Copywork is a favorite tool in Classical and Charlotte Mason homeschooling circles, but what is copywork? What benefits does it provide? How do you get started with it? How do you find passages?
I’m glad you asked.
What is Copywork?
Copywork is just what it sounds like. Depending on your child’s age and developmental level, he copies letters, words, sentences, and/or paragraphs. You provide him with a model, and he copies it in his own hand.
What benefits does copywork provide?
At first glance, copywork appears to be the epitome of the reviled “busywork.” What good can possibly come from this? So, so much it turns out. Imitating a model is how children learn language. It’s how they learn spoken language without formal instruction. We don’t set out a curriculum to teach infants and toddlers grammar, vocabulary, syntax, pronunciation, phrasing, etc. We just talk to our babies. And they copy what we say to them.
Copywork (and hearing and reading good literature) allows us to tap into this natural imitative process in order to teach written language. By imitating a good written model, our children learn spelling, punctuation, grammar, letter formation, vocabulary, and how to eloquently express a thought.
Not bad for 5-10 minutes of effort a day.
How do I get started with copywork?
With the littlest kids, you start with having them copy single letters. Progress to short words. Around second grade or so you can give them short sentences. Sentences can get longer through 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade, and middle schoolers can begin copying paragraphs. However, if your kid has never done copywork before, even if they’re older, start with sentences. The right length is what they can copy neatly and accurately in 5-10 minutes.
Where do I find passages for copywork?
You can find copywork passages on the internet. You can buy copywork workbooks. Or you can simply choose a sentence or two from a book your child is reading. There are websites where you can make your own handwriting worksheets. You can type a passage into that, or you can write it by hand, or you can simply have your kid copy straight from the book.
Most people recommend choosing from a variety of types of passages – scripture, poetry, literature, great speeches, fiction, non-fiction. You want to give your child a variety of good models to imitate to get the most out of the exercise.
How much time should copywork take?
Most recommendations are to spend 5-10 minutes on copywork 3-4 times a week.
That doesn’t seem like much. Is copywork really effective for teaching language arts?
I’m going to pass you off to another website to answer this question. The short answer is “yes.”