Language Arts the Natural Way: Copying

Once a child is comfortable holding a pencil, he can begin copying. Rather than starting with copywork, some prefer to start with tracing.

Probably your child’s first writing lesson was when you printed his name and he traced it or copied it. Or maybe you started even earlier with one letter instead of a word…. Later, the copying gives way to writing from dictation.

Copying and dictating are the two basic lesson activities in the natural method. Just as the child learned to speak by copying your correct speech, so he learns to write by copying fine writing.

A Strong Start in Language by Ruth Beechick

Copywork typically starts as an exercise in handwriting. But even at this early stage of writing — learning to correctly form letters — there is more going on than meets the eye. Those passages we choose for our child to copy enter the brain and come out of the fingers. As he is copying, he is learning a variety of writing skills — spelling, grammar, mechanics, and how to correctly form sentences, phrases, and cohesive thoughts.

From the humble beginnings of tracing words as a part of a handwriting exercise, copying takes us through adulthood as we write down those thoughts, quotes, and passages that are important to us, making us better writers and communicators.

Jack London tells how he taught himself to write his famous adventure stories. Even if they had summer writing conferences in his day, he could not have afforded to go to one. But he stumbled onto the natural method, which obviously helped his career more than a conference would have anyway.

London spent days upon days in the San Francisco Public Library hand copying good literature that the librarian recommended to him.

A Strong Start in Language by Ruth Beechick

Copywork Tips

Here are several tips to keep in mind when using copywork as the basis for learning language arts the natural way:

  • Start when your child is ready.
    Some children simply take longer to become comfortable holding a pencil. If we rush them, their inclination will be to avoid copywork at all costs.
  • Start small.
    Young children do not need to write all day. We can begin by having them copy a letter or a word. When it comes to handwriting and forming letters correctly, it is much more important that one letter be done well than many poorly formed letters fill up a page.
  • Choose carefully.
    Once a child is comfortable forming letters, he can start on copying sentences, eventually working up to paragraphs and longer passages. When copying is part of language arts instruction, it becomes very important to choose the material he copies carefully. We don’t want to confuse him with poorly formed sentences, odd punctuation, misplaced capitalization, uniquely spelled words, and oddly written dialogue. We will also want to make sure that the content we provide him with is worthy of copying.
  • Be firm.
    Though the natural way is simple in one sense, it is more difficult in the sense that it requires more from the student. It is important not to overwhelm him — we are attempting to establish the habit of writing EVERY day. But, we do need to be firm and require him to write EVERY day.
  • Choose widely.
    As a child grows he can copy all types of literature, poetry, songs, hymns, Bible verses, and passages he chooses for himself.
  • Expect quality.
    Again, it is better to have one well-written and exact sentence on the page than a haphazard passage with errors.

Additional Resources
10 Ways to Use Notebooking: #2 Copybook

10 Ways to Use Notebooking: #2 Copybook
More ideas and resources including printables and a few suggestions for what to copy.

Activity: Copying
Reasons to copy, along with copywork resources.

Enjoy the entire series:
Language Arts the Natural Way
Language Arts the Natural Way

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