Copy work, Dictation & Written Narrations

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  • Yenia


    I would appreciate some clarification as to when and how to practically apply these because….I am a little bit confused.

    DD is 9. For the past year we have been applying some of the CM principals to our homeschool and will begin a complete CM approach starting our school-year (jan 2008).

    Any help?

    Sonya Shafer

    Hi, Yenia –

    It’s easy to confuse the three methods of dictation, copywork, and written narration. I find it easiest to keep them straight by thinking of the purpose, or main goal, of each.

    • Copywork’s goal: beautiful handwriting
    • Dictation’s goal: correct spelling
    • Written narration’s goal: accurately retell (in writing) what was learned

    Each method has other benefits besides the main goal, but we won’t discuss those right now because we’re trying to clarify the differences. 🙂

    Copywork can be started as soon as the child is ready to learn how to write. The child correctly copies a selected letter/word/phrase/sentence/passage/paragraph (the length increases as the child gets older) in his best handwriting.

    Dictation can be started when the child is about 9 or 10 years old. For dictation, the child studies a selected sentence/passage/paragraph (again, the length increases as the child gets older) until he is sure he knows how to spell every word in it. The passage is then dictated to him, phrase by phrase, and he writes it. It’s somewhat like our traditional spelling lists were used, except the child is dealing with a wonderful idea presented in a living passage rather than just a list of unrelated words. (Note: some moms like to use the same passage for copywork and, eventually, dictation; which is why those two methods can sometimes be confused. But just remember the main goals stated above and you’ll be fine.)

    Written narrations can be started about the same time as dictation is. It really depends on the child. The prerequisite to written narration is oral narration. In other words, make sure the child is experienced, comfortable, and skilled at oral narration before you assign him to do written narration. If he is used to listening (or reading independently) carefully with full attention and then organizing his thoughts to retell you what he just learned, he should be able to make the transition to writing those thoughts pretty easily. You can determine how often you require written narrations vs. oral narrations. I like to do more oral and just occasional written, but again, it depends on your situation and the child.

    Hope this helps!



    Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my question! Now I see what my confusion was about. 🙂


    Yes, thank you for answering…that clarifies it for me too!

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