Writing is a conglomeration of many skills -- being able to pull your thoughts together and express them in coherent sentences, remembering how to spell the words, remembering how to form the individual letters, and probably some others that I'm forgetting. Copywork is a chance to practice some of these skills in isolation.
Over time you can move from copywork (in which the sentence the child is writing is right in front of them, and they need to copy it letter by letter, hopefully internalizing spelling, spacing and punctuation in the process) to dictation (being able to write out a short sentence you say to them).
Copywork doesn't have to be all about copying someone else's work. You can have them compose a sentence or a story, you write it down as they tell it to you, then have them copy out what you've written. In other words, you're just saving them the hassle of composing AND spelling AND remembering how to form letters AND how to punctuate all at once.
My 8 year old does copywork. It is a good way to work on handwriting and FAR more interesting than a writing workbook. The child also learns about punc. and grammar as they work on the sentence. We talk briefly about the sentence, for example, if it has "it's" in it we talk for a minute about what that means and how it is different than "its." I'll have her do different things to the sentence before she copies it, such as underlining all the places where 2 letters are working together to make 1 sound. We hit on so many different aspects of Language Arts and I can tailor the lessons to my DD in a way that I never could with one-size fits all curriculum. It's very mellow and low key. As my DD works on her copy work, she is practicing what we talked about, and later when she looks back over her copy book she is reviewing all those little lessons. She likes her copy book and is very proud of what she has done.
She picks out her own copy work, often poems. I write it out for her first on the same kind of writing paper she likes to use. She then works on them a little at a time.
I've read that copying good writing helps children become good writers, but it is a little early for us to know about that. My DD just started doing copywork this year. It has really helped increase her confidence in her writing ability and she has started writing on her own when we aren't having lessons! Yeah!
My six year old would rather be shot at sunrise than do copy work, so, obviously, I don't have her do it
Thanks for the explanation. Honestly, whenever I heard the term copy work, and a very brief description, I always bristled a bit. I teach deaf kids and a very traditional and pervasive form of ineffective teaching is having the kids copy what you wrote, what is in the book, copy, copy, copy. I think it was the teacher's way of keeping the kids busy, and feeling proud of her supposed accomplishments. The oppressed kids didn't mind too much, because it didn't require any effort on their part, except for patience and kind of good hand writing. A common thing I would often tell them was "NO don't copy, copy, copy - Think! Think! Think!"
This does not seem to be the case for the kind of copy work describe here. whew. Sounds like a lot of thinking is happening during copy work.
Charlotte Mason and classical homeschooling programs/philosophies also advocate copying excerpts from very good to great writing, which helps children to internalize the vocabulary, syntax, and rhythm of truly great writing. (A much different goal than the one pursued by the teachers you've described, Mammo2Sammo.) The founding fathers all learned to write like this, for example. A museum (can't remember which - sorry), has George Washington's boyhood copy book on display.
I think it sounds wonderful - and we've done a bit of it. But, like Meowee, handwriting is hell for my ds, so we don't push it at all.
My 10yo dd did lots of copywork, almost all of it poetry. She not only worked on handwriting, but also became familiar with a lot of wonderful poetry. Much more than if she had only read though it, really, becasue it is a miore slow and careful experience to read as you are writing each word.
She loved Robert Frost in second grade, which surprised and delighted me. She must have copied at least ten LONG Robert Frost poems that year that she chose herself. She copied from other sources too.
When she started writing more of her own poetry, which was her primary writing activity for all of fourth grade, she had a great sense of rythmn and used the language beautifully, and I believe that copying those poems helped build that ability. She almost never does copywork now for school--but she does it for Christmas cards. You should have seen her searching all of our books for just the right poems.
Now we have her read a poem to us on occasional evenings, and she seems to really enjoy looking for favorites to share.
And she also has beautfiful handwriting that has earned her many compliments.
She also keeps a folder full of her copied poetry, so she gets to look back and read the ones she learned in earlier grades over and over. She has her own personal anthology.
I found copywork to be a lovely integration of different skills for the early grades. It is especially nice for young children because it is hard for them to create ideas and write them at the same time, since the writing itself takes such time and effort.
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