Archive for the ‘Dictation and copywork’ Category

Copywork and Dictation: How Often?

Copywork and Dictation: How Often?

Common questions from homeschooling moms: what did copywork and dictation look like in your home and how often should it be done?

My response:

My oldest kids are in college (ages 21 and 18). I homeschooled both of them through high school, though the second one went part time to our local high school as well. Our third child is a junior in high school and goes full time. He was homeschooled through 9th grade. We have two more kids: 8th and 7th grades – all homeschooled.

Copywork and dictation can be done more frequently than weekly. The Arrow/Boomerang are designed to support the homeschooling parent, not to replace her own good judgment and her skills as a home educator. In fact, when I first designed the Arrow (which came first), I used to always say that the goal was to model how copywork and dictation can be done (how to select passages, how to teach them, how to make them more meaningful). I fully expected that mothers would then learn how to do it themselves and not need the Arrow any more.

I also included only one passage per week for a couple of reasons:

1) Many mothers set out to do copywork/dictation more than a couple times per week and then when they fail to hit their target, they give up and stop doing it all together. I’ve found that copywork/dictation once per week is way better than not doing it at all while holding the ideal of doing it twice or three times or every day of the week. In fact, I’ve found that once a week adds up to a lot of copywork/dictation if done all year.

2) Some of the passages in the Arrow and particularly the Boomerang are long. They benefit from being broken up into multiple days of work.

3) Kids like to pick their own copywork. Not all copywork has to be selected for them. By offering only one passage per week, your have the freedom of selecting other passages to copy (song lyrics, poetry, passages from a beloved book, refrigerator magnets, a religious text). If I give you more than one per week, you will feel you must impose those passages on your kids to get your money’s worth. 🙂 But this way, you focus on one passage, really teach it, and then can allow your kids to select the ones that they want.

4) For reluctant writers, it is a lot to ask them to do handwriting work (in a book, for instance), copywork, dictation, freewriting, and any writing project all in a week. The Arrow and Boomerang allow you to feel that you are covering the material necessary to a good language arts program without putting your child through too much pencil trauma.

Brave Writer is different than other programs. I believe firmly in a parent’s role in the homeschool. We are supports to what you do. We offer products that teach you how to teach. Of course you can do more copywork and dictation if you like. I have a son (14) who copied things every day and did special handwriting therapies for his dysgraphia. Yet two years ago, he could hardly write even one passage a week. I have an 11 year old daughter who doesn’t like the passages I pick who writes in her journal and her Greek notebook every day, even in summer. We talk about grammar over lunch or in the car. She is learning spelling through Facebook status updates!

My older kids credit their years of dictation with their punctuation skills (the ones in college). They feel like they learned mechanics painlessly. My junior in high school has successfully gone straight into Honor’s English without having ever done a formal grammar or spelling program. He’s learned it all through less than once per week dictation over his lifetime.

Pay attention to your kids. Do what you believe nourishes them. Let them tell you what is working and what is not. Kids don’t learn as well when they are numb to the subject matter, when they feel obliged to fulfill your expectations without their buy-in. If once a week copywork/dictation is tolerable (even enjoyable) for you kids, they will learn a lot! There’s no reason to think that more is necessarily better.

The Arrow language arts program

Dictation and Copywork

Recently a former student (who is now in high school) sent an email to me with the following glowing review of how dictation practice over the years has enhanced her success as a student taking notes in high school. I wanted to share it here:

In the words of a 17-year-old junior girl in high school, I’m saying the words that I vowed I would never say when I was 12: Copywork and Dictation really did help. And here’s why. I can read my own handwriting! (Most of the time.) But in truth, cursive, when it boils down to the most basic facts, is faster to write with than print. And it looks a heck of a lot nicer.

My spelling is better, my punctuation is better, even the way I phrase sentences and critique my own writing and the writing of other classmates has improved. I’m in classes now where it is paramount that I take copious notes continuously. Many times it is from a power point that the teachers display to the students. If the students do not write down the bullets of information as the teacher goes, they miss critical information that could show up on a test later. Other times, there are notes that the teachers write on the board, erasing the oldest information to make room for the new as they run out of room. Notes in these circumstances are timed, and I don’t have any leisure room to make mistakes. I need to make my notes as legible and accurate as possible so that I can use them for reference or studying later.

When I practiced dictation, it forced me to quickly and accurately write down important information. Now, in my AP Biology class, much of what my teacher has to say about notes does not come from the power point slides that she shows us, but from what she says in addition to them. If I am to succeed in that class, I am forced to write down as much as I can before she moves on to the next topic. Again, copywork worked on my accuracy, but dictation worked on my speed and legibility on top of that.

My handwriting is neater, faster and more precise now because of copywork. I am taking college level classes now and I have never appreciated these skills more. Every year of high school I attend, I use these skills more and more. I can’t survive without them. –Emma

Our “One Thing” Series begins in October and features an in-depth treatment of dictation and copywork. Our instructor, Rita Cevasco (MA Speech Pathology) will help families discover the benefits from both dictation and copywork as they relate to the particular needs of your children. If they are advanced writers, we have methods and ideas to expand the usefulness of these practices in your homeschool. If your kids struggle with writing or have learning disabilities (such as dysgraphia, dyslexia or language processing disorders), she has specific methods to help you break down the tasks to make the effective for your children. How do I know this? My own son is studying with Rita once a week to address his dysgraphia and it is working wonderfully for him.

Rita and I have been working together to make this course a valuable tool for any family wanting to make the transition from workbooks to literature rich language arts. It will also benefit those who have been at it awhile but would like a shot in the arm to make those practices revitalized.