Archive for the ‘Dictation and copywork’ Category

Copywork transformed!

Monday, December 8th, 2014


Hi Julie!

I have to tell you that we are one week post-copywork/dictation seminar and our copywork experience has been completely transformed! We had a pretty dry/boring routine previously, whereby I would assign passages from their readings, and they would copy them onto looseleaf pages that I would insert in their “Language” binder. It was pretty uninspired, and a bit of a chore. After your webinar I told them we would do things differently and they would have much more ownership over the exercise.

Copywork_Jennifer_1_blogSkip to now: the kids are ready with their own personal, sparkly notebooks and fancy pencils, jotting down whole pages from the books they are reading. For when they lack their own inspiration, an old jar has been dug up, dusted off and filled with quotes from our favourite books – Harry Potter, Pippi Longstocking, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the Phantom Tollbooth! Last night after my kids had gone to bed, I saw my youngest daughter doing copywork by the glow of the hall light, propped up on her elbows in bed. Of course, I let her turn her light back on.

Such a difference! Thank you for the tips and inspiration to make this a much more pleasant and meaningful experience!

Just to add – my only rule is for them to write their passages down with the correct grammar, punctuation, etc from the original passage. Despite their best efforts, sometimes mistakes are made, and handwriting is not always perfect. I am overlooking this right now to keep their enthusiasm up. There will be time for that as we go along, I figure. I know that they are already learning from it, since my 8 year old keeps telling me, looking up from her page, that, “Mom, I think I know how to spell ‘business’ now…”. Or, “forgotten” or “Hermione.” What a gift to see such results so quickly!

The marvel isn’t really mine – that’s the best part. I actually just handed it over to them, and told them to utilize the materials that were meaningful to them – and look what happened! Relinquishing the control and trusting the process was obviously the key, and the transformation unfolded organically from there.


P.S. I am starting my own copywork journal today! I am excited to start!

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“The funniest way to do dictation EVER”

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

Barnyard Buzzer Dictation board - Wendy blog

Hi Julie,

I enjoyed your talk on the Not Back to School program and just had to write because I came up with the funniest idea for dictation yesterday with my 10 year old.

I was reading a passage from Peter Rabbit to her, and she was trying to write it on our big wipe board. Well, I had found these Barnyard Answer Buzzers at a teacher store while traveling, and I wanted to find fun ways to use them. So we decided to assign one animal to the following:
Barnyard Buzzer Dictation - Wendy _blog

Cow Mooing: meant you missed a capital letter

Dog Barking: you have a punctuation mistake

Horse Neighing: you spelled a word wrong

Rooster Crowing: that word is RIGHT!


Well, it was the funniest way to do dictation EVER. I was hitting the ROOSTER on almost every word, but when she’d pass up a place for a comma, the DOG would bark and she’d start laughing and go back to figure it out. And the HORSE was hilarious because the neighing was really loud, so I’d hit it and hit it again at each attempt to change letters for spelling, until finally she’d get a ROOSTER crowing and she’d crack up.

I couldn’t think of anyone who would appreciate this home education triumph….except YOU!

Barnyard Answer Buzzers: Every Brave Writer family should have a set.


If you’d like to purchase you’re own set of Barnyard Answer Buzzers, they are available at (affiliate link). —BW Staff

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Let’s do some math

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

Try again

There are 180 days in the school year.

There are 36 weeks.

You have X number of children at writing age.

If you were to do one passage of copywork per week per child, you would have this equation:

36 x X = ______

So if you have 3 children at writing age, the answer is:

36 x 3 = 108 passages of copywork that you have supervised, corrected, and supported.

If you have a child who works to complete a single passage in a week by writing parts of it 2 or 3 times a week, that child is now working on handwriting and copying:

1 child x 3 days of handwriting (1 copywork passage) x 36 weeks = 108 days of writing 36 passages

3 kids x 2 days of handwriting (1 copywork passage) x 36 weeks = 216 days of supervising 36 passages (per child) of copywork

Can you see why you fall short sometimes? Can you see why adding a day of dictation or phonics worksheets or one more day of copywork can feel impossible, even though the actual daily practice is only 5-15 minutes at a time?

The hardest thing to do in homeschool is to sustain a routine without giving up when you don’t feel you’ve “hit the optimal practice.” Just like you wouldn’t abandon your daily math work just because you missed a week or a few days, you can take a similar approach to copywork and dictation. Get to it, as often as you can, within the weekly framework. When you miss, don’t let that derail you into *not* doing it at all.

Come back to the routine and try again. It’s better to have supervised 20 copywork attempts than 5. It’s better to have returned to the practice after being away from it, than to abandon it all together. Over years of time, you’ll see fruit from copywork and dictation, even if there are some (many) weeks you don’t get to it.

Sick Day

Friday, January 11th, 2013

DSCN5272 It’s that time of year where we all start sniffling and coughing. Shel Silverstein to the rescue! Use this poem for copywork or poetry teatime or just to read aloud for the sheer joy of it.

Sick, by Shel Silverstein

“I cannot go to school today,”
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
“I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps.
My mouth is wet, my throat is dry,
I’m going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks,
I’ve counted sixteen chicken pox
And there’s one more–that’s seventeen,
And don’t you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut–my eyes are blue–
It might be instamatic flu.
I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
I’m sure that my left leg is broke–
My hip hurts when I move my chin,
My belly button’s caving in,
My back is wrenched, my ankle’s sprained,
My ‘pendix pains each time it rains.
My nose is cold, my toes are numb.
I have a sliver in my thumb.
My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,
I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth,
I think my hair is falling out.
My elbow’s bent, my spine ain’t straight,
My temperature is one-o-eight.
My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,
There is a hole inside my ear.
I have a hangnail, and my heart is–what?
What’s that? What’s that you say?
You say today is. . .Saturday?
G’bye, I’m going out to play!”

Follow up to yesterday’s post

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Hi everyone.

I heard from two of our instructors yesterday with excellent feedback related to our post and discussion about writing between parents and children. Here’s what Rita has to say:


I think one reason parents freak about spelling is they don’t follow the entire Writer’s Jungle process. They never take a child-selected writing piece once a month and work through the editing process you outline. That is where kids learn about all the picky stuff and they see that they can have a finished piece that people look at and praise.

Without the whole process over the course of months, parents give up on trusting the freewrite and kids don’t understand that a freewrite is about getting ideas on paper for a selected “big finish.” That big finish is where it all comes together and kids have an opportunity to care about how it looks or how it’s spelled–and to show it to someone with pride! The whole process encourages everyone to embrace and trust the freewrite. Parents whose kids are afraid to write are more afraid of that once a month editing process. Then everyone spirals downward again when the freewrite loses its steam. I hear this over and over again in Dynamic Revision (one of Rita’s classes that she teaches for Brave Writer).

Also, introducing kids to electronic dictionaries–now on phones and easier than ever with Siri–can really help the kid who is picky about spelling. They are more willing to just underline words that they don’t know how to spell, while they freewrite, once they can see how easy it is to go back after and electronically “fix” their perceived errors–before anyone else sees it! Their need to be perfect is easily met, so they are able to trust waiting.

Lastly, be aware of this: kids who can’t deal with the misspelled word may have no strategies for spelling. Kids who rely on how words look and don’t attend to phonemes and the default graphemes have no clue how to “just write how you think it’s spelled.” They may have to be taught how to write what they hear. Again, the electronic/on-line dictionaries help here: write what you hear, then check it by inputting those letter choices into the search. Spell-checkers reward those efforts in a way the old tomes never could.

Just some thoughts.

I would add: The Wand (created by Rita) gives parents the tools to teach spelling strategies to your kids. For older kids, The Arrow and The Boomerang give your kids practice with spelling through copywork and dictation. Use someone else’s writing to work on mechanics.

For kids struggling with handwriting, one of our instructors, Susanne Barrett, recommends Dragon Speech-to-Text Software:

Hi Julie,

Keith bought me the Dragon speech-to-text software; he found it at Costco for half price ($40). It’s wonderful; I can speak into the headset, and my words magically appear on the screen; I can even punctuate, capitalize, italicize or bold, even open files all by voice commands. The advantage for me is that it saves my swollen hands from painful typing.

However, I was thinking that because it’s dictation-based, it might be an option to mention for some of our families, either with kids in the partnership stage of writing or for students with dysgraphia or dyslexia.

It took about half an hour to set it up and train it to my voice. And we’re off and running! I’ve had problems with dictating in e-mails (I’m typing this), but I wrote half my new fan fiction chapter in Word with it Saturday within an hour of opening the box, and I can dictate responses to students within Brave Writer after setting the cursor at the right place. Yay!! My hands have really been bothering me lately, so this software is helping immensely.

Just wanted to let you know….

And there you have it! Our instructors have great ideas to keep you and your families writing. You may want to sign up for a class this spring. Just sayin’! :)