In our homeschool, writing starts as soon as the child shows an interest. Aside from the usual doodles, we also encourage the child to create their own copywork. Copywork is such a useful tool for encouraging natural and reluctant writers. Flexible and simple to use, it can be utilised from the moment a child holds a writing implement all the way up until adult-hood. In fact, copywork is something I use daily when I copy Bible verses into my journal. Copywork is a great skill to master and enjoy!
Copywork: Learning to write the alphabet
Whilst we do lots of hands on letter activities, as soon as the children are able we tackle them with a pen! There are lots and lots of workbooks out there which utilise copying letters by following the dots. We use StartWrite. This is a program which allows me to make my own worksheets exactly at the level I require.
When a child is first learning to write their alphabet a parent can create a copywork page using large sized, large size font with arrows and numbers to show direction. They can then gradually decrease them in size and without arrows and numbers as the child becomes more proficient.
Copywork: Learning to use the alphabet
Once a child has mastered recognising and writing their letters, it is then time to move onto using the letters in words. Again, we use StartWrite. I type out short sentences for the children to copy:
One of the most useful things about StartWrite is the ability to be completely in control over what the worksheets contain. This means I can edit the sheets to go along with whatever we are studying at the time. For example, I have used them with Five in a Row and for each era we study in history.
This is a very useful method of copywork for very young children or beginning writers.
Copywork: Moving on to copying from one source to another
The next step in copywork is to write or type out a short passage which the student then copies onto their own sheet or paper:
- One line at a time – I use StartRight for this, typing out one line and leaving a line to copy and so on. This encourages accuracy as some children find too many words too difficult to copy all at once.
- One paragraph at a time – As the child matures a little they will be able to copy short paragraphs. Again, these can be typed out into a program like StartWrite and copied out underneath, (or, in deed, typed out into a Word document or even handwritten). In the example below A9 copied out of the book we were studying straight onto the lined sheets I had created using StartWrite:
Alternatively it could be written on a white board and copied, which is useful if there is more than one child copying.
Copywork: Using a child’s narrations for copywork
When a child is not quite ready to write their own thoughts down directly from their head, using their own verbal narrations to form their copywork is a perfect way for the child to create their own original work, without needing to utilise an overwhelming amount of skills at one time. The child reads something (or you read it to them) and then narrates back all they have read. You jot down what they are saying. If you have neat enough writing you can simply give them that handwritten narration to copy. If not, then you could type and print for them to copy, type it into the StartWrite program and print or carefully write it on a white board for them to copy.
Copywork: For teaching spelling, grammar and increasing vocabulary
When I was teaching the older children, I would use copywork as the primary method to teach them spelling, grammar and vocabulary. I used whatever well known literature we were studying at the time (Homer’s Odyssey in Ancient Greece; Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales whilst studying the middle ages). I would choose a passage which contained the grammar I wished to enforce, new words I wanted to introduce and spellings I wanted them to learn. I would write it out on the white board. Before they began writing I’d go over it with all of them. They would then be left to copy it out. Often, a couple of days later, I would use the same passage and dictate it to them. This double checks they have internalised the spelling and grammar I want them to learn.
All these beautifully executed copywork create a wonderful and varied body of work to pop into large lever arch files. They are then used to showcase their work during the children’s presentations.