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Why You Should Continue With Copywork Once Dictation and Written Narrations Have Begun

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Dear Carrie

What benefits do you see for children to continue copywork once dictation and written narrations are well underway?

Dear Carrie,

The reasons for continuing dictation, oral narration, and written narration through the middle and upper years make sense to me. I myself have seen fruit from these methods! I’ve been grateful for how much they have helped my children in the process of learning to write. Copywork also makes sense to me in the elementary years, and it helped my 3 oldest when they were learning to write. One thing I don’t understood though is the continuation of copywork beyond 5th grade. I have noticed copywork continues through high school. What benefits do you see for children to continue copywork once dictation and written narrations are well underway?

“Please Help Me See the Benefits of Copywork for Olders”

Dear “Please Help Me See the Benefits of Copywork for Olders,”

This is an excellent question! Heading into upper levels of education, copywork begins taking on a new focus. As students copy from increasingly difficult narrative history books and classic literature, more in-depth elements are present. An author’s style, voice, word choice, descriptive language, use of humor, foreshadowing, mood, and important dialogue can be perceived. In essence, students are copying from great writers and beginning to internalize the author’s use of language.

Many of our founding fathers used this strategy.

This strategy was used by many of our founding fathers as part of their education and all through their lives. Benjamin Franklin was known for copying lengthy passages from the Bible and from Pilgrim’s Progress. He then later tried to write these verbatim, without looking at the model. Thomas Jefferson was also known to copy extensively from various works to internalize the material and note important phrasing.

Charlotte Mason advocated the practice of keeping a Common Place Book through high school.

High school students continue keeping a Common Place Book, selecting meaningful quotes or passages from classic literature for their book. Charlotte Mason advocated this practice throughout high school, and we feel it is an excellent use of students’ time. As students read, they watch for notable quotes or passages and select their favorites from among them. Finally, they copy them into their book for later reference, creating a ‘Common Place’ for their special quotes or passages.

Copywork of Scripture and poetry is especially beneficial.

Continuing copywork of Scripture is another area that is well worth the time spent copying. Within Heart of Dakota, students typically copy verses and passages that they have been asked to memorize. This makes the Scripture within their Common Place Books especially meaningful. Poetry is another area worthy of copywork. Poetry copywork reflects the structure of poems, the flow of words, the sentiments evoked, and the style of the poet.

Continuing copywork ensures students take note of excellent writing.

Copywork is such an overlooked skill especially as students begin doing more of their own writing. However, the inclusion of copywork in Heart of Dakota ensures students are continuing to take note of excellent writing. It keeps students watching how strong writers express themselves and thinking of ways they can imitate great writing. When students read and then copy from what they read, they remember better what was read. The quotes help the student recall the book to mind. So, there are many benefits to copywork all throughout life, no matter what age you are!


This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Guinevere Wise

    I have found that my oldest has greatly benefited from copywork and it has improved her own writing. I still write quotes and things I want to remember in a journal. However, it is impossible to use copywork with my dyslexic son. Not only can he not read, the sheer mental exhaustion that writing requires of him hinder any benefits.

    1. Oh, I’m so glad to hear you’ve seen the benefits of copywork with your daughter, Guinevere! I can see the challenges posed for your son. One neat idea is to have your son type the quotes and print them to glue in a common place book or in a journal. I have a good friend whose son has dysgraphia that has done this all the way through the high school guides in HOD, and her student has really enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing, and have a terrific Tuesday!

      1. Guinevere Wise

        LOVE THAT! Thank you so much for the advice. I’m going to start implementing it tomorrow!

  2. Meg

    Thank you so much for this helpful blog post! I have been learning so much from this blog.
    I have a question about expectations for different ages regarding copywork. My 6 year old is about 5 weeks into Beyond, and I am finding errors in her penmanship and spelling almost every day. She isn’t creating ‘keepsake’ material at this point. Do I have her re-write the passage, do I point out the error and move on, or do I have her go back and correct the error without re-writing the whole thing?

    Also, how would you encourage a child who finds copywork a waste of time? My 8 year old who is over half way through Bigger has excellent penmanship, and resists (aka complains about 😉 ) doing copywork because she thinks it is simply a handwriting exercise.
    Thanks for any ideas you can provide!

    1. Carlyn

      I always make my kids correct any mistakes in copy work.

      1. That’s a good practice to have, Carlyn! Thanks for your response, and have a wonderful Wednesday homeschooling with HOD!

    2. I’m so glad you are learning some helpful tips from this blog – that is our prayer!!! You’ve asked some good questions, Meg! First, a little background I hope will be helpful – Charlotte Mason would say a child’s mind is like a camera. So, every time a child sees a word spelled correctly, a child will be more likely to spell the word correctly. Likewise, every time a child sees a word spelled incorrectly, a child will be more likely to spell the word incorrectly. I can attest to this! Before teaching my own children, I taught in public school. In correcting written work, I saw the word ‘friend’ spelled ‘frend’ so many times, one day I wrote it that way myself and almost didn’t correct it! Words spelled incorrectly over and over begin to look ‘right’. When I need to guess how to spell a difficult word, I write it on a piece of scrap paper to see if it looks ‘right.’ Usually this works! That is because through past reading/writing I’ve probably seen the word enough to recognize when it looks ‘right.’

      So, in answer to your question about your 6 yo, you would want to have her fix her misspelled words, right away preferably. Our older guides have editing helps, and the first tip for help with spelling is to allow the students to dictate to you for you to write, and have them copy it at the end. The second, higher level, tip is to orally spell any words the students asks you to spell while they are writing. The third, next higher level, tip is to write the words the student asks you to spell for them on a markerboard or on a piece of paper while they are writing. The final and highest level tip is to have the students look back in the book they read to copy the correct spelling of key words. This last tip should only be utilized by older students, who are reading their own material consistently. So, for your 6 yo daughter, I’d help her fix her errors as soon as possible using one of these tips. She should only correct the errors. There is no need to rewrite the entire passage. The only exception to this is dictation, in which she would correct the errors looking at the dictation model, and then redo the same passage the next day. However, dictation does not begin until the spelling lists have been completed in the guides, usually not until at least age 7.

      For your 8 year old daughter, you can explain that copywork is a part of life always. As an adult, I copy recipes, Scripture verses, special quotes – even addresses, messages, etc. So, it is not a waste of time, but rather a tool to better remember things and to better improve writing properly. She need not like everything in school; that is not realistic. As Charlotte Mason would say, some subjects are ‘inspirational,’ and some are ‘disciplinary.’ It is not possible nor even advisable to make disciplinary subjects inspirational. One cannot live in a heightened sense of inspiration for the duration of the school day. Copywork, grammar, math – these are disciplinary subjects, necessary to learn to be successful in life, but not necessary to provide inspiration. Sometimes I like to just unload the dishwasher because it is a straight-forward task that just needs to be done as efficiently and quickly as possible. Trying to make that disciplinary task more fun would only unnecessarily lengthen the task. Better just to complete the task and then be more fresh of mind to be inspired by something more inspirational! I hope this helps! Thank you so much for asking the questions many moms have, Meg! I truly appreciate your responses!

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