The bead exercise

Valuable training for practising the proper pencil grip

Frequently, the following training has helped children with poor pencil grip when practised over an extended period of time. It is essential that a child should never (!) have to simultaneously concentrate on content when unlearning/relearning motor skills. Changing motor skills requires a child’s full attention; this is why this exercise should be done during individualised instruction or differentiation phases.

This exercise should only be performed with the writing hand! You need a natural unvarnished wooden bead with a diameter of ca. 10mm for each child.

1. The child learns to hold the bead between his/her ring finger and the little finger of his/her writing hand. Initially, the child will probably take the other hand for support to fix these two fingers. After some practice, the exercise should work with one hand only. The thumb, the forefinger and the middle finger may remain slightly bent. Children may feel tension in their forearms when doing the exercise for the first time.

2. Once the child is able to hold the bead with two fingers, they can proceed to the next exercise. Now it is time to practise fine motor skills: bead stringing, sorting marbles or little toy building blocks and the like – during all these exercises, the wooden bead is to be held between the ring finger and the little finger of the writing hand.

3. Should this task be managed successfully, the transition to drawing is made. The child draws and paints large sweeping lines, loops, curves etc., while still holding the bead between his/her two fingers. Once this works well, you may use worksheets with assignments such as finding one’s way through a maze, painting by numbers or performing other types of drawing tasks.

4. Now kids may finally start to practise writing movements. Initially, they should take a Jumbo GRIP pencil, a mechanical pencil or the Faber-Castell junior fountain pen to write letters on ruled paper, with the space between the lines getting increasingly smaller over time. One more time, this exercise involves holding the bead between the ring finger and the little finger while doing the exercise.

This exercise wants to make sure that the middle finger remains underneath the pencil so that the latter may rest on it. If the middle finger was placed on top of the pencil, a space would open up, as the ring finger and the little finger would still hold the bead. As a consequence, the pencil grip would be unstable and the child could hardly write without losing grip of their pencil.