When our children initially learn language, they first listen to the words and then begin to speak them. Next, they learn to read and, finally, to write the language. This writing becomes another way to communicate thoughts, feelings, and ideas! It is a key component of communication and expression.
The first step of learning to write? Copywork.
Simply put, copywork is writing (or copying) what is seen. It is a way to develop and grow one’s handwriting through copying down letters first, then, eventually, words, phrases, and sentences.
Benefits of copywork
As our children begin copywork, not only are they learning to correctly write letters and numbers, but they are strengthening the muscles that support this action and developing their fine motor skills.
Additionally, copywork helps children learn spelling, grammar, and punctuation. As they copy a word, they first must see the word visually, reinforcing the correct spelling. As they later write full sentences, they will see the grammar and punctuation being used correctly in context.
This allows them to see spelling, grammar, and punctuation in a real and meaningful way—instead of only learning the grammatical rules, they are seeing in action and writing them. These real life examples are invaluable to help children understand the written language.
Getting started with copywork
When introducing our youngest students to copywork, we simply begin with letters. A sand tray is a wonderful place to start—little hands can trace the letter in the sand with their finger before they’re ready for a pencil and paper.
As our children grow, a chalkboard and chalk or a dry erase board can be utilized as they write letters and numbers, in addition to pencil and paper.
After beginning with letters, students may move on to numbers, words, phrases, and full sentences.
Students in upper elementary and middle school continue to benefit from copywork. This may look like selecting two well-written lines from a work of literature for the student to write.
Including copywork in other lessons
One beautiful thing about copywork is that it can be incorporated into other lessons. For example, if you are reading poetry, you may select a word, phrase, or sentence from a particular poem to use as your model. Your student will not only be developing their writing skills, but they will also be taking in beauty in the form of the poem. This adds depth and meaning to the lesson.
We want to set excellent, high-quality literature before our students so that what they write will reflect this same beauty. The selections used should be worthy of our time and attention. By giving them well-written sentences, we benefit them as readers and writers.
My tips for copywork
In my homeschool, our daily copywork lessons are kept short to protect those developing muscles. Initially, lessons are only 5 minutes when we are first beginning. Later this increases to 10 minutes, at the most.
I’m also intentional about the activities and lessons both before and after copywork. My goal is to give those little hands a break! After a copywork lesson, we will do a subject that doesn’t require writing, drawing, or coloring.
It’s amazing how these copywork lessons can benefit our children in their current schooling and in their future communication as well!