3 Rules for Getting the Most Out of Copywork

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Last month, I gave a brief introduction into Copywork, Dictation, and Narration. Today, we’ll go into a bit more detail for copywork.

What exactly is copywork? Copywork means the student looks at a short piece of literature and copies it onto lined paper. This is done with a pencil so that the student can easily erase any errors. The benefits are many, the most obvious benefit is penmanship practice. Often, the piece being copied is printed in the handwriting you would like them to emulate. As they get older, it can be a good exercise to offer copywork material in print, and require them to transpose it into cursive.

3 Rules for Getting the Most Out of Copywork - By Jennifer H.

While the benefits are many, two key benefits to copywork are grammar and spelling support. Copywork is a great way to have your students actively learning to write with good spelling and proper grammar.

Rule #1: Choose quality material

The definition of quality might not be what you think. While classic literature obviously qualifies as quality material, it is not the only material to consider. An important aspect of quality material is one you instinctively already know as a parent: it edifies.

…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable…

You do not want to share material that is the opposite of uplifting. You also do not want to share material that contains poor grammar.

Another definition of quality material is something that your child enjoys. Some children love writing and will happily write anything you put in front of them, including the ingredients list from a cereal box. I have one of those. Some children find writing intimidating. I have one of those, too. Finding something your child finds appealing can help them overcome their reluctance. Incorporate a sentence from a favorite book or a quote from a favorite movie. Again, it should edify. Copywork from Captain Underpants is not the same as copywork from The Hobbit.

My final suggestion for quality material is that it contains good grammar. You don’t want to use poorly formed sentences for them to emulate. Choose material with a variety of punctuation and grammar usage. Introduce quotation marks and commas. Help them notice when to capitalize proper nouns.

It is great to choose your own material and just use regular lined paper for copywork time. There are also plenty of great resources out there that will allow you to print seasonal or themed copywork material. Some great themes to consider are the Proverbs, Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac, and George Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour.

 Rule #2: Sit beside them

This is the most vital rule.

If we send a child to copy sentences on his own, he might work very diligently, but he’ll likely make many errors. Each word, letter, and punctuation mark that he writes incorrectly gets stored away as a snapshot in his brain. He is likely to make that same error again and again and it will look right to him every time.

If we sit beside them, gently catching them and redirecting them as they begin to write something incorrectly, we can help them take a snapshot of the correct method of writing sentences. We can help develop that visual part of the brain.

Rule #3: Don’t be scary

This is an opportunity to sit beside your child, enjoying literature, encouraging writing, and creating memories. This is not an appropriate time to display your frustration that their handwriting isn’t all it could be. It is not the time to sigh or get snippy. It is not the time to point out that you are reminding them for the fifth time that sentences start with a capital letter and if they would just get it right you could go start making lunch for crying out loud.

We’ve all been there.

Try not to be there.

Instead, embrace this time to enjoy each other’s company. Put your phone away. Pay attention. Encourage them. Be their cheerleader. Spend 10-15 minutes on it and then put it away. If you both enjoy it longer, great. If you both are ready to cry after 3 minutes, walk away.

Remember, it isn’t finishing copywork assignments that helps them learn, it’s doing them and doing them well. If that isn’t happening, put it aside. Handle whatever is keeping the assignment from going well and return to it later.

This month, Christmas hymns and Jesse Tree verses make great resources for copywork. Follow along with lots of Advent learning ideas at Advent Idea Box.


Writing isn’t easy for all, while others would love to write all day! Find tips for your reluctant writer and inspiring new ideas for your wanna be authors by following our Pinterest board below.

Follow Misty Leask’s board Homeschool: Writing on Pinterest.

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