Having an uncomfortable or awkward pencil grip
can cause students to have difficulty forming letters, thus interfering
with the writing process. To hold a pencil comfortably, a student
needs to get feedback from his fingers about what that pencil
is doing. If a student is not getting this feedback, he may grip
the pencil too tightly, and write using his wrist more than his
fingers, for example, placing his thumb over the other fingers,
creating a fist-like grip, essentially preventing the fingers
from moving the pencil.
Similarly, in order to write comfortably, a student
also needs to know the position of his pencil point on the paper.
Students who do not get this feedback from their fingers, may
keep their eyes very close to the page while writing, so they
can see the pencil point. Both an awkward grip and writing with
the eyes close to the page can be tiring and very uncomfortable.
Having graphomotor difficulties such as an uncomfortable
or awkward grip may make a student write slowly and with a lot
of effort. In fact, a student may begin to dislike the writing
process simply because the act of writing is so difficult.
Note: With all student writers, but especially
the student who has difficulty with letter formation, it is very
important to respect the student's feelings about his written
work. Do not put work on display or have peers correct the work
unless the student is comfortable with this type of public review.
Here are some strategies to develop and improve
a student's use of a comfortable grip during writing.
- Some students have an unusual or seemingly
awkward pencil grip that allows them to write legibly and with
good control. These students may not benefit from any changes
to their grip, if they are comfortable and the amount of writing
they do is not diminished.
- Talk about the difficulties a student might
be having with his/her grip. Be positive and supportive. Ask
the student if s/he is aware of specific situations where s/he
has trouble with her grip, for example, if s/he is tired or
has been writing a great deal. Discuss ways the student might
improve his/her writing in these situations (e.g., by flexing
and relaxing her fingers, by taking a break, etc.).
- Provide the student with a pre-shaped pencil
grip to use if his/her grip is not secure or if s/he uses too
much pressure. (Pencil grips are available in various shapes
and sizes so you can choose one that fits the student.).
- Have a student who uses too much pressure
with his/her grip draw a line (of appropriate darkness and width)
on a piece of paper, and tape it to his/her desk. as a model.
Remind the student to compare his/her lines with the model while
- Try wrapping tape around the student's pen
or pencil, or choosing a writing utensil that comes with a rubber
grip. This provides even more sensory feedback, and may help
the student become aware that s/he is pressing or squeezing
- Mark the student's finger position on his/her
pencil with a rubber band, piece of tape, or colored lines.
- Suggest that students with handwriting difficulties
might want to write with a pencil rather than with a ballpoint
pen. The pencil provides more friction with the paper, will
not smear as easily, and usually can be more neatly erased as
- Teach the student how to position his or her
paper and hand when writing. (Note that a left-handed student
may need extra help with positioning.)
- Be aware that a student who has difficulty
writing may possess as much knowledge and information, and/or
may be as creative or insightful as other students. It is helpful
to provide alternative ways for such a student to present materials,
such as through artistic projects, through verbal presentations,
through music or dramatic creations.
- Provide keyboards and word processing programs,
teach keyboarding skills, utilize writing software to help those
who have difficulty with the mechanics of writing.
- Be aware that some students with handwriting
grip problems may also have difficulty learning to type on a
keyboard or typewriter. Guide the student through computer mastery
gradually and without undue pressure. As a student is acquiring
keyboarding skills, have him/her continue to work on improving
his grip, and practicing handwriting.
- Recognize that the computer may become a "survival
tool" for students with graphomotor difficulties. However,
although a computer may increase the amount and legibility of
a student's work, by itself, it does not necessarily improve
the content or quality of that work.