Over the years, I’ve seen some really unusual ways of holding a pencil. Many students arrive in Kindergarten with habits already formed that look awkward at best, if not painfully uncomfortable. No wonder some kids have trouble with writing and drawing! These early habits can be hard to change, but it’s worth the effort.
Some teachers offer fancy rubber grips that slide onto a pencil to teach correct finger placement. But students can become dependent on these aids, which won’t always be available when they need them. A better solution is to teach the “tripod grip”, with this simple technique that occupational therapists have been using for years:
The “tripod grip”:
You’ll notice that the cotton ball feels good in your hand…. it has a comforting effect, which encourages a relaxed grip – the key to preventing hands from getting cramped and tired. The tripod grip facilitates drawing with a light touch and improves handwriting, too! Students can keep a cotton ball in their desk to pull out as needed, until one day when they just forget about using it and realize they don’t even need the cotton ball anymore.
Using a shorter pencil, like a golf pencil, can be helpful for teaching the tripod grip, too.
As drawing skills progress, students can experiment with holding their pencil in different ways to encourage loose sketching, large arm/shoulder movements, and more variety in the marks they can make. Eventually using the side of the lead, in addition to the point, will allow students to move to a new level in their drawings…. but for detail, control, and mastering basic skills, the tripod grip is the place to begin!
(Note: Make sure you have plenty of cotton balls…. everyone will want one!)