Within the first week of school in my classroom, I begin teaching the first and second graders how to hold their pencils correctly and how to form their letters properly. Why do I begin so early? Because many of them enter my classroom putting their index and middle fingers on their pencils. The longer they do this, the more deeply the habit is formed.
But who cares about pencil position?
Here are two reasons why it’s important:
- Holding our pencils correctly defends the statement that there is objective truth. Other schools often do not teach pencil position nor do they care how students hold their pencils. Having a standard fights the common cultural belief that there is no objective truth to teach a student “the right way to hold a pencil.” It might sound arrogant. It sounds like you have the truth and you’re shoving it onto others. But right is right. We can defy the wishy-washiness of this present culture by showing students the best way to hold their pencils.
- Holding our pencils correctly strengthens hand muscles, makes writing more efficient, and improves movement and control. We become stronger by holding our pencils correctly. Students who hold their pencils incorrectly are slower writers and feel more discomfort in their hands than the students who hold their pencil correctly— index finger on the top, thumb on the side, middle finger on the other side, and by having ring finger and pinky rest on the side.
Why should we care about forming letters properly and beautifully?
We want to teach them what is good, true, and beautiful. First, teaching students the correct way of handwriting also teaches them what is true. Teaching proper formation shows students that there is a right way to form letters and that it’s not up to you to decide how you want to form them. It sounds mean to tell a six-year old, “You’re forming your letters wrong,” but it is a small way of telling them, “No, you may not do whatever you want.” Our God is not a God of disorder or confusion. Just as we want ordered loves and ordered classrooms, we also want ordered handwriting.
Second, teaching them to write beautifully teaches them what is good and beautiful. Our culture is anti-beauty and anti-truth. We can give our students a glimpse of the beauty of God by showing them the beauty of good handwriting. We should strive to inspire our students to improve their handwriting. In order to help them love truth, and hate evil, I show them through handwriting what is right and wrong, and what is beautiful and ugly. We want them to be strong in truth, and this is just a small way of training that truth.
Why are handwriting and pencil grip especially important to teach in first and second grade?
We are laying the foundation for our students. If a builder lays a faulty foundation, the rest of the project will not be successful. Likewise, if we want our students to form good habits, we should start them early. If we do not show them the goodness, truth, and beauty of handwriting now, they will be less likely to appreciate it later. Forming letters is like brushing your teeth; if you don’t brush your teeth daily, everyone can see the negative effects of it. Likewise, if you don’t form letters correctly or beautifully, people can see the effects of it later, and it won’t be pretty.
First and second grade is an important age to solidify good handwriting habits. We can give young students a picture of God’s beauty and truth by enforcing proper pencil position and correct letter formation in the classroom. Warriors are not born ready to fight; they must train, learn little techniques, and make their bodies obey their minds. Likewise, the littlest at Cedar Classical Academy are preparing to be released into the world in which they will fight many battles for goodness, truth, and beauty.
This essay was based on Mrs. Berggren’s September 2022 Lightning Talk. Listen here.