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Why You Should Use Copywork in Your Homeschool
As a public school language arts teacher, I assumed the way to teach language skills was with grammar books, writing texts, worksheets, spelling workbooks…you get the idea. But when we think of language arts as so many different subjects and curriculum it can be overwhelming. I have some good news though! When you teach language arts naturally, you’ll be able to combine and connect the various language arts skills with simple, common-sense learning activities such as copywork.
Benefits for Using Copywork in Your Homeschool
Before we started homeschooling I had never heard of copywork. It seemed too simple to be effective. A student copies a sentence, paragraph, or passage from a book.
Don’t let the simplicity of this teaching tool fool you though! There are multiple benefits to using copywork to teach language arts skills.
Copywork Benefit #1: Less Time Teaching Language Arts Each Day
When you aren’t trying to juggle multiple textbooks and workbooks to teach language arts, you’ll save time. You can even combine it with other subjects. For example, students can read a biography or historical fiction set in the time period they are studying in history. As they copy a passage for language arts, they are also working on their history studies.
Copywork can be the foundation for learning multiple language arts skills:
Handwriting. Every time students do copywork, they are practicing their handwriting. For young learners, you may want to write a sentence or two at the top of their paper so they can look at your handwritten example as they copy it.
Spelling. When students do copywork, they are practicing spelling as they copy the words down in their own writing. One of the ways we learn is by doing. Students see words spelled in context of a sentence which helps them distinguish homophones such as new and knew.
Grammar and mechanics. Students are naturally absorbing grammar and mechanics rules when they do copywork. Much like they learned to speak by listening to others talk, they learn to write by copying the sentences of others. Just think about all the “grammar rules” they learned before they even began their formal education. They might not know the names of the parts of speech, but they use them every day!
Literary Devices. You get to choose the copywork passage for your students, so look for some that are examples of different literary devices such as metaphors, similes, descriptive passages, onomatopoeia, etc. By using these devices as copywork, students make the connection between the definitions of them and real writing.
Copywork Benefit #2: Children Learn from Expert Writers
Who better to teach language arts than published authors? When students do copywork, that’s exactly who they’ll be learning from. They’ll see how sentences are put together in skillful and interesting ways—not in a way to teach a “rule” but to give information or paint a picture in the mind of the reader.
Copywork Benefit #3: Language Arts Skills Connect to Real Writing.
Textbooks and workbooks are written to teach specific skills, often including questions and drills to practice. But this is disconnected from the way we write, and often students struggle to apply the rules they’ve learned.
Think about the child who can get a perfect score on a spelling test of words they memorized, then turn around and misspell some of the words in their own writing. This isn’t a problem with laziness or lack of intelligence. They aren’t learning the skill in context, and therefore they forget it.
Tips for Using Copywork in Your Homeschool
Set you kids up for success with these tips.
Be intentional with copywork. Teach specific skills. Remember that homeschooling is a marathon, not a sprint. For example, if your children struggle to write neatly, you can do a few things to help. Make sure to keep copywork short—just a sentence or two. Tell your students to take their time and do their best work. If you know they are having trouble with a particular letter, go over how to write it before beginning and ask them to pay special attention to that letter. Don’t worry if they are making other mistakes. Just focus on one skill at a time, especially when they are younger.
Let children look for their own mistakes. When they are done writing the copywork passage, have them go back and look for their own mistakes and let them correct anything they find wrong. This builds a strong foundation for editing skills.
Make it fun. Get your children a journal or notebook pages to do their copywork on. You can include space to draw. For example, if they copy a great descriptive passage, let them draw what they think it looks like. You can also let them use colored pencils or pens to do copywork
Look for a variety of books and passages. Children can copy poetry or prose. You’ll find great passages in biographies and fiction and non-fiction. Opening hooks, great descriptive paragraphs, dialogue, meaningful life lessons, something funny or unique or that shows an emotion are all great choices.
Start Using Copywork Today!
It doesn’t require a curriculum, workbook, or anything fancy. Grab some paper and your library card or a book off your own shelves. You’re students will learn so many skills through this simple, but effective tool.