Copywork may be a fairly common word in the homeschool community, but it is also not very popular among many students. To be honest, it doesn’t always sound like the most fun thing to teach either. Whatever your feelings about it, it is a rich tool for teaching language arts. The big question is, “How can you add some sparkle to your copywork?”
What is Copywork?
Copywork is the practice of focussing on a piece of familiar, well-written writing, and correctly copying it, while focussing on neatness, punctuation, and spelling. It can also be used as a method of teaching grammar, writing styles, structures, and techniques.Why is Copywork Important?
Writing By Hand Is An Essential Life Skill
Copywork is important because writing is an essential life skill. Students who understand this will usually be more apt to do it without complaint. Sure, many people will be typing or sending voice memos in the future, but who wants to be tied down to it? What if there is a cyber attack and none of the electronics are working? We need to know how to scratch out a quick note when our phone dies too. Don’t underestimate the value of a handwritten card. Make sure that your children will be able to fill out in-person applications and forms, as well as sign legal documents. Knowing the purpose behind copywork adds sparkle.
Copywork Teaches an Array of Skills
Aside from teaching the basics of handwriting and copy skills, students are learning the habit of paying attention, memorizing short passages as they focus, and picking up on various writing techniques and styles. They are spelling as they copy words, especially if they are told they will be asked to spell one of the words from memory after they are done copying. Conversations about copywork serve as tools for teaching grammar and punctuation.
If You Add Sparkle to Your Copywork, Children Will Enjoy the Writing Process
Copywork is also important because it can provide a positive writing experience. The very design of copywork, copying passages students are very familiar with, in small and manageable chunks, makes it much more likely that students will have a positive, sparkly experience. When students have a positive experience with writing, it adds sparkle to your copywork and helps create a positive attitude towards writing in the future.
Likewise, negative experiences and pushing children too far will sabotage your effort to make them enjoy writing. Avoid giving students passages that are too long or too difficult. If a student is struggling, choose a shorter, more familiar passage.
The Very Basics–Letter Writing as Copywork
Play With Shapes
You can’t put the cart before the horse, so to speak. Likewise, you can’t expect a child to copy a passage before they can write letters. The logical writing progression is: strokes, letters, words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs.
You can’t expect a child to write letters before they can make curves and lines. Before they even begin that, they can play with shapes and become familiar with them. Here are some ideas for helping children become familiar with the shapes that comprise letters…
- Making Shapes in Sand
- Making Shapes with Playdough
- Wiki Stix
- You can also buy or make sets with curves and lines that can be put together to form letters.
Teach Letter Formation
Once children are familiar with the shapes, start teaching writing just one stroke at a time. Here is a suggested writing sequence for teaching beginning writers shapes…lines, curves, circles, dots.
Model Pencil Grip
Correct pencil grip is important because it enables students to manipulate the pencil as needed to form different types of writing. Before any writing or coloring task, check to make sure that your child has the correct pencil grip. If they are reluctant, they may enjoy watching some Youtube videos while practicing the correct grip.
Model Making Letters
Once your child has the correct grip, model how to make letters several times. Say what you are doing as you do it. You may even find a letter writing chant to help you. Have the children say it with you as well. “Down, Around, Up…” If they can say it, they can write it.
Consider The Order Letters Should Be Taught
Once children learn the shapes that make up letters, it is a good idea to group them into categories of letters that are made with the same types of strokes. It is generally easier for children to draw lines, so that is where they begin. Remember that some letters will be more difficult than others, so you may need to spend more time on certain letters. Here is a suggested order…
Letters with Curves
Letters with Lines and Curves
Consider Letter Placement
Jack Hartman has a great song and dance for teaching the placement of letters called “Move to the Alphabet.” He teaches about “tall, small, and fall” letters, referring to where they fall on dotted lined paper.
Tall–bdfhklt; Small–aceimnoursuvwxzz; Fall–gjpqy
Don’t forget to check out Part 2!