Friday, May 02, 2014


I was watching a group of 5th and 6th graders work on a writing piece the other day.  They had to use pencils and paper (not computers) for this assignment and I noticed, once again, that many of them hold the pencil strangely.  Many of them also have only marginally legible handwriting.  The two don't always correspond to each other, but I am wondering now, if part of the problem with kids and writing is simply that it is uncomfortable for them to write.

Background:  years ago, when I had a full time position, part of which involved teaching 6th and 7th grade social studies classes, I was frustrated that it was so difficult to get the students to write their answers to "short answer" questions in complete sentences.  [not to mention the fact that most of them thought that "Because blah blah blah." would be a complete sentence].  At any rate, it was even worse to try to get them to write a paragraph.  Usually the paragraphs were one sentence long (or one fragment long).  "Essays" might be as long as 3 sentences, but that was pushing it. 

At the time, I didn't think to look at pencil grips, but now I am wondering how much that might contribute to the overall problem with written work.  The 5th grader I was watching the other day had a grip that resulted in his first two fingers hooking around the pencil, counter-balanced with the thumb, and pointing the pencil directly away from him.  And his handwriting was very close to being completely illegible. 

I am not a stickler for beautiful handwriting, although I am always glad to see it.  But we need to make sure that writing isn't actually painful for the students - and it needs to happen well before 5th grade.

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