learning to print neatly.  This is not just for the sake of neatness.  It is for the sake of training the brain.  Writing is another avenue into the brain for learning along with the eyes for seeing, and the mouth and ears for saying and hearing. The senses work together and it’s important to use all of them. Gwendolyn Bounds sums it up in the following partial research article.

“Recent research illustrates how writing by hand engages the brain in learning. During one study at Indiana University published this year, researchers invited children to man a “spaceship,” actually an MRI machine using a specialized scan called “functional” MRI that spots neural activity in the brain. The kids were shown letters before and after receiving different letter-learning instruction. In children who had practiced printing by hand, the neural activity was far more enhanced and “adult-like” than in those who had simply looked at letters.

“It seems there is something really important about manually manipulating and drawing out two-dimensional things we see all the time,” says Karin Harman James, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Indiana University who led the study.”

Gwendolyn Bounds, October 5, 2010,

Holding a Pencil Properly Leads to Writing Success

The proper way to hold a pencil can involve more. For an even better writing experience, a student should sit straight, feet on the floor with the non-writing hand (and arm) comfortably on the paper to use as a guide when the paper needs moved, (and also can be used as a partial circle to help in preventing making certain letters backwards).  Gripping a pencil properly can help a student enjoy the process of writing without pain. It will help him/her to be better understood as their writing skills improve, and he/she will also gain a better understanding of the relationship between writing, spelling and reading.

photo credit: Abizern via photopin cc

photo credit: Caitlinator via photopin cc

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About Pam Fink

Far from the rolling hills of PA where Pam grew up and went to college, she now resides in sunny southern Arizona with her husband. Pam used her Bachelor’s in Elementary and Special Education as a starting point to teach her children at home until they went off to pursue careers and families, and then she taught in other capacities. For over 25 years this diversely talented woman has tutored students and mentored teachers and parents in the areas of reading, spelling, writing, teaching with a classical bent, and home schooling in general.

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