Saturday, February 02, 2008

Pencil Grip

I'm comparing CM's "best way to hold a pencil" with Draw Write Now's "best way to hold a pencil":

"It would be good if children learned from the beginning to hold their pencil between the index finger and middle finger, using the thumb to keep it steady. This way prevents the uncomfortable strain that results from the usual way of holding a pencil. When the student is older and has more writing to do, this could cause writer's cramp. The pen should be held in a comfortable position, close to the point-end, fingers and thumb bent a little, and the hand resting on the paper. The child can lay the left hand on the paper to support himself. He should write in an easy position, with his head bent, but not with his body stooped over. Since children tend to make scratchy, spidery marks if the nib of the pen is held sideways, they should use the flat of the nib. In all writing lessons, the blackboard should be available to model and practice." Modern Paraphrase of CM Vol. 1 p. 239

It sounds to me like she is saying to have the index finger and middle finger straddle the pencil, and keep the thumb underneath to support it. I have tried doing this and it is very awkward. Then there is the question of whether the top of the pencil should come out between the index and middle finger or in the space between index finger and thumb. It must be index and thumb, because the other way is very difficult to control.

The Draw Write Now website says this:

'The pencil should be positioned so that there is equal pressure between the thumb, the side of the middle finger and the tip of the index finger. All fingers are bent slightly. This is called a "tripod grip" or "tripod pencil grasp". '

Does anyone else see a difference in these two? I wonder if there is another way out there that is the "usual way of holding a pencil", or if CM was saying to not put equal pressure on the index finger, middle finger and thumb?

I asked some teacher-friends about pencil grip at the beginning of the year, and they described something similar to the Draw Write Now way.

Since I started obsessing over penmanship and pencil grips in the fall, I have paid more attention to the way others hold their pencils and pens when writing. There are almost as many grips out there as there are people, it seems, making it difficult to pinpoint a "usual" way.

I have been teaching Cornflower the tripod grip. I corrected her grip only during copywork exercises for the past 5 months. When she wrote for math or free time, I noted to myself whether her grip was correct or not but did not say anything to her. I am pleased to say that she now holds the pencil in the tripod grip automatically most of the time.

She still struggles with her penmanship at times, but in the last few weeks I have insisted on very short lessons (five minutes) and that has helped. This week we put her whiteboard easel in the kitchen where we do copywork each day, and I allowed her to write on it with a marker for penmanship.


I wish everyone could have seen her dedication in erasing and rewriting the letters until each one was its proper height! Hooray for Dry Erase! And, in complete honesty, she took more like ten to fifteen minutes to write these words. I suggested a couple of times that she stop, but she was on fire with learning and wanted to keep going. I finally did persuade her not to do the entire scripture (really a partial scripture), letting her know we would leave the words up and she could finish them over two or three days.

Here is a (not very high quality) picture of Cornflower's easel, so you can get an idea what it looks like:

Cornflower's Easel


Emily said...

A very educational post! It sounds like my 8yod holds her pencil in the CM method you described, and has always done so. I've never taught or encouraged her to hold it thusly - or differently - and she doesn't seem to have a problem. In fact, she is a talented artist so I know it has not restricted her abilities, but she does not enjoy the disciplined exercise required for copywork. What I find quite interesting is that my mom, who is 80 now, holds her pen the exact same way (a genetic trait?), and she has lovely penmanship. I notice that most of the ladies (and perhaps gentlemen) of her generation also have elegant handwriting, which of course, they learned in school. What I have found difficult was choosing a style for AnnaRose to emulate, but finally settled on an adaptation of the italic Getty Dubay method. Forgive me if you have addressed this question in the past, but what do you use? By the way, I like your easel idea, and I think we will be employing the same technique in the future. AnnaRose thrives on change and I'm certain it will give her lack of enthusiasm a little boost. Thank you for sharing! :)

Katie said...


We also use Getty-Dubay.

I am extremely interested to know that your mother holds her pencil in the way that CM described. Do you grip your pencil that way as well?

Emily said...

Katie, no, I don't hold my pencil as my mother and daughter do. She even says that "they" attempted to correct her at school. In her day, children were also rapped on the knuckles for using their left hands! Poor kids.....:(

Katie said...

I should mention that we use a form of looped cursive after the kids have learned Getty-Dubay cursive, if they are interested in learning it. And we have attempted some copywork in the style of Mrs. Bridge's as well, but not consistently.