“It’s boring,” was the collective groan as I lay the week’s copywork passage in front of my children. The scenario was nothing new. I give them a copywork passage from our current read aloud. A few kiddos trudge through finding distractions faster than they’ll find the pencil that they have dropped for the fifth time. A few others race along splashing words onto the page. These kids “look” more engaged, more productive than their side-tracked counterparts, but in truth, they’re simply trying to get the job done. They leave behind punctuation marks and whole words that the passage depends on for its meaning.
Neither of these scenarios is encouraging the growth in writing, grammar, and handwriting that we crave for our children. Regardless of the pace with which the words are committed to paper, the benefits are lost if the process is not intentional and engaging.
Too fast, too slow, too much, too soon. All of these “toos” zap the joy out of copywork and it becomes a rote, repetitive task, devoid of meaning and learning. Rita Cevasco of Rooted in Language and Julie Bogart of Brave Writer share the whys of copywork and the importance of intentionality in these resources.
- Trees in the Forest – This book provides an in-depth look at how to dive into a text to develop deep reading and meaningful writing.
- Blog posts by Rita Cevasco about copywork
- Webinar by Brave Writer: Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Copywork and Dictation
- Blog Posts by Julie Bogart regarding copywork
Once we understand the why of copywork, we can move into some of the “hows.” This is where I like to add some creativity to the process. Creative copywork does not require a lot of preparation, but with a little forethought, that creativity goes a long way to keep the process fresh.
Start small. Less is more.
It’s better to begin with a single word than a whole sentence. And it’s better to begin with a single sentence than an entire paragraph. Remember, intentionality and engagement is what we’re cultivating which in turn brings about accuracy and learning.
Invest in the conversation
Before beginning with the grammar, mechanics and spelling, have a chat. Talk about what the passage means to you and your child. What stands out? What gets you thinking? By investing in the meaning of the passage first, your child sees the text through the lens of meaning before pulling it apart for further study.
Creative Copywork Ideas:
1. You choose/They Choose: This is as simple as it sounds. You choose a passage: a word, a phrase, a sentence, a paragraph. You know what’s best for you child. Your child also chooses a passage. This could be in place of the passage you’ve chosen or in addition to it. Choose the combination that works for your family. By allowing your child to have ownership over the selected passage, the chances of engagement increase! Not to mention the great conversation prompt, “Why did you choose this passage?”
2. Copywork Jar: This is a plan-ahead approach to copywork. Choose 15-20 copywork passages of various lengths. Type them up and print them. Cut them out and place into the copywork jar. Once a week, select a passage and dive in. A copywork jar can bring some spontaneity back to the process.
3. Golden Lines: Golden lines go right along with child-selected passages, but in this case, the child will be choosier in the selection because the passage will be copied into a “Golden Lines” journal. This journal serves as a collection of favorite and influential passages over the course of the year. Who knows, perhaps this will become a treasured process and the Golden Lines journal may extend past “school time.”
4. Give it a Greater Purpose: Sometimes we all need a bigger purpose for a task than simply learning from the process. If you find this to be true for your kids, try re-purposing the copywork. Try copying recipes, poems for cards or gifts, letters or shopping lists; the ideas are limitless.
5. Art Journaling: A quick search on Pinterest shows a plethora of art journaling ideas. Pairing copywork with drawing or painting offers a process in which the child can pair creativity and careful attention to detail. Allowing space for personal creativity in conjunction with copywork can bring it to life and give it a larger purpose.
6. Copywork Scavenger Hunt: Once in a while, when I can sense that my kiddos need to move around rather than sit at the table, I stage a Copywork Scavenger Hunt. By hiding notecards with words, phrases or sentence around the house, the kids are encouraged to seek out the hidden copywork. Sometimes all the notecards will be gathered and then arranged and copied together. Other times, the kids will copy each word or phrase as they find it. However the Scavenger Hunt is arranged, the new approach helps shake things up!
7. Write Someplace New: Sometimes a simple change is all that is needed. If you’ve been doing copywork on lined paper with the same pencil all year, consider these ideas: Black paper with gel pens, window markers, a large roll of paper and markers, sidewalk chalk on the driveway, typing on the laptop. These fun ideas will get you started and I’m sure you’ll find others that work for your family.
With these ideas, copywork does not have to be boring! Add a little creativity and copywork just may become one of your kids’ favorite parts of the week!
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