Next, during the stage of letters and early word–symbol relation-
ships,children actually print letters but may use a single letter to
represent an entire word. Phonetic awareness becomes apparent
in the following stage, invented spelling,as children begin to
write the sounds they hear. Finally, children progress to the stage
of standard spelling.1See chapter 1 for a more complete descrip-
tion of the stages, and examples.
At what age do children become interested in writing?
Children often become interested in writing early in their pre-
school years, once they develop sufficient coordination to control a
writing implement.This does not mean that they immediately
begin to produce recognizable print. Writing emerges gradually as
children experiment with writing materials and become more
aware of written language.
How do young children usually hold the pencil?
Children often progress through a series of pencil grasps as they
progress in their ability to write.Initially, many young children wrap
all four fingers around the pencil in a fist grip.Some children
wrap all four fingers around the pencil but also rotate the hand so
that the back of the hand faces the body in an overhand grip.Later
many children develop a three-finger grip,with two fingers on top
of the pencil and the thumb opposite. A tripodgrip, the most
mature grasp, is the standard writing position characterized by one
finger on top of the pencil, one finger below the pencil, and the
thumb opposite. Many older preschool children hold the pencil
with a tripod grasp; however, some children continue to hold the
pencil near the eraser end for a while, which often contributes to
faint, wobbly handwriting. Three-finger grips, or even fist grips, are
still used by some kindergarten children, particularly if they have
not had much experience with writing.
Should the teacher correct a child’s pencil grasp?
The teacher should not correct a child’s pencil grasp, because it is
not a mistake to hold the pencil in a less mature grasp. Rather, it
shows the child’s current level of development. Children usually
hold the pencil in the manner that is most comfortable for them.
Gradually, as they develop more hand and finger strength and
better coordination, they change grips. When teachers insist that
children hold the pencil in a particular way, they may inhibit and
discourage children from trying to write. If a teacher senses that a
child is becoming frustrated with writing due to a particular way
of holding the pencil, then the teacher may choose to model an
80 More Than Letters