Teaching the tripod pencil grip - whole class approach

Foundation Stage (4 - 5 year olds)

Children can find it difficult to develop, and remember how to form, a tripod grip due to the fine motor control and pressure skills needed. We have created two different methods to help you support young children in learning how to form the tripod grip:

Choose the method that is most appropriate for your class.

Tommy Thumb rhyme

The original “Tommy Thumb“ rhyme is a great hand and finger strength and dexterity action rhyme making it an ideal warm up activity for young children, or just fun to play with pre-school children. An advantage of using a known rhyme is that children learn the thumb and finger characters in a fun and non-threatening way.

Young children love a simple catchy rhyme and will happily sing it out loud to help them remember how to do something. However as they get a little older such rhymes are not really appropriate as aids or memory joggers. So we have another tip to help older children learn and develop their tripod pencil grip. We call it the “Drawbridge Flip”.

Pencil grip rhyme for young children (4 - 5 year olds)

We have adapted the traditional nursery rhyme “Tommy Thumb” to help young children learn how to form a tripod grip.

The grip version of the rhyme can be taught alongside the original as just another verse; the placing of the pencil can be replaced by using a finger from the other hand, this way a child can begin to develop the thumb and finger movements they will need later on to hold a pencil correctly.

Drawbridge flip (All age groups)

This is not a rhyme but a set of simple instructions

Right-handed child

Left-handed child

The tripod pencil grip step by step guide (All age groups)

  1. Place the pencil on the table in front of the writing hand, so it forms a straight line up the table with the writing tip of the pencil pointing towards you.
  2. Then using your thumb and index finger pinch the pencil either side of the shaft about 2 cm up from the tip for a right-handed writer and about 3 cm up for a left-handed writer. Dots or sticker may be placed on the pencil to help thumb and finger placement.
  3. Pick the pencil up off the table and place the fingernail of the middle finger on to the pencil just above the tip.
  4. Keep the ring and little fingers gently curled in.
  5. Push down with the middle finger so that the pencil moves up and over like a drawbridge, keep pushing until the pencil is supported in the cup (web of skin that joins the thumb, hand and index finger) and the pencil is resting on the inner edge of middle finger.
  6. When writing, the end of the pencil will be angled towards the shoulder for right-handed writers and the elbow for left-handed writers.