It takes a lot of practice in many different scenarios before someone learns how to write. In fact, before learning to write, we need to become adept at many different skills impacted by multiple body systems and senses. In this post, we are going to focus on only three factors: hold, pressure, and steadiness. While these skills are more complicated than a beginning pre-writer is ready for, they are very important. In future posts, we will be discussing more of the necessary skills and the body systems impacted.
Think about how we hold a writing utensil, the pressure we use to get the writing medium to transfer from utensil to paper, and the steadiness it takes to make nice clean symbols. Add in the patience in order to do all three of these at the same time and you’ve got a really complicated task! In practicing the hold, pressure, and steadiness, children are preparing themselves for learning to write.
According to the Institute of Educational Sciences, “hold a pencil comfortably between the thumb and forefinger while resting on the middle finger”. [Source] There are several methods of teaching a child this hand position.
Christie at MammaOT talks about the ‘pinch and flip‘ method on her blog, here. And Meeghan at Sight and Sound Learning has a fun ‘alligator trick‘ on her blog, here. Watch the following video to get visual instructions:
Dry Erase Grip
Try this! Take out a dry erase board and marker and practice the hold while drawing random shapes, lines, or even just making dots. Remember to stay calm and be patient. It may be helpful to use an aid to practice the right grip. Through personal use, we recommend The Pencil Grip Universal Ergonomic Gripper . We believe The Pencil Grip C.L.A.W. or The Pencil Grip Crossover Grip would be good tools as well.
Think about the faint line of a pencil or the snap of a crayon, both due to pressure being applied to that writing tool. Without enough pressure, the tool will glide across the paper leaving little or no trace. With too much pressure, the tool may break and the paper may rip. In a happy medium between too little pressure and too much pressure, we find just the right amount. It isn’t easy to know what that medium is without practice.
Tip! Have your writer practice using a mechanical pencil. If the writer is pressing too hard, the lead will snap and they will have to write lighter. This self-corrective practice may cause some frustration, though, so be prepared to help the budding writer through their frustrations by using coping skills.
Try this! Take out a marker and some paper and make dots by pressing the tip of the marker into the paper. Try varying how hard you press by using light, medium, and heavy pressure. What happens to the size of your dots? Which ones are larger? Remember, we want to aim for a medium pressure when we are writing.
Have you ever tried writing in a moving vehicle with all the vibrations of the road moving your intended lines around? What about writing something down in a hurry? How about writing with your non-dominant hand? In all of these cases, our lines can be wavy or misplaced. It takes a fixed and calm position to write with steadiness. Steadiness is important because we need our writing to be clear so that our audience can read our intended message. No wiggly-jiggly writing here!
Try this! Using a pencil, paper, and something hard to write on (such as a clipboard) – walk around a room and write the sentence, “I am steady!” Then, sit down at a table and place the paper on the unmoving surface. Rest your writing hand on the paper while writing, and place your other hand on the paper to keep it from moving. Write the sentence again. Compare!
Practice your hold, pressure, and steadiness while tracing the vocab words from December’s Northern Lights trunk. Click the image below or the following link to open and print the full FREE PDF: Northern Lights Key Words and Pre-Writing Skills Worksheet. We recommend laminating the sheet so that practice can be redone many times.