Copywork or Commonplace?

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  • CrystalN

    Wondering if anyone can help me understand the difference between copywork and keeping a commonplace book. I understand younger students are assigned copywork/dictation and we have used Spelling Wisdom for that.  And I know Charlotte encouraged a Book of Mottoes for older students. Does that replace the copywork/dictation? Or is that additional? Trying to plan language arts for my 11th grader and not sure how it should look. Would she be doing SW 2x per week, plus a commonplace? How often? Plus written narrations daily? Plus composition? Right now my plan for her “English” credit looks like this (we school 4 days with coop 1 day):

    SW3/ULW 2x per week

    commonplace 2x per week

    written narration 3x per week

    composition (Lost Tools of Writing) 1x per week

    Analytical Grammar 4x per week

    Invitation to the Classics (read about authors we encounter as they come up)

    independent literature

    family literature/poetry/Shakespeare

    Does that seem about right? Or should I eliminate SW at this point and just do commonplace? She is a strong speller,


    Karen Smith

    Copywork is used for the youngest children who are just learning how to write. The student copies directly below what is being copied. (You can see a sample in our Child’s Copybook Readers.) After the student has copied that day’s work, the teacher can require the student to spell one or two of the words orally.

    At about 3rd grade the student started doing transcription. Transcription involves copying what is being written on a separate sheet of paper or below several lines of text, usually a word or two at a time. The idea is that the student is learning how to take a mental image of the words to be copied, then writing a word or two or more without looking back at the model. Transcription prepares the student for the next step in spelling, dictation.

    Prepared dictation is the final step in spelling. The student studies the passage beforehand, then the model is taken away, and the student writes the passage a phrase at a time as it is dictated to her.

    A commonplace book or a Book of Mottoes is a keepsake book for the student to record any quotes, poems, songs, etc. that she likes from her readings each week. Usually the student chooses one thing from any reading she does in a week and records that in her book.

    Written and oral narrations are composition. The student is developing her own writing voice as she practices narration. At the high school level, there are four different types of narration prompts you can ask your student: narrative, expository, descriptive, and persuasive. Once a week or so, take one of your student’s written narrations and have her polish it up to make it more of an essay. Have her check for capitalization, punctuation, word usage, etc. The rubrics in the Using Language Well teacher’s book are helpful for polishing up written narrations. The Lost Tools of Writing can also be used to help polish written narrations.

    Looking over what you have for your daughter to do, I would either drop Analytical Grammar or Spelling Wisdom and Using Language Well. If she doesn’t care for sentence diagramming or that is not important to you, then drop Analytical Grammar. If she likes the diagramming and because she is a strong speller, you could drop SW/ULW. She doesn’t need both, and either way you decide she will have a good grasp of grammar and English usage.


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