Pencil Grip is Less Important than Letter Formation and Speed

The increased use of computers and tablets in schools and at home has shifted educational focus toward a child’s keyboard skills rather than handwriting. Children are still expected to learn how to write by hand, but the importance of letter formation and speed is often overlooked.

A study, published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy, found that the kinetics, speed, and legibility of writing were not different among children who used four different types of pencil grips after ten minutes of writing.

Photo credit: Photo reference: Koziatek, Susan M., and Nancy J. Powell. 2003. “Pencil Grips, Legibility, and Speed of Fourth-Graders’ Writing in Cursive.” The American Journal of Occupational Therapy 57(3):284–88.The findings suggest that a child’s pencil grip is less important than their ability to correctly form letters at various speeds. The researcher found no kinetic differences among the four commonly occurring pencil grips: dynamic tripod, dynamic quadrupod, lateral tripod, and lateral quadrupod.

A child’s pencil grip pattern is often associated with handwriting problems and messy letter formation. However, this conclusion is not evidence based and overlooks the complex interplay of abilities that are needed for functional handwriting, such as fine motor coordination, cognitive, perceptual, and language skills.

In order for a child’s pencil grip to be functional for handwriting, it must provide the ability to efficiently create a legible written product in the required timeframe. Children must be able to write long enough to adequately complete their homework and class assignments. If a child’s pencil grip is preventing them for achieving grade-appropriate functional writing, it is suggested they be referred to occupational therapists.

StepUp Summary

The Listen, Talk and Write program is designed to improve handwriting through multi-sensory activities, daily practice, and a structured progression. Handwriting needs to be accurate and fluent for it to be a useful learning tool. Listen, Talk and Write helps children learn letter names and work up to writing letters at a rate of 1 letter per 2 seconds. Sign up here for a free 30-day Listen, Talk and Write trial.

StepUp to Learn offers more than just handwriting. Watch this video to see the full program in action!