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Charlotte Mason’s Method of Studied Dictation

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Dear Carrie

In Charlotte Mason’s method of dictation, what does a student do next if she spelled everything right in the passage?

Dear Carrie,

I am new to Charlotte Mason’s method of dictation, though I have read many good things about it. I’m excited to try Charlotte Mason’s method of dictation with Heart of Dakota! My daughter is beginning Bigger Hearts for His Glory. She does fairly well with spelling. I am wondering if she passes the first dictation passage, if I have her move on to the next passage? Or, if I see she passes the dictation passage, do I tell her she is done with spelling for the week? If it is the former, what do I have her do if we run out of dictation passages?  So, I guess my question is, in Charlotte Mason’s method of dictation, what does a student do next if she spelled everything right in the passage?


“Ms. Please Help Me with Charlotte Mason’s Method  of Dictation”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Me with Charlotte Mason’s Method of Dictation,”

This is such a good question about dictation!  I struggled with this question too until I read more about Charlotte Mason’s style of studied dictation. Her emphasis within dictation is actually on the studying of the passage in order to fix it within one’s mind. In essence, students practice the habit of making a mental or a photographic image of the text. They pay special attention to how the words are spelled, where the capital letters are found, which punctuation marks are used, and where the punctuation marks are in the sentence.

Poor spellers have often seen a word spelled incorrectly in their own writing so many times that the misspelled word looks ‘right’ to them.

I found Charlotte Mason’s studied dictation methods to be so interesting!  In my days as a public school teacher, it was that very skill that was lacking for poor spellers. They had no idea whether a word looked right or not, which is often the technique used by natural spellers to tell whether a word is spelled correctly. The poor spellers had seen the word spelled incorrectly so many times in their own writing that the wrong spelling actually looked right.

Spelling programs that incorrectly spell words within spelling exercises reinforce incorrect spelling.

It is amazing to me how many spelling programs have a section where kiddos are asked to find the incorrectly spelled word within the spelling exercises!  Students are then, in essence, taking a mental picture of the incorrect spelling. Charlotte Mason would find this to be a poor activity, as it reinforces incorrect spelling. She was very adamant that any word spelled incorrectly be covered up and fixed immediately. This way, students do not fix the wrong image within the mind.

Students trained to capture the correct image of words, sentences, and passages in their minds have a powerful tool in spelling.

Training the mind to capture a correct image of a word, sentence, and eventually passage is a powerful tool in spelling. It is often a tool that does more for kiddos who have struggled with spelling in the past, than any amount of memorizing rules does. I found this idea to be amazing! It is one that I had never heard during my years of training as a teacher, yet it makes so much sense. And, what’s more, it really works! I was so surprised to find that studied dictation was the method used for spelling here in America in the early 1900’s. It is a tried and true method for spelling. I think your daughter is sure to enjoy Charlotte Mason’s method of studied dictation!



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