Posted by: angiefm | July 20, 2009

Copywork

I get more questions about copywork and narrations than all other questions put together … Hmmm … Maybe that’s not true.  The question I get asked most is “what book would you recommend?”  But I digress …

So instead of answering those questions repeatedly, I have decided to write about them and direct people to my posts.  DUH?!

This first one is about copywork because it is easier to explain.  🙂

Copywork is simply copying.  It is what a Charlotte Mason educator does in place of teaching spelling, punctuation, grammar and on top of that, fill the child’s mind with good ideas to think on.

WHAT TO COPY

It really is quite easy to prepare passages for copywork.  Pick passages which are WORTHY OF THOUGHT.  “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” just doesn’t cut it, KWIM?  😀

Here are some suggestions – Bible verses, idioms, famous sayings, poems, passages from good books, hymns. 

What I do is prepare the copywork in advance.  I used to try to do it on the fly.  Like we would read a book or poem then I would say, “Hey, this looks like a good passage to write.” and assign it for that day.  But I couldn’t always find good things to write on the spur of the moment.  So starting last year I prepared the selections in advance and it looks something like this:

  • Monday – verse(s) from the Bible
  • Tuesday – famous quotes, selected by topic from sites like www.thinkexist.com.  Or idioms from sites like www.idiomsite.com
  • Wednesday – a poem or part of a poem (but I always reproduce the whole poem for context even though they can only write one or two verses)
  • Thursday – a selection from a good book we have read
  • Friday – we don’t do copywork on Fridays.  Instead I have the children do a journal page.  Alethea writes her own and Tim dictates to me.  They journal about something interesting during the week.

Make sure the selections are good and complete sentences with interesting words, phrases, punctuation marks (they don’t all have to have varied punctuation, but in a typical week there should be the usual suspects like the inverted commas, exclamation marks, etc).

HOW MUCH TO COPY

It really depends on the age and ability of your child.  As a rule of thumb, I would suggest working up to 10 minutes worth of copying for a 6 year old, and about 15 go 20 minutes for a 12 year old.  The way to figure it out is to give them a passage for a start and ask them to copy in a FOCUSED way for 10 mins and see how far they get.  Then either pick passages about that length or just have them copy for that length of time.  I like to do the latter because sometimes what you want them to copy doesn’t stand well alone and must be put in context.  So I put in the whole passage or a whole poem but highlight only part of it for them to copy, or use the timer to get them to do what they can in the alloted time.  Timothy does 10 mins worth and Alethea 15, though she usually goes over because she wants to.  🙂

HOW TO COPY

Discuss – I have the child read the passage to me before they start.  Then if there is anything to discuss, whether the meaning of the passage, the use of punctuation marks, a particular phrase or any other literary device, we do it then.  What does “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” mean?  Does the comma come before of after the open inverted commas, what in the world did Wordsworth mean when he wrote “the child is the father of the man”?  etc, etc and so forth.

We also look at words which are spelt in an interesting way, usually not phonetically.  We talk about which words have double letters, or why phone is spelt with a “ph” when it sounds like an “f”, etc.

Whole not Part – the key to getting copywork to be good practice for learning spelling is for your child to copy the whole word, not a part of it.  If they are copying the word “apple”, they should look at the whole word, see how it is spelt, then write the full word.  Don’t let them look at the word then write the “A”, look again and come back to write the “PP”, look back again … you get the general idea.  That way they will never learn to spell the word, even if their copywork or penmenship is beautiful!

Slowly they should work up to writing phrases instead of words.  That gets their brains working on remembering the whole phrase even as they are writing it letter by letter and word by word, gets them to focus for longer and gives their minds something to think on.  If your child is at the stage where he is writing word by word, he may not remember the phrase “Better late than never”.  But if he is working on remembering the whole phrase while writing it, it will stick in his mind better.  Also this speeds up their writing because they don’t have to keep looking back at the original passage to check what they are supposed to write next. 

Penmenship – have them copy JUST ONCE, but in their very best handwriting.  Depending on the size of your child’s handwriting, you may be able to find pre-prepared copywork lines online at sites like http://www.donnayoung.org/penmanship/handwriting-paper.htm, or use Microsoft Word to create your own.  When they are younger and just starting out, I will write it once for them while they are looking on, and have them pay attention to correct letter formation, especially to the ones which are easily reversed, or remembering which ones go above or below the lines, etc.  Then they copy the selection under mine, using mine as an example.

Precision – don’t allow your child to make a mistake when doing copywork.  EVER.  The idea behind this is that if a child looks upon a wrongly spelt word, the image of that word will stay in his/her mind and make spelling that word difficult in the future.  And I for one can attest to that because I have atrocious spelling!  Why is it a child in school who makes a mistake on a spelling test, can make the same mistake when doing corrections?  Because they word, wrongly spelt, is already in their minds.  So I sit with the children when they are doing their copywork and if they are about to make a mistake, I stop them before they can.  Are they going to spelling “wrong” as “rong”?  As soon as you see them forming an “r” instead of a “w”, STOP THEM!  Are they going to spell “spell” with one “l”?  Before they move on to the next word, STOP THEM.  Have them go back to the passage and LOOK AGAIN.  See again how the word looks on the page, spell it out, do whatever makes sense to the child to internalise the spelling of that word.  Then come back to what they were writing and try it again. 

FOCUS –  The habit of ATTENTION is key in a Charlotte Mason education.  And in copywork it is very important.  The moment their attention starts to waver, they will get less or even nothing out of continuing to write.  It is better for your child to do 5 minutes of good and focused copywork than to write a whole page in an inattentive way. 

Happy copying!  😀

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Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing all these wonderful tips! Goes a long way to make the work meaningful. I’ll definitely be noting them for when I do make my boys do copywork.
    There’s a worksheet generator where you can make copywork worksheets – you just input the text and it creates the space for copying:
    http://www.worksheetworks.com/english/writing/handwriting/handwriting-print-copy.html

  2. I just want to thank you for sharing so much. It is such an inspiration. Wishing so much to do what you do too!! Thank you on behalf of everyone whom you have helped inspire!

  3. […] If you want to read more about copywork, I have an older post on the topic here. […]

  4. […] In the meantime, here is something I have promised a variety of people over the past few months.  *shame*  The next installment of copywork for lower Primary School aged chidren.  I have used this selection for my kids when they were in P2.  But there is no reason you cannot use it for children a year older or younger.  You are the best judge for what your children can handle.  I will not repeat what I wrote earlier about copywork, but if you are new to it, you can read my previous posts here and here. […]


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