Copy work: Have you tried having your child “copy” from well-written materials? Even if the material contains some words that may seem too advanced, the child will be learning to spell correctly, handwrite neatly (manuscript or cursive), use correct punctuation, and use good grammar and writing styles. Copy-work is an “old-fashioned” method that people sometimes think is out of style, but it really does work.
Sources for good copy work: You can use story books, poetry, or non-fiction (such as recipes or other how-to’s). Some people like to use “proverbs” or “famous quotes” or “Bible verses.” If you prefer, you can google “copy work” (or “copywork”) and find lots of online sources for copy work worksheets–some of them even allow you to generate sheets with your choice of written material, and many are free or very low cost. When choosing materials for younger children, choose ones that have fairly large lettering and spaces between the lines; then use a sheet of blank paper with a “window” cut in it, and place it over the copy material so the child can focus on and copy one line at a time. Another method is to have the child trace the work (from a photocopy) first, and then write it on another paper.
Use materials with your child’s handwriting style: Look for materials, if possible, that use the letter style you have taught your child. For example, the “small a” in many books is different in shape than the “a” commonly taught to children, and that can be confusing. If you see this is a problem, you can look for other material, or you can explain that it is just a different way of writing the letter. Some children may be intrigued with the chance to learn alternate ways of printing a letter; others will be content to just write it the way they are used to doing.
Advanced copying with creative writing: An alternative to straight copying, especially for children whose skills are a bit more developed, is to use a good example as a “pattern” and have the child use alternative words to change the story a bit–or even use a different topic, but carefully follow the “writing pattern” of the original.
Tips for beginners: To encourage early reading and writing, have your child dictate a short story or letter to you. Write it in neat printing on interlined paper, and read it aloud to the child. Then cut apart the words. The child (with your help as needed), puts the words in order, and glues them in order on a piece of paper, and reads it aloud. Then have her copy it, also on interlined paper. (She may also first trace it on your copy; then write it herself). And of course encourage her to illustrate the piece, if she wishes.
Comments and questions: Have you used copy work with your children? Did you find it helpful? Were there poems, stories, or worksheets your children especially enjoyed? Do you have other copy work methods you’d like to share with us? Please comment! Thank you 🙂