Draw Your World
PO Box 818
Keyport, WA 98345 USA


Hold the Pencil

Handwriting instruction:
  1. demonstrates how letters are formed
  2. promotes a good pencil grasp and good posture
  3. encourages regular practice 
Hold the Pencil

The time-tested ergonomic way to hold a pencil is the tripod grasp. Most children can learn how to place their fingers in the tripod position, but if they have established another grasp, the tripod may feel awkward at first. Changing any habit is difficult, particularly when it involves muscles and coordination. Some children can change to the new grip within a few days, while others need a month or so. Adults tend to take even longer before they can consistently use the new grip.

Finger positionThree fingers—the long finger, the thumb and the index finger—form a tripod to hold the pencil, as shown in the illustration. Index Finger RestsMany people put extra pressure on the index finger, hyperextending the first joint. (Check for pressure in the knuckle.) The tip of the index finger should rest on top of the pencil. Fingers Bend, SlightlyAll five fingers should bend slightly. (Some people pull their fingers into a fist. Some hold a pencil with their thumb straight.) A ball should be able to fit inside the hand. Training ToolsIt The Writing CLAW for pencils, ergonomicThe Writing CLAWcan be challenging to keep the fingers in the tripod position, but there are a variety of tools available to help keep the fingers in place. They are temporary tools, much like training wheels on a bicycle. See them in our store.Pencil GripsThe Pencil Grip Position of the HandThe underside of the forearm and the thumb should line up. Some people hook the hand toward the body, pushing the elbow away from the body.) Spend some time practicing on vertical surfaces, such as an easel or paper taped to a wall, since it is natural while working vertically to hold the hand up and drop the elbow down. Position of the PencilThe pencil eraser should point toward the should, however the pencil position is not critical if the hand position is good. This rule is most helpful for left-handers, since it allows a better view of the freshly written words and the hand does not smudge the words. How does the Hand Feel?Understand the amount of tension needed to grasp the pencil:
  1. Have the child pretend to hold a small stone tightly in their tripod fingers as you count together to ten. Release the pretend stone and discuss how your hands felt while holding the stones.
  2. Have the child pretend to hold a cooked pea gently in their tripod fingers and count to ten. After releasing the pretend pea, describe how your hands felt while holding the pea, How can a relaxed hand make writing easier?
A Softer PencilDark, heavy writing or drawing indicates that the person is bearing down on their pencil. They simply want to see their lines. Over time, this extra tension in the hand becomes a habit. Switch to a soft-lead pencil (sketching pencil, 6B). Compared to a No. 2 pencil, a soft-lead pencil requires much less pressure to produce a dark line. Soft-lead pencils are available in our store. Soft Lead PencilSoft-Lead Pencil

Play Packs - Fine Motor SkillsTension or bearing down may improve as the child’s fine motor skills develop. Encourage playtime activities that use the pinching or grabbing motions—think of stringing beads, rolling clay, making a tower of toothpicks. More ideas and activities are available in PlayPacks.

“It was hard to hold my pencil like this at first, but I kept trying. Now I do it all the time.”— Sarah, first-grade student

Practice Regularly

Motivate children to want to practice. Draw, write, play tic-tac-toe—choose an activity the child enjoys so they look forward to practicing with you. Practice regularly (daily is best). Five minutes is fine for a five-year-old child, and ten to fifteen minutes is plenty for a child who is nine. Adults can practice whenever there is a spare moment.

Not sure how to get started? See the Starter Set.
Keep it up!A child may revert back to their old grasp when you are not there to watch. That’s fine. Continue to practice with them and allow time for the new habits to become established. If several months pass and the child has not changed to the new grasp, consider getting help from an occupational therapist.

Hold the Pencil FlierOver the years, we have sent out a flier with each of our store orders: Hold the Pencil. The flier provides the same information as shown on this webpage, but appears less “wordy” due to the formatting. The flier is now available in packages of 25. Give to parents of new students or members of your group. See it in our store.

Hold the Pencil in the Tripod Grip or GraspHold the Pencil Flier

“It was really easy. My daughter changed her grip within two weeks.”— Carol, mother of a five year-old
Pencil Gripper for Training“At first, my son said that the pencil with the pencil gripper was uncomfortable, so I explained that it was uncomfortable because he was familiar with the other way of holding a pencil. I explained that as he got accustomed to the new grip it would feel better. The only time that I had him use the pencil with the gripper was while we made drawings together. After about six weeks, during a time when he was drawing on his own, I noticed that he held his pencil (no gripper) using the tripod grip. I said, “Look how you are holding your pencil.” He looked down at his hand and said, “I didn’t mean to do it!” We practiced together with the pencil that had a gripper on it a few more weeks, until he told me, “Mom, I don’t need this any more. I hold my pencil like this all the time.”
—Kim Stitzer

Whale Lesson, Draw-Write-Now

Write about your drawing.

Color your drawing.

Color the drawing with crayon.

Get more practice!

The more you practice, the better your writing and drawing will look. Find plenty of practice material in the eight-book Draw Write Now series. Each lesson is presented on two pages; one page has a drawing and four short sentences, and the other has the step-by-step instructions.Draw Write Now Whale lessonBlue Whale lesson—Draw Write Now, Book 4


Look at an object and visually break it into smaller, more manageable shapes and lines.

A child may use the Draw Write Now books independently, or the lessons can be augmented following this basic format:
  1. Introduce the subject
  2. Draw the subject
  3. Create the background
  4. Write about the drawing
  5. Color the drawing

Complex Made SimpleFind the major shapes and lines that form the whale’s body. Then, focus on the details: the eye, fin and tail.

The ProblemIt can be hard to know which line or shape to focus on first. Some lines are recognizable, like the line making up the whale’s belly—it looks like a big smile—but, the line that makes up the top of the whale’s body is more difficult—it gently curves up and down. A gently curved line can be more difficult than it appears.

The SolutionWith drawing, we learn to study lines and shapes before recreating them. The following tips will serve as an example. Remember to look at the color drawing and use the step-by-step drawing as a reference.

Tip 1—Take a little time to study the whale’s back (Step 2). Before drawing it, run your finger over the line from tail to mouth. It might help to make the shape in the air—with your finger in front of your face, move left to right. The finger gently moves up and down. 

Tip 2—Look at the long line that runs the length of the body. Start near the tail end and focus on curving the line toward the bottom of the eye, make the little dip at the eye, then continue along with the mouth line.

Study the lines and shapes in a subject to break the image down into smaller, more manageable pieces. With that skill, we can draw just about anything!


Handwriting Styles

Manuscript, Cursive Handwriting example
Print and Cursive Handwriting example Handwriting instruction:
  1. demonstrates how letters are formed
  2. promotes a good pencil grasp and good posture
  3. encourages regular practice 
Handwriting Styles
How Letters are Formed
“Handwriting is an Art!”, Marie said. The art of forming and spacing letters and numbers has developed over time, and currently focuses on providing children with efficient, graceful methods to write letters and numbers. A handwriting chart or some other reference on how letters are formed (letter cards, alphabet strips, iPad app) is a good reference tool to have available when learning how to write. The following list includes online sources of handwriting charts of the most popular styles used in the US. Styles change over time and new ones emerge. Generally, a manuscript version is taught before advancing to the matching cursive.
Manuscript & Cursive—Zaner-Bloser Zaner-Bloser SimplifiedZaner-Bloser was the standard for many years in the US. After D’Nealian came out, a “continuous stroke”  or “simplified” Zaner-Bloser was introduced. The continuous stroke applies to the manuscript letters—the pencil is not lifted to form a letter, as with the old “ball and stick” method.
manuscript - uppercase & lowercase

Zaner-Bloser - OriginalThe following show the original “ball and stick” style (animated).
manuscript - uppercase
manuscript - lowercase
cursive - uppercase
cursive - lowercase

Modern Manuscript & Cursive—D’Nealian D’NealianD’Nealian starts with slanted manuscript letters and transitions easily to cursive writing. It has gained popularity in many school districts in the United States. Products similar to D’Nealian are sold as “Modern Manuscript” and “Modern Cursive”.
D’Nealian - manuscript and cursive chart
D’Nealian - manuscript only

Print, Slant Print, Cursive—Peterson HandwritingPeterson includes a transition between print and cursive, Slant Print. The cursive letters end without a curve, much like the Italic styles. This program includes a depth of information, prompts and help.  
Slant Print
Printing & Cursive—Handwriting Without Tears Handwriting Without TearsHandwriting Without Tears was developed by an occupational therapist. This popular style is simplified, without a slant. The Handwriting Without Tears program includes many tactile products for writing readiness.
Printing - Handwriting Without Tears
Cursive - Handwriting Without Tears

Italic & Italic LinkItalic is so lovely and appealing! Italic There are several variations: Portland Italic, Barchowsky, New South Wales, Victorian, Queensland.

Italic charts (click “Chart” in the left-hand column)
Barchowsky Fluent

“Without instruction or an example to follow, bright children can come up with some terribly awkward and cumbersome ways of making letters!” — Kim Stitzer

Which Style to Use? A handwriting style is a carefully designed, efficient way of forming letters and numbers, and each style has it’s own character or fits certain needs.
Which handwriting style should your child use?
Ask Your Local School—Schools generally agree on one handwriting style to teach. If your child is eager to write and not yet attending school, contact your local school office or a kindergarten teacher and ask which handwriting style is taught.
Homeschoolers—You get to decide! Show your children the various styles and see which appeals to them.
Keeping it SimpleIf you or the school don’t place a high priority on handwriting, at least introduce a simplified style, like Modern Manuscript (D’Nealian), Simplified Manuscript, Peterson Slant Print, or an Italic style. When given no instruction or example to follow, bright children can come up with some terribly awkward and cumbersome ways of making letters!
Left-Hand ModificationWhatever style a left-handed writer uses, there is a slight modification they can make for smoother writing—Pull the pencil toward the hand when making horizontal lines. (For example, a right-handed writer crosses the letter “t” from left to right. For the left-handed, the letter is crossed from right to left.) The following letters are affected:
Lowercase letters: t, f
Capital letters: A, E, F, H, I, J, T.
Begin with Cursive? Sure! Some programs teach cursive first. When Marie started school in the 1920’s, she learned to write using cursive. Manuscript was used for labeling maps or posters. Today, the A Beka program, used in many Christian private schools, introduces cursive first. See examples of A Beka writing. The Peterson Handwriting System has a “Starting With Cursive” program.
See StartWriteCustomize your handwriting practice sheets with the handwriting style of your choice with StartWrite Handwriting Software. Parents, this computer software is a tool that can be used as your child grows. Teachers, the software gives you a tool to work with the varying abilities within a classroom.
Examples of StylesUse a style that fits your needs and desires! Scroll through examples, like this:

Tiger Lesson, Draw-Write-Now


Draw Write Now, Tiger Drawing Lesson for Children

Write about your drawing.

Color your drawing.

Color the drawing with crayon.

Get more practice!

The more you practice, the better your writing and drawing will look. Find plenty of practice material in the eight-book Draw Write Now series. Each lesson is presented on two pages; one page has a drawing andTiger lesson—Draw Write Now, Book 7 four short sentences, and the other has the step-by-step instructions.


Drawing instruction improves listening skills and vocabulary.

A child may use the Draw Write Now books independently, or the lessons can be augmented following this basic format:
  1. Introduce the subject
  2. Draw the subject
  3. Create the background
  4. Write about the drawing
  5. Color the drawing

Vocabulary and ListeningDrawing instruction enriches our children’s lives. When we draw a shape, such as an oval, while saying “oval”, a child learns a new word—and we may not even be aware that we are expanding their vocabulary! In addition, a child is motivated to listen carefully as you describe the next step toward drawing something interesting—like a tiger!

The ProblemWe may feel inadequate about our own drawing skills, or may have time or schedule restraints making it hard to include drawing instruction.

The SolutionYou don’t need to be an artist to give drawing instruction. Whatever your strengths, while giving the lessons you will pass along your experience and knowledge. The following tips will serve as an example. Remember to look at the color drawing and use the step-by-step drawing as a reference.

Tip 1—Expand a child’s vocabulary as you describe what you see. A child may not know the meaning of these words: CIRCLE, TRIANGLE and RECTANGLE (Step 1). Simply use these words in your regular conversation: DIAGONAL (stripes in Steps 3 and 4). As you describe and point out lines and shapes, the child will assimilate them: CURVED (tail in Step 5). Other words will come naturally as you draw along with the child: TALL grass, YELLOW sky.

Tip 2—Drawing demonstrates concepts like OVER, UNDER, LEFT, RIGHT, TOP, BOTTOM, CORNER, CENTER, HALF— it’s simply part of the conversation you have while drawing!

Tip 3—Do you notice the concentration level building? Focusing on your words and examples helps a child learn to listen and follow instructions.

Drawing instruction benefits children in subtle ways. We may think we are incapable of teaching a child to draw, but really, we can draw just about anything!


Integrating Writing and Drawing

Writing and Drawing
The Progression of Language Arts Skills

Drawing can be a useful tool to help develop speaking, reading and writing skills. The progression of language arts skills goes something like this:

Speech — Talk About the Drawing Talk with a child about their drawing. It may be the foundation for a conversation with a quiet child. For a talkative child, the drawing can be used to help focus their verbal skills. Prompt the conversation with questions, such as, Where is the bird flying? What is the boy doing? Is it a hot day or a cold day?

Letter Formation — Write the Letter Show the children how to correctly form and pronounce the letter. Combine blended letters, like “th”. Words — Write the Word Show the children how to correctly form and pronounce each letter in a word. Help them correctly space the letters.


Sentences — Write Short Sentences Demonstrate how to write a short sentence, such as “Hens lay eggs.” Highlight the basic parts of a sentence:
  • The first letter of the first word in a sentence is a capital letter.
  • Spaces separate words.
  • A period is at the end of the sentence.
As the children become more comfortable with writing, have them practice by copying two to four sentences. The Draw Write Now lessons have four short sentences. Change the sentence so that they are appropriate to the child’s skill level, but keep the sentences short and fairly simple. Self-Editing — For the Child Who Loves to Write Does the child love to write, but spelling and paragraph structure needs improvement? After the child writes about their drawing, have them select several sentences from the story, then correct any spelling or grammar errors in those sentences. EXTRA: The corrected sentences may be rewritten on a fresh sheet of paper, with the focus on the child using their best handwriting. The Child Who Does Not Want to Write

Have the child copy the sentences shown in the Draw Write Now lesson with you. Work for success, but push them a bit. If you know they can write one sentence, have them write one sentence plus one more short sentence. Lesson to lesson, increase the amount of writing. If they balk, use the coloring time as an incentive — remind them that you’ll bring out the crayons (or color pencils, watercolors, etc.) after the sentences are finished.

Composition — Write a Story About Your Drawing

The background drawing that the child adds can be very interesting and sometimes is the perfect writing prompt. As the child composes the story, allow them to write quickly to get their ideas on paper. This is not a time to stress careful handwriting!

Grammar Exercise After drawing a picture, provide the children with another sheet of paper and ask them to write all the nouns in their drawing. Another time, have them write all the verbs or all the adjectives. Write a Paragraph or Report Encourage independent research and study. Have the child write a paragraph or more about the subject they have just drawn. 

One parent’s approach is to bring out the Draw Write Now set of books, announce the theme, such as “spring”, then instructs her three boys to each choose a drawing lesson that makes them think of spring. Flipping through the books, they each choose a different one, such as a rabbit, a bird and a boat. After drawing their pictures, they write about the drawing with a springtime setting.
“It’s not hard to show a child how to form letters and write sentences. The challenge is motivating them to practice regularly and carefully.”— Marie Hablitzel
Tyler, age 5
“Demonstrate the relationship between speech and writing. Sit beside the child and ask them to tell you about their drawing. Write their story, then read the story back to the child, pointing to each word as you read.”— Kim Stitzer

Matthew, age 7

Examples of Handwriting Styles

Examples of Handwriting Styles

A handwriting style is a carefully designed, efficient way of forming letters and numbers, and each style has it’s own character or fits certain needs—understand the basics of handwriting styles. Compare handwriting styles:

Manuscript—Modern (D’Nealian) Handwriting Style, Modern Manuscript

Manuscript—Zaner-Bloser, Simple Handwriting Style, Simple Zaner Bloser Manuscript

Manuscript—Zaner-Bloser Handwriting Style, Zaner Bloser Manuscript

Manuscript—Palmer Handwriting Style, Palmer

Manuscript—Handwriting Without Tears Handwriting Style, Handwriting Without Tears

Manuscript—Italic (Portland, Getty/Dubay) Handwriting Style, Italic

Manuscript—New South Wales Handwriting Style, New South Wales

Manuscript—Queensland Handwriting Style, Queensland

Manuscript—Victorian Handwriting Style, Victorian

Understand the basics of handwriting styles.
Compare the various handwriting styles.

The following samples of handwriting styles were created using Startwrite Handwriting Software.

Cursive—Modern (D’Nealian)

Cursive—Zaner-Bloser, Simple



Cursive—Handwriting Without Tears

Linked—Italic (Portland, Getty/Dubay)

Linked—New South Wales





New Site Design

Welcome to the new! Besides the new look, the site has:

  • registration for setting up an account
  • this blog to share information and hear from you
  • a gallery to showcase the children’s artwork and writing
  • easier navigation
  • … and room to grow!

The site was created on Squarespace. It was just right! I was able to design and implement the site on my own with only basic HTML/CSS experience and no knowledge of Java. Many hurdles were conquered thanks to the Squarespace forum and by Chris Coyier. Gratitude also goes to my shopping cart guy, Mark at We’ve been with them since 2006 and rely on their excellent customer service.

We’ll be working out the bugs over the next several weeks, then will focus on getting the videos in place. Thank you for your patience!
—Kim Stitzer

PREVIOUS Site Design

NEW Site Design


About Us: Marie Hablitzel

Marie Hablitzel became a school teacher in 1942 and quickly began integrating drawing instruction into her curriculum. Over the years, she continued to create unit studies and eventually had a lesson for each day of the school year. I remember entering her classroom, wondering what we would draw and learn about that day. I also recall thinking that the kids in her class were smart and that the work was hard—but, it was so much fun in her classroom! Yes, she was my favorite teacher.

See Marie’s Story.

Marie Hablitzel created the lessons in the Draw Write Now series.

Marie, Maryann, Kim (2001) Click the image to see Marie’s Story.

“When I see a child’s drawing…”