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Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

My budding author and her (lack of) pencil grip

May 8, 2007

My daughter Anna LOVES to write. It's something she's always enjoyed doing. Her kindergarten class has Writer's Workshop several times a week, and she eagerly publishes her stories. During our school's Author Share later this month, Anna's planning to share a book of short stories she's penned.

She has fantastic skill with dialogue, word choice, and even a surprise ending or two. Where she lacks skill is with her pencil grip! She uses this two-finger-over-pencil, grasp mid-way-up-pencil technique that I've never seen before.

I've combed the research (nothing very relevant or recent), Googled the topic, talked with my friend who is an occupational therapist, and reread some stuff I'd seen about pencil grip.

In the end, it appears as though Anna's grip preference is something she will likely outgrow (although I won't deny feeling a little worried; we're heading into first grade this fall!).

In the meantime, some strategies I've read about include providing her with small pieces of chalk or crayon that force her to grip with her fingers instead of her fist, engage in lots of fine motor work, and using a triangular pencil grip (seemingly sold everywhere). The fine motor skill isn't the challenge; Anna attended a terrific Montessori preschool and spent LOTS of time using materials such as these and these.

I'm seeking your help here too – has your child, or a child in your class struggled with grip issues? If so, what worked?


I'm 25 and the tripod grip has ALWAYS made my fingers hurt, no matter what pencil pillows/grips I've tried over the years. Instead I rest my pencil on my ring & pinky fingers and clutch it from above with my middle & pointer fingers -- and find it completely comfortable. My kindergarten teacher had a fit about this, until my pediatrician said it was called "secretary's grip" and totally okay; I've never found any documentation about "secretary's grip," but my handwriting is neater than most of my friends, and I write faster too.Moral of the story: as long as it's legible and comfortable, why change it?

As a kindergarten teacher I find that "The Crossover Pencil Grip" works really well. It's hooded and forces the student into a tripod grasp. I've spoken with our school's OT and will usually only try to correct a fisted grasp rather than others that may be unconventional, but acceptable.

Some of the kids I work with have lousy grips and, I believe as a conequence, lousy handwriting. However, I have not great handwriting and a good grip. I think grip is important but so is huge amounts of fine motor practice as a toddler and preschooler. Poking at electronic devices is NOT the fine motor practice that is needed.

I too was always questioned about my somewhat unusual pencil grip,add this to the fact I was left handed.I think it was a confidence issue in my case..that way of holding the pencil worked for me and once a child feels comfortable its hard to shake..Im sure in her own time she will alter her style of certainly didnt hold me back..Eliza author ..folk of feodora's lane xx

One recommendation I've seen for the "death grip" on the pencil is to have the child practice "ghost writing." The child writes a word lightly on the paper and then has to erase it without leaving marks. The child wins if they can do this. Talk about “lifting the pencil tip off the paper” as the child writes.

One recommended practice for Molly's poor pencil grip was to place a tissue or cotton ball in the palm of Molly's hand. The middle, the ring and little finger were to hold (hide) the object – that is their (fingers) job. This allowed the index finger and the thumb to hold the pencil correctly.

I searched "pencil grip" and came up with this post. I am looking for research about how to avoid the death grip that so many kids seem to have on their pencils. I watch them shake out their hands like marathoner's legs after a race. When I show them a more comfortable grip, they say "I like it this way." I say "But I can't read your writing." They say "I can." I want their writing to be comfortable and legible (and of course filled with wonderful content). Comfortable writers write more, cramped writers avoid the whole process, or approach it with reluctance. Writing shouldn't hurt! How are your kids doing?

My daughter (just turned 6) has a non conventional pencil grip despite attempts to correct it. However she consisytently has the neastest handwriting in the class and her written language is detailed and lengthy. As ateacher myself I was worried about the Grip she was using but now I wonder if, like being left hander, it isn't actually something that needs to be changed.

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"What an astonishing thing a book is. It's a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you're inside the mind of another person ..." —

Carl Sagan