I don’t use a formal language arts (reading, writing, spelling, grammar) curriculum. I have my children read and write examples of well-written work! – that’s why using copywork has been essential in my homeschool! You can make copywork part of your homeschool in 3 easy steps. It does not have to take much planning, you can use materials you have on hand, and best of all it does not take much time!
First, What is Copywork exactly?
Many moons ago, the way children learned to write was by copying examples of good writing. This practice has long been replaced by different methods (notice I didn’t say “better” methods) for teaching writing. In the homeschool community, copywork, thankfully, has a stronghold.
I remember being DELIGHTED when I was introduced to the practice. It’s likely the easiest tool I added to our homeschool routine.
Copywork is just as it sounds, work that is copied. Technically speaking, your children can copy anything. Specifically speaking, they should copy quality writing, words that are worthy of the time invested.
Copywork and handwriting are not the same. Handwriting is the instruction and practice of forming letters on paper. Handwriting is designed to practice letter formation. Copywork, on the other hand, teaches and reinforces many different skills. Once your children have a good handwriting foundation, they are set to transition to copywork.
Step 1: Choose Copywork Curriculum
Simply put, when I find a great quote or even something my child is interested in. I write it down (or type it on the computer) for them. That is all you need for copywork curriculum, quotes. Each child can have different copywork quotes for their interests or age. You can adapt the same quote to different levels. For example.: Phil is the name of the groundhog. Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators, and Weather Prophet Extraordinary is his full name. (Sample from our February Holiday of the day Copywork packet)
Your child’s responsibility is to read the sentence, or passage, then to copy it EXACTLY as it is written, in their BEST writing. This is copywork.
Look for passages that model good grammar, have quality word choices, and are interesting. My son has completed copywork on video games. Certainly, that is not at all what Charlotte Mason would have intended, but it worked for us! The gift of homeschooling is YOU are the designer. My son also copied his share of bible passages and famous quotes. I tried to balance everything as the goal of copywork is to improve writing.
Copywork by age:
A common question I get from other homeschoolers (and even teachers) is when the right time to begin with copywork is. For us, copywork began as soon as a child could form all letters on their own.
Some copywork programs (Like those from Happy Hive Homeschooling) contain copywork for a variety of levels. The sentences have “arrows” reminding children of letter formation, as well as, pages for kids who don’t need the gentle reminder. There is no magic age to begin.
Copywork can be as simple as one sentence, or as long as a poem or passage. Kids can find their own pieces they want to copy from books they are reading, Flyers that come in the mail, the cereal box, or the subtitles of a movie! Truly all that is needed is proper grammar and punctuation. And for those instances something is amiss, it’s a great opportunity to discuss word choice and style.
Copywork is reinforcing handwriting, Grammar, and mechanics together.
So remember, copywork begins with handwriting instruction. You can approach teaching your child letter formation however you are most comfortable. Here are some recommendations:
A reason for writing – a scripture-based handwriting curriculum.
This Series begins with Level K and continues by grade level (A being grade 1, and F grade 6. Level T is a transition from manuscript to cursive)
Handwriting without Tears series – this program begins with K and ends in grade 5.
Letter Tracing Worksheets – Happy Hive’s own method. Printable handwriting worksheets in which each letter is on its own page. I loved that I could print as many or as few of each page as needed depending on my child! I could also re-visit letters later if we wanted, or needed to!
adding short phrases
As soon as your learner can copy short phrases, copywork to improve writing, and teach grammer begins informally. God is Good. (for example) is simple enough for a pre-K or Kindergarten writer,
As your writer advances, they can move to copy longer sentences, then onto paragraphs. A high school student copies essays, long poems, and even works such as the Declaration of Independence. Writing should not be a strain or a chore.
We did not use formal handwriting past cursive (3rd grade) and we incorporated copywork beginning mid-year kindergarten. Every child is different. Everyone learns differently. Please listen to the balance of learning for each of your learners and adjust accordingly.
Step 2: Choose Your Copywork Strategy
There are a million different possibilities for how copywork can look in your home.
Regardless of the Strategy I used I always had my children do 4 things with any piece of copywork.
- Read the quote or passage out loud
- Trace over the quote or passage neatly
- Write the copywork in their own writing
- Write or narrate what the quote means in their own words.
A weekly copywork strategy is to use one quote/sentence and copy it daily for each day you hold classes that week. Your child will practice good letter formation each day. At the end of the week, they can recite the sentence as a memory verse. This also helps oral communication skills.
There are 2 ways a daily strategy can work. The first is just as it sounds: Use a different quote for each day and complete the 4 tasks described above.
Another “daily” copywork strategy you can use is to have a new quote/verse each day Monday – Thursday and have the learner pick their favorite and copy again on Friday. On Friday they copy the favorite verse onto decorative border paper to display.
Copywork is an excellent activity for you to model
Copywork is not just for your kids. I encourage you to practice good writing through copywork as well. Copying good writing makes better writers. As lifelong learners ourselves, copywork can be completed as a family. You can use the same copywork sheets your children are using, copy words from your personal reading (even audio books), or both.
Step 3: Teach lessons from copywork
What Subjects does Copywork teach?
I am going to be so bold to say, copywork has the potential to address EVERY SUBJECT.
The topics of your copywork can be science, math, history, art, and musically inspired. The sentences (or passages for older children) model many language arts topics including:
- Parts of Speech
- Figurative Language
- Mechanics (The rules: capitalization, punctuation, & spelling)
- Mood & Tone
- Structure (writing style, tense, agreement, etc)
Copywork is also an excellent tool for helping enhance memory, focus, and of course, handwriting. All of this is learned gently, through modeling…through copying great work. Before your child can learn to write well, they must first recognize what good writing looks like, feels like, and flows on a page.
After your copywork routine is established you can begin to add lessons. The first phase of copywork is simply copying the sentences and absorbing information about the context. When you feel your child is ready you can use the copywork to teach concepts in grammar, spelling, and other language arts skills as well as any other subjects they happen to pertain to.
Every formal “English/Grammar” lesson can easily be taught with no fuss and muss through copywork. Even spelling. My children have learned to spell through reading and writing and have never had a formal spelling lesson or spelling list/test!
Example of teaching with copywork
For example, Mario and Luigi fight to save the Princess. While this is not mind-blowing literature or an earth-shattering statement. I was very much able to motivate my son who was bored with the same copywork routine by adding these gems to his copywork tasks. He even made suggestions! It was a wonderful opportunity for us to customize his education, and for him to own his learning.
Mario and Luigi fight to save the Princess. is an example of a compound subject – Mario and Luigi. To save the Princess is a prepositional phrase. On the surface, the sentence looks basic, yet there are plenty of lessons to be learned from it!
Where to find all this copywork
If you want to inspire your child to be a better writer, begin by pointing them to good writing. Copywork is an excellent place to start.
A simple internet search of famous quotes will get you started with copywork. Write the quote out for your child in your best writing, and encourage them to copy it.
If you feel at a loss for where to find copywork for your children, begin with the basics. What are their interests? Find quotes based on those interests, like the video game example with my son. You can also choose copywork from what your children are reading. When my daughter was reading Harry Potter for the 3rd time, I assigned her the task of finding her OWN copywork. In a large family, you can task older siblings with creating copywork for younger siblings. Bible verses make excellent copywork, as do quotes from your favorite novels.
One year our copywork coordinated with History, and the kids were able to draw pictures to go with what they had copied! I loved this added artistic component.
You can also purchase copywork by theme or invest in year-long programs such as our Holiday of the Day Copywork program.
Thanks for stopping by Happy Hive Homeschooling To learn all about using copywork in your homeschool!
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