What is copywork? From the website Notebookingpages.com, we learn:
“Copywork is copying a piece of well-written work, from any variety of sources, onto paper or into a notebook. The student copies from a written selection using his best penmanship to create a “perfect copy” that is properly spaced and includes all proper capitalization and punctuation marks… Copywork is giving your child time with great writers by copying their finest works. It’s a bit of a mentoring session as the child sits down to focus on the flow of words and mechanics of the piece he is copying. Yes, it seems a very simple skill, but use it consistently and you’ll be impressed with its subtle effect on your child.”
I discovered copywork for Language Arts through the writings of Charlotte Mason. Charlotte believed children should be exposed each day to great ideas, because ideas are how we learn. Children learn these great ideas through developing intimacy with Jesus, reading living books in all academic subjects and for pleasure reading, doing copywork, dictation, and narration, and spending a lot of time outdoors enjoying and studying nature.
A fresh alternative to boring workbooks
Copywork is a wonderful, fresh alternative to dry, tedious grammar, penmanship, and writing exercise workbooks that have fill in the blank questions, true/false questions, and other monotonous exercises that wear kids out and bore them to tears. With copywork, children first begin learning to print and then learn cursive, copying text from the Bible or books. It is not a new method. Great writers have used it for centuries. Some well-known people who used copywork in their lessons are scribes of the Bible, Plato, Thomas a’ Kempis, Benjamin Franklin, and many more famous people with excellent educations.
From The Charlotte Mason Girl:
“As they mature into stronger writers, they will copy longer passages – poems, paragraphs, psalms, songs, etc. So much is accomplished through this one little exercise! They get handwriting practice, they pick up word usage, grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization, putting thoughts together coherently, they learn to pay careful attention to detail, they think deep thoughts! WOW! Can you believe so much can happen in just a few minutes a day!”
“It’s true! I know what your thinking – WAIT! WHAT do they copy?! Where do I get the material?! Which pencil should they use? Can they use a pen? What’s the best paper? HELP! I will respond with my favorite answer – relax. It’s really going to be OK. You already have the best book ever – the Holy Scriptures. You also know how to find great living books and use them for narration. (If you missed that post, see it here.) Your children likely already have a favorite poet or book of poems. Now, they just need their favorite writing utensil, and a piece of paper!”
Use their favorite poet or book; Strive for excellence
By using their favorite poet or book, children are actually interested in what they are copying. They practice their copywork for about ten minutes, using their best handwriting. Strive for excellence. Sloppy work is not acceptable because it will train them in bad habits. It must be redone. You and your child will be pleased with the results in the long run! Their copywork books will become a source of pride and joy – their own creation.
How do I get him started in copywork?
To start copywork when they are younger, they begin by copying the alphabet in their little notebooks. They start with their name. Don’t we all love the sound of our own name? You print it out for them, and they copy yours. Or you can use D’Nealian worksheets or Handwriting For Kids.
Write correctly from the start
It’s important that they learn to write correctly from the start. When they first begin writing, you put your hand over theirs to help them learn how. This takes time and patience. I printed out the entire alphabet on a sheet of paper, in both lower and uppercase, when our daughter Leah began her copywork from the Bible for her to check the formation of the letters. If she had trouble, I would show her how. Later I wrote out all the cursive letters of the alphabet in both lower and uppercase for her to see as she was doing her copywork, as sometimes she would forget how to form a particular letter.
If you let them pick out notebooks with pictures of the Ariel the Little Maid or Tinkerbell, they will be even more excited about writing. As they get older, they can choose decorative, artsy notebooks, more expensive hard-bound, leather-cover notebooks, or whatever they like to do their work.
As they get older, they will begin copying longer passages of Scripture, poetry, and passages from great writers. Leah has done copywork ever since she began learning to write in preschool. She used to have a lot of trouble physically with writing, and hated it. Over time with daily copywork, both her printing and her cursive have improved greatly and she now accepts it as part of her required lessons. She no longer has trouble writing.
She now dislikes making mistakes in her copywork, and uses white-out if she does. (She also loves to draw art in her copywork book! Pictures of cats, flowers, the moon, and various other objects decorate the margins of her notebooks. This is not Charlotte Mason’s idea, but what can I say? Our daughter is an artist!)
Sowing seeds of great ideas
The goal is to copy the passage exactly as it appears in the book. As the student is copying the text, the eye is going back and forth over the word and entire sentence, and he or she is learning correct spelling, grammar, punctuation, capitalization, sentence structure – and most importantly, the great idea.
We have always used the Bible for copywork. This sows the word of God into Leah’s heart each day, and puts her in touch with the mind of Christ. I have stacks of her copywork notebooks saved in large, plastic bins. You can see the amazing progress your children make in their writing from year to year through this simple and short, but effective method.
Passages from other great writers will also inspire your son or daughter. Cindy Rushton writes in her book, Language Arts The Easy Way (p. 43), “The writing style of the author contributes greatly to expanding your child’s own style. Wouldn’t you love for your child to have the benefit of sitting at the feet of Robert Louis Stevenson, Plutarch, William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Martha Finley, or Mark Twain? Well, they can be! By reading, copying, and – later even narrating their great works, you can child be educated by the masters!”
If your child balks at grammar workbooks, spelling tests, and boring writing exercises, then copywork may be your answer. Your child (children) will get in touch with the great thoughts of God through the Bible and other inspiring writers, learn to spell and punctuate correctly, learn word usage in a sentence and proper grammar, and learn to print and use cursive writing correctly. Copywork is a simple, natural method for teaching children language arts that will save you and your children frustration and time, and later will help them move into more creative writing of their own. Great men and women writers will inspire them to pen their own beautiful words.
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posted by bethj