Video: Hold the Pencil

 
 
 

VIDEO

The way you hold a pencil can be a huge help when drawing or writing. This is a demonstration on how to hold a pencil.

  • Learn the benefits of holding the pencil in the tripod grasp or grip.
  • Become aware that the base of your hand steadies the tripod as you draw or write.
 

Much More Than "Pretty Writing"

"Don't worry, he will write on a computer."

Children with poor motor-skills need training in handwriting and should not be told to simply forgo the pencil and use a computer to write.

A bright teen came to me for help. He wrote only on the computer and found that there were times when it was necessary to write by hand. His lack of handwriting experience hindered him with illegible and slow writing, but more significantly, he had problems composing without a computer. He was unable to mentally outline an essay—he had always used cut and paste to organize his thoughts.

Poor motor-skills can improve with age and practice. As a young child, this teen should have received help with his fine-motor and gross-motor development, and the standard of perfect penmanship should have been loosened. His caring parents would have helped him, but they were told, "Don't worry, he will write with a computer." As it was, this bright and motivated young man saw the need to catch up and simply worked on it himself. For some, an occupational therapist trained to work with handwriting can make the difference.

The computer is a fine tool for writing, but not when it keeps us from exercising our brains. Handwriting practice that leads to a legible script is a terribly important skill for growing minds. It is a necessary skill that should not be taken lightly.

 

Drawing instruction is not only for

the artistically talented child.

 

Handwriting instruction is not only for

the child with a flair for penmanship.

 

Handwriting is an Art!

Speech, writing, grammar, spelling, vocabulary—the parts and pieces of Language Arts. They fall into the categories of creativity and craftsmanship:

  • Creative—stories, poetry, vocabulary
  • Craft—reporting, instructions, handwriting, spelling

Handwriting is fundamental.

Handwriting is a craft.

Handwriting is an Art!

Drawing and Writing Together

 Tyler, age 5 — This drawing illustrates an event, which Tyler can expand on with his voice or with written words.

Tyler, age 5 — This drawing illustrates an event, which Tyler can expand on with his voice or with written words.

 

Nurture a love of writing.

Teach children to write by simply talking and writing with them about their drawing. Drawing motivates a child to practice pencil-skills that are needed for writing. Here's how we do it:

 

Talking

Visual and Verbal

 

Ask the child to tell you about their drawing. Prompt them with questions, such as, "Who is throwing the ball?" "Who is the boy with the bat?" "The fence looks familiar—where is he playing?" 

 The "Boy" lesson is in   Draw Write Now, Book 1.

The "Boy" lesson is in Draw Write Now, Book 1.

Some children rarely speak, while others may be very vocal. Talking about a drawing can help both. The quiet child's drawing may become the foundation for a conversation. The talkative child's drawing can be used to help guide and focus their verbal skills.


Pre-Writing

Making the Connection

Demonstrate that the letters people make on paper are the words we speak. Sitting beside the child, ask them to TELL you about their drawing. As they tell you, WRITE their words down, then READ their words back to them, pointing to the words as you read. 

Show the child how to write their name.

If you are unsure how to form the letters, refer to our instruction on handwriting styles.


Letters

Introduce Letters

As the child shares their drawing, show them how to make and pronounce the first letter of the subjects in the drawing. So, if they have drawn a bird, write the letter "b" while pronouncing the letter.  You might even add "fl" for "flying." (Include blended letters, like “th”, "br" "wh".)

LOWERCASE LETTERS: Demonstrate using lowercase letters, rather than capital. Most of our writing is lowercase.

Plain paper is fine—there is no need to use guideline paper at this stage.


Words

Introduce Words

When the child shows you their drawing, choose a word and show them how to correctly form and pronounce each letter in a word. "Here's how to write the word "ball"—b-a-l-l." 

 

SPACING OF LETTERS: Explain that letters in a word are grouped together without spaces. The letters are written side-by-side to form the word.

Plain paper without lines is fine.


Sentences

Introduce Sentences

 "It's not hard to show a child how to form letters, the challenge is motivating them to practice."

After drawing a picture, demonstrate how to write a short sentence, such as “We like to play ball.” 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.

SPACES BETWEEN WORDS:  Explain that words are separated by spaces.

Introduce guideline or lined paper.


More Sentences

Copy Work, Practice
 

 Matthew, age 7 Drawing makes handwriting practice fun!

Matthew, age 7
Drawing makes handwriting practice fun!

 Tiger Lesson is in   Draw Write Now, Book 7

Tiger Lesson is in Draw Write Now, Book 7

Practice writing two to four short sentences. The sentences can be about their drawing or can be a memory verse. The sentences should be simple to copy.

Draw Write Now lessons have four short sentences. The sentences may be changed, but keep the sentences short and simple. This practice time is for developing handwriting skills, not vocabulary, composition or spelling.

Have the child critique their work.

  • Ask them to choose their best letters or words.
  • Point out things they can improve.

There's no need to erase and do over, it is simply a time to become aware for the next time they practice.

 Matthew, age 7

Matthew, age 7

Is the child reluctant to practice writing? Work for success, but push them a bit. If you know they can write one sentence, have them write two short sentences. Lesson to lesson, increase the amount of writing.

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

Telling a Story

Self-Editing

Encourage the child to write about their drawing. Oftentimes, their background drawing will prompt them to write. 

Since the focus is composition, this is not a time to stress careful handwriting! It is not spelling or vocabulary-time. Let them write. Let them get their ideas down on paper.

Does the child love to write, but spelling or grammar needs some refining? After writing and reading their story, help them select a few sentences.  Correct any spelling or grammar errors in those sentences.

EXTRA: Have the child copy a few corrected sentences onto a fresh sheet of paper using their best handwriting. 


Grammar or Spelling

Exercises

GRAMMAR: Ask the child to write all the nouns in their drawing (boy, bird, fence, grass, ball.)

Another time, have the child write all the verbs (fly, hit, swing, stand, look, throw) or all the adjectives (fast, sunny, happy, green.)

SPELLING: Words that are spelled incorrectly can be added to a spelling list to practice later.


Paragraphs

Focusing

Have the child write a paragraph about the subject in their drawing.

  • Introduce the subject. (The boy loves playing baseball.)
  • Write several sentences to support the introductory sentence. (The first pitch was thrown. He swung and the ball went far into the outfield. He ran so fast around the bases.)
  • Write a closing sentence restating the first sentence. (He wants to play baseball every day of his life.)

WRITING PROMPTS: A mother shared that she brings out the Draw Write Now set of books, announce the theme, such as “Springtime." Her three boys flip through the books, each choosing a drawing that makes them think of Spring—a rabbit, a bird and a boat. Their finished drawing becomes their prompt for writing a paragraph on Spring.


"It's fun to draw and write with a child."


Hold the Pencil

We send our booklet, Hold the Pencil, in every order we ship. Get it with an order or download it now...FREE (pdf, 493 pdf)

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
It was easy. My daughter changed her grip within two weeks.
— Carol, mom of a 5 year-old
 


 

Some children easily transition to the Tripod Grasp. For others, it is a challenge to keep the fingers in the tripod position. 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.

 Training Tools - The  Grip Starter Set  has a variety of grippers, pencils and crayons. 

Training Tools - The Grip Starter Set has a variety of grippers, pencils and crayons. 


How hard is it to change the grip?

Easiest

Some children use the tripod grasp naturally. Others may simply need to be shown and encouraged to practice.


Easy

Some children might benefit with a triangular shaped pencil as a little reminder to keep the fingers in a tripod position. Also, there are grippers that slip onto a pencil to make it triangular.

 Triangular-shaped pencils help establish the tripod grasp.

Triangular-shaped pencils help establish the tripod grasp.


Extra Training

Grippers with indentations or cups for the fingers help those who have a hard time keeping the fingers in place.

 Pencil Grippers help keep the fingers in position.

Pencil Grippers help keep the fingers in position.


OLD HABITS

The Twist n' Write Pencil takes a different approach on holding the pencil and helps those who have established a grasp that is harder to change.


 

"The new grip will probably feel uncomfortable at first."

At first, my son said that the pencil with the pencil gripper was uncomfortable. I explained that he was familiar with the other way of holding a pencil and that as he got accustomed to the new grip it would feel better. He used the pencil with the gripper only when we sat down together to draw. I ignored how he held the pencil at other times of the day.

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 gripper a few more weeks, until he realized that he really didn’t need it anymore.

The gripper was temporary—like using training wheels on a bike.
— Kim Stitzer, mother of a five year-old

Handwriting Styles

Which handwriting style should your child learn?

Teaching a child to write their name and first words is fun and easy, but before you get too far along, be aware that there are a variety of types of handwriting— they are called handwriting styles.

 Four children wrote the word "Tiger." They were all taught the same handwriting style.

Four children wrote the word "Tiger." They were all taught the same handwriting style.

Ask Your Local School

Primary or elementary schools agree on one handwriting style to teach—at least they should. If your preschool child is eager to write or your child is already attending school, but you don't know which style is used, contact the local school office and ask.

Homeschooling

Homeschool parents—you get to decide! It's nice to find a style that appeals to each child, but I've found that it makes sense to stick to one style for the family.

The Left-Handed Child

With any handwriting style, there is a slight modification that can help a left-handed child write more smoothly. It's simple—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.

Manuscript Only?

Handwriting styles are designed with a manuscript (print) and a cursive (linked) form. Progressing to the cursive or linked form is the goal, as it is the quicker or more fluid form of handwriting. Today, many children get handwriting instruction and practice for only a few years at best and may not get instruction in cursive. I encourage teachers and parents to include regular handwriting practice into sixth grade. Keep practice time short—ten to fifteen minutes. For older children, practice time may be only once a week.

Begin with Cursive?

Yes, it is fine to start in cursive, and most children love it. When Marie was a child in the 1920’s, all her handwriting was in cursive. Manuscript was introduced later and used for labeling maps or posters.

A handwriting style is a carefully designed, efficient way of forming letters and numbers.

Each style has it’s own character or fits certain needs. There is no "correct" handwriting style—although publishers of handwriting programs or language arts programs might feel that theirs is the best! A handwriting chart or some other reference on how letters are formed (letter cards with the starting points and arrows, alphabet strips, iPad app) is a good reference tool to have available.

 Handwriting Types

Simply be aware of letter formation and model it for your children or students. When given no instruction or example to follow, bright children can come up with some terribly awkward and cumbersome ways of making letters!


Oh, So Unique!

Whichever handwriting style or type is chosen, the personality of each child's handwriting is evident. 

One child may space letters wide. Another might slant their letters less than the child sitting next to them. Some tend toward narrow lettering. Then, there are those who have a confident flow to their writing. 

Our uniqueness shows in our handwriting. It is our style.

Training and Practice

Handwriting programs have instructions and books and gadgets and apps. For many people, it is not necessary or practical. The main thing is to help the child memorize the letter formation (there are many fun ways to do this) and have clear standards and expectations for their practice time.

 These first and second-grade children learned to write together. They each show an individual style, and all are beautiful. The papers are from the end of their school year.

These first and second-grade children learned to write together. They each show an individual style, and all are beautiful. The papers are from the end of their school year.

Amanda's letters are wide.

 Amanda uses wide spacing in her words and letters.

Joshua's writing has very little slant.

 Joshua's writing has a slight slant.

Tyler's letters are narrow.

 Tyler consistently forms narrow letters.

Elisa's writing flows.

 Elisa has an effortless flow to her writing.

Examples of Handwriting Styles

A handwriting style is a carefully designed, efficient way of forming letters and numbers. Each style has its own character or fits a certain need. The most common styles are shown here.

Most of these examples were created
with Startwrite Handwriting Software.

 New American Cursive, handwriting style

New American Cursive, handwriting style

New American Cursive

I like New American Cursive. This form of cursive is simple and clean. The child learns to write using cursive—they start with cursive. There is no manuscript form, although, the capital letters F, Q, T, and Z are made like manuscript capital letters. Another option would be to start a child with Zaner-Bloser Continuous Stroke Cursive.

Cursive — New American Cursive


 Handwriting Without Tears, Printing - Handwriting Style

Handwriting Without Tears, Printing - Handwriting Style

 Handwriting Without Tears, Cursive - Handwriting Style

Handwriting Without Tears, Cursive - Handwriting Style

Handwriting Without Tears

Handwriting Without Tears is a simplified style, without a slant, and has a rather blocky feel to it. Developed by an occupational therapist, the program includes many tactile products for writing readiness and an app for memorizing letter form. It is popular in the United States, but I find it too simple. It is not beautiful and the cursive doesn't flow.
Printing - Handwriting Without Tears
Cursive - Handwriting Without Tears


 Modern Manuscript (D'Nealian) - Handwriting Style

Modern Manuscript (D'Nealian) - Handwriting Style

 Modern Cursive (D'Nealian) - Handwriting Style

Modern Cursive (D'Nealian) - Handwriting Style

Modern Manuscript and Cursive (D'Nealian)

Modern Manuscript (D'Nealian) starts with slanted manuscript letters with the intent to transition easily to cursive writing. As in cursive writing, the lower case manuscript letters are made with one continuous stroke and most have "tails" (see the letter "a".) Modern Manuscript gained popularity in school districts in the United States in the late 1980's. Some find it challenging to teach (the program includes auditory instructions) and dislike the manuscript "b" and "k." I like it, but tend to teach it with modifications.

D’Nealian - manuscript and cursive chart
D’Nealian - manuscript only


 SIMPLE Zaner-Bloser Manuscript - Handwriting Style

SIMPLE Zaner-Bloser Manuscript - Handwriting Style

 SIMPLE Zaner-Bloser Cursive - Handwriting Style

SIMPLE Zaner-Bloser Cursive - Handwriting Style

Zaner-Bloser Continuous Stroke (Simple)

 This style is neither too challenging or too simple. Zaner-Bloser was the dominant handwriting style in the United States until Modern Manuscript (D’Nealian) gained popularity and this “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 original Zaner-Bloser style. The cursive was simplified and most notable, the letter "Q" was changed to look like a letter "Q" instead of an odd number "2." Continuous Stroke makes sense—it is the closest thing to how Marie taught manuscript letter formation. When she taught cursive to first-graders, she used A Beka — that's what the private school chose.
manuscript - uppercase & lowercase


 Zaner-Bloser Manuscript, Handwriting Style,

Zaner-Bloser Manuscript, Handwriting Style,

 Zaner-Bloser Cursive, Handwriting Style

Zaner-Bloser Cursive, Handwriting Style

 Palmer Manuscript, Handwriting Style

Palmer Manuscript, Handwriting Style

 Palmer Cursive, Handwriting Style

Palmer Cursive, Handwriting Style

Zaner-Bloser (Original) & Palmer

The original Zaner-Bloser style and the Palmer style are not used as much now.

manuscript - uppercase
manuscript - lowercase
cursive - uppercase
cursive - lowercase
Spanish


Peterson Handwriting

Peterson includes a transition between printing and cursive—it's called Slant Print. I don't have a sample to show here, but did include links to the site. Peterson's theme is "the difference is rhythm." The cursive letters end without a curve, much like the Italic styles. This program includes a depth of information, prompts and help. It seems like a lot of work, to me. 
Print
Slant Print
Cursive


Italic Handwriting Styles


Italic is so lovely and appealing! There are a variety: Portland Italic, Barchowsky, New South Wales, Victorian, Queensland.
Italic charts (click “Chart” in the left-hand column)
Barchowsky Fluent

Handwriting Style, Italic
Handwriting Style, Italic
italiclink.gif

Handwriting Style, New South Wales
Handwriting Style, New South Wales
nswlink.gif

Handwriting Style, Queensland
Handwriting Style, Queensland
qldlink.gif

Handwriting Style, Victorian
Handwriting Style, Victorian
viclink.gif

 Make handwriting practice fun. Startwrite Handwriting Software loads most of the popular handwriting styles on your computer, so you can create custom practice sheets.

Make handwriting practice fun. Startwrite Handwriting Software loads most of the popular handwriting styles on your computer, so you can create custom practice sheets.