What Is Copywork?
Before diving into the merits of copywork, it would probably be helpful to know what the word “copywork” means! Fortunately, it is no more complicated than the term itself suggests. Copywork is simply copying a selection from another text. The text will vary based on the age of the student, but it can range anywhere from a line out of a favorite picture book to a passage of Scripture to a paragraph from a great work of literature.
Benefits of Copywork
The benefits to incorporating copywork into your homeschool day are plentiful! Here are a few benefits to consider.
Fine Motor Skills
With small children, the act of holding a pencil or crayon to trace letters or copy from another sheet of paper can help with the development of fine motor skills.
Copywork offers a great daily dose of penmanship practice as children learn to copy content in their own handwriting.
The Little Details
Because children have to slow down to copy a selection, they tend to notice more details from a passage than they would otherwise notice by simply reading the passage. This increases attention to detail and encourages thought and response to the passage.
Is memorization a part of your school routine? Copywork and memorization can be combined by having your child copy the memorization passage, either in part or as a whole. Penmanship and memory are exercised in the same activity, and more thought and attention are given to the passage.
Here are a few tips for incorporating copywork into your homeschool routine.
Not Too Young
Although it is a good idea to start early, keep in mind that the Starting Out years (preschool through first grade) are probably still a little too early. Make sure that the fine motor skills, concentration, and attention span are ready for copywork. The earliest copywork can even take the traditional form of tracing letters, short words, or even shapes to help develop coordination.
Start with short sentences and gradually increase to full passages. Remember that the increase progresses over two or three years, not weeks or months. For instance, a second grader may always only copy single sentences, although the sentences may increase slightly in length. If the assignment is easy for your child, begin to stretch it and offer a challenge.
Plenty of Time
Do not feel a need to rush copywork, but also do not exceed your child’s attention span. Copywork that takes twenty to thirty minutes can be too stressful and tiring for your child. Find a comfortable length of time, then plan the length of your selection accordingly.
Pay attention to the development of your child when assigning copywork. The ability to space words is a neurodevelopmental milestone, so if your child is struggling, be patient as you wait for that development to occur. Also, the physical act of handwriting is a huge challenge to some children, and they may take all their time on a single sentence even on into third or fourth grade. Encourage them to persevere, but do not increase selection length beyond their endurance.
Some great literature utilizes poor or “free” grammar or is written in outdated English. When selecting copywork passages, choose passages that represent solid grammar, good vocabulary, and modern language. Incorporating Scripture or poetry into copywork time to reinforce memorization is a great practice, but when you do so, be sure to talk through the grammar differences with your child. If this is your primary method for teaching grammar, be sure to alternate between solid literary passages and the memorization passages.
Graduating to Narration
Dictation is a natural progression from copywork, as your students learn to write down what they hear you say, utilizing proper spelling and grammar. This progression usually takes place during the middle school years and is great for developing auditory processing skills. Again, remember to pay attention to the learning style, developmental progress, and needs of your child when deciding when and how to make the transition from copywork to dictation – or utilize a combination of both.