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Should I grade dictation as part of the English credit in high school?

Heart of Dakota - More than a Charlotte Mason Moment
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Editor’s note: Today, we share an archived post from Carrie. While her kids are now in older levels of our guides, the principles behind the dictation advice remain the same. We hope this post proves helpful to you! 

Should I grade dictation as part of the English credit in high school?

My oldest son is finishing Heart of Dakota’s World History for his sophomore year. (He did World Geography for his freshman year too). We have not completed all the dictation levels, so we are still hard at that even in high school. I was wondering if you “grade” the dictation passages. If so, how? Would you include that in the English/Grammar grade? What percentage of the overall grade? Please advise. Thanks for the advice!


“Ms. Help Me Know If I Should Grade Dictation in High School”

Dear “Ms. Help Me Know If I Should Grade Dictation in High School,”

Great question! First of all, just to encourage you I will let you know that studied dictation is a slow burn. It takes time to really reach its full impact. Kiddos who are naturally good spellers just visualize the correct spelling. They can tell if a word “looks right” and will excel in dictation readily. Kiddos who are struggling spellers struggle to visualize the correct spelling. They have often seen the incorrect spelling in their own writing so many times that the incorrect spelling actually looks right to them! For these kiddos, it takes time and mental attention to really “see” the correct spelling and then replace the incorrect image with the correct one in their mental blackboard.

Studied dictation helps students visualize the correct image.

Studied dictation works to help kiddos visualize the correct image over and over within written passages. It never has them look at the incorrect image of a word. It also has students visualize and write sentences with all the words spelled correctly. This is a much better (and more difficult) strategy than having kiddos memorize words in isolation with little carryover to their written work. During my public school teaching days, I had many kiddos who could ace their spelling tests only to misspell the same words in their daily writing over and over. When I learned about studied dictation it truly was an “Aha!” moment for me on how to help all spellers carryover correct spelling to their written work and how to help struggling spellers improve their spelling skills.

My sons did studied dictation in high school as well.

My boys were still doing studied dictation in high school too for varying reasons. My oldest was a great speller for tests but with little carryover to his writing. We didn’t start studied dictation with him until he was in third grade. At that time, I just came up with passages for him on my own to try studied dictation for a year. When I found great carryover into his writing, I began looking for a progressive set of dictation passages I could use for years to come. So, he didn’t start the system of passages we use in Heart of Dakota until he was near the end of fourth grade.

With my next son, who was a great speller and great at writing at a young age, we meandered through studied dictation to finish in high school. He rarely missed a passage. With my third son, who was not a natural speller in any way, we have taken awhile to pass the passages. He is four passages away from finishing the last level of studied dictation right now as a junior in high school. His spelling has definitely improved so much, although it has taken years. We do see carryover into his writing too now.   Hooray!

With my fourth son, who also is not a natural speller, we are slowly moving through the passages. He is definitely wishing and lamenting he was further in dictation right now as he is on the verge of MTMM. However, this desire to move quicker is a good impetus for him to pay more attention and make those needed switches in his mental picturing of words he chronically spells wrong.

Grades are not assigned for spelling in high school.

Now on to your main question. As far as spelling goes, in high school there is no grade for spelling. Often it is just an expectation that students spell correctly in their compositions. Points are detracted for incorrect spelling, but no credit or grade of any kind is given for spelling. This will be the same for college-level work.

I look at studied dictation through HOD as a journey to complete at the pace that suits the child. The goal is to complete Level 8 by the end of high school. This journey will differ for every child. That is the beauty of studied dictation. Just be sure your child is studying the passage prior to dictation. The studying part and focused attention is a key to Charlotte Mason-style success in spelling. During the studying phase of the passage, it can help to write in black marker on a white board any words you or the child feel they may miss. This extra layer of visualizing really helps prior to the dictating phase. Having the child trace over hard words in the passage with his/her pencil to make them bolder during the studying phase helps too.



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