In studying to put together our new book, Hearing and Reading, Telling and Writing: A Charlotte Mason Language Arts Handbook, I was once again amazed at the way Charlotte could take a simple idea and pack it full of benefits.
Take copywork, transcription, and dictation, for examples. Each of those methods is pretty simple to do and has one specific focus; however, each also reinforces several other language skills.
They’re like the homeschool version of taking multi-vitamins. It’s not that hard to chew or swallow the one vitamin, and it gives you multiple benefits.
Plus, the three methods are progressive in quite a natural way, taking the student gently from one stage to the next as he is ready. Let’s take a look at them here.
Level: Grades 1–2
Description: Copywork is done by giving the student a beautiful model of handwriting to copy. For beginners, the model might be one letter on a chalkboard or white board. Show the student how to form each letter carefully. As the student progresses, he might begin to copy a whole word, then a line of words, then a sentence. But all of this progress is done slowly and gently, with an emphasis on quality not quantity. Lessons are kept short (5–10 minutes) and the goal is beautiful work, whether writing one letter or one sentence. Passages can be selected from good living books, poetry, and Scripture.
Other Benefits: Reinforces the habits of observation, best effort, and attention; introduces punctuation and capitalization in context; increases vocabulary in context; features the correct spelling of words
Level: Grades 2–3
Focus: Preparation for spelling
Description: Once the student has mastered the mechanics of handwriting, he can start making the transition to concentrating on the spelling of the passages he is copying. Of course, he has been looking at the correct spelling all along, but in this stage he tries his hand at looking at/studying the word in the passage, then writing it from memory, and double checking his spelling right away. Rather than copying letter for letter, he begins to write whole words from memory, one or two at a time, as he works his way through the passage. Passages can be selected from good living books, poetry, and Scripture.
Other Benefits: More handwriting practice; reinforces correct punctuation and capitalization; cultivates the habit of looking at how words are spelled as you read; increases vocabulary through context; reinforces correct sentence structure; reinforces the habits of observation and attention
Level: Grades 4–12
Description: After the student feels comfortable studying and writing words from memory, he graduates to preparing the entire passage and writing it all at once as the teacher dictates it to him. He doesn’t have to memorize the passage, but he does need to study it ahead of time and make sure he knows how to spell every word in it. You can also encourage him to take note of the punctuation and capitalization before you dictate the passage phrase by phrase. For a detailed look at how to do a dictation lesson, watch this video on prepared dictation.
Other Benefits: Cultivates the habit of looking at how words are spelled as you read; reinforces correct punctuation and capitalization; sharpens listening comprehension; increases vocabulary through context; reinforces correct sentence structure; reinforces the habits of observation and attention
Copywork, transcription, and dictation. Quite the power-packed methods!
We’re coming into the home stretch of our language arts series. Next time we’ll talk about some of Charlotte’s favorites: poetry and Shakespeare.