What is Copywork?
Copywork is copying a piece of well-written work, from any variety of sources, onto paper or into a notebook. The student copies from a written selection using his best penmanship to create a "perfect copy" that is properly spaced and includes all proper capitalization and punctuation marks. It is a method, that when used consistently in your homeschooling studies, will improve your child's penmanship, grammar, and punctuation skills as well as expose him to a variety of writing styles, structures, and techniques.
Do not mistake copywork for mindless handwriting practice. There are a variety of ideas of what exactly copywork is depending on what source you are reading. I am referring to copywork that is based on copying great sources of literature. Copywork is giving your child time with great writers by copying their finest works. It's a bit of a mentoring session as the child sits down to focus on the flow of words and mechanics of the piece he is copying. Yes, it seems a very simple skill, but use it consistently and you'll be impressed with its subtle effect on your child.
Getting Started with Copywork
Where do you start with copywork? You start at the beginning which with the youngest child means you begin with the alphabet. You can use our notebooking pages to create his own Alphabet Notebook. First, you'll need to write the letter(s) being practiced for him to copy. Then, he will form them himself on the line(s) that follow. The goal is for him to copy these letters as perfectly as possible and leave an appropriate space between them. You will not want to exasperate him by requiring too much during this exercise. Only require as much as can be accomplished in a five to ten minute period for a young child.
Idea: Create an alphabet notebook.
Suppose you start with the letter A. Create a letter A page from one of our primary-lined notebooking pages. Choose a page with a few lines for his writing and a space(s) for his letter A artwork. In the artwork space (s), he could draw or glue pictures of things that begin with A. Have him copy up to one row of letters and add 1-2 pictures. Then, the next time you do copywork continue on to a different letter(s) doing the same thing. Review periodically by having him come back to add more letters and pictures to the unfinished pages until they are complete. You may want to mark the date somehow next to each new set of letters or place a sticker after each day's copywork so both you and he can watch his progress. Check out our Alphabet Copywork Notebooking Pages.
After mastering his letters, you will move on to words, then sentences, then paragraphs, and so on. A great way to add to his first Alphabet Notebook would be to have him add a scripture for each letter of the alphabet! Gradually add length to the copywork as he matures and his abilities improve. Occasionally, or as he has time, add artwork to the pages as well. Continue to save these notebooking pieces in his copywork notebook. If he starts off well on a particular piece of copywork and begins to become sloppy by the end or is making multiple mistakes, then you may have chosen a selection that is too long. Break the selection into smaller chunks and divide it up over a number of days. The goal with copywork is not to produce large volumes of writing. Instead, our goals are to improve his penmanship, to increase his ability to give his best efforts, to improve his ability to pay attention to details, and to make him naturally more familiar with grammar, the usage of punctuation/capitalization rules and a variety of writing styles, structures, and techniques.
How Often Should I Assign Copywork?
Copywork may be done daily. When my children are first learning to form letters, both manuscript and cursive, I assign it daily remembering to assign appropriate amounts that challenge them without exasperating them. When they are proficient in forming letters and words without assistance, then we cut this back to about 3 days a week. If the kids are excited about a particular notebooking topic and want to add more copywork, let them!
What Should We Use for Copywork?
If you are reading this page, then I assume you are probably using or wanting to use notebooking in your homeschooling day. Add copywork to any study that you are currently notebooking. Choose a selection from one of your literature books, poetry readings, or other well-written book. Make sure to include selections from the classics, Shakespeare, Aesop's Fables for younger children, famous pieces of work like the Declaration of Independence, and favorite passages from the Bible.
Choose passages of scripture for copywork and use this time to help with scripture memorization. If you are notebooking through the Bible, choose a key passage to add to each story being studied. Use your favorite hymns for copywork.
I hesitate to say use a textbook, just because they are usually so dry in their content, but perhaps you have a well-written textbook or encyclopedia - give it a try. Usborne books are great alternatives to the normal textbook or encyclopedia. We especially like to use the Usborne books to add copywork to history and science notebooking projects.
A great year-long notebooking project would be to collect quotes from either one particular study or from all of your studies. Take turns letting the kids choose their own and mixing them with ones you find especially inspiring. A long-term notebooking and copywork project for an older student might be to collect meaningful passages of scriptures or whole chapters from a favorite book such as Psalms or Proverbs. How about a notebook full of favorite quotes?
How to Find and Correct Mistakes in Copywork
It is really best to train your child from the beginning to find their own mistakes. Their copy needs to be letter perfect as well as punctuation perfect and of course written in their very best handwriting. After the child is sure he has found all of his mistakes, he places a reusable sticky tab in the book where he was copying from and a sticky tab in his copy-notebook where he did his work that day (if you will not be able to look over it right away this is a tremendous help!). Then, when I sit down to look at the children's work for the day, I can quickly open up to the passage and to their own copywork. I use a pencil to lightly put a dot or "x" at the end of each row of copywork for each mistake I see in the copying. I do not point out what kind of mistake they have made. I just put a dot for each mistake. Then, they have to go back to compare their work with the original to find their mistake(s). This helps to train them to be better editors of their own work. Then they bring it back to me again. We continue this process until it is perfect. To encourage their own self-checking, I have been known to award a small piece of candy for first-time "perfect" copywork. 🙂
When the copywork is letter perfect and punctuation perfect, I lightly write my initials or put a check mark at the bottom of the copywork section so that we know it is finished. It is imperative that the work be checked and corrected in order for copywork to be an effective method for your children. It is a training process. I find that helping them to become better editors in the way I've explained here has been extremely helpful in making copywork a more natural part of our day.
Our Resources for Copywork
Any of our notebooking products will work wonderfully for your student's copywork. All you essentially need is lined paper! Our products have lots of different layouts to choose from all with varying amounts of lines for his writing and spaces for his artwork. Check out our Copywork Notebook Pages which were created specifically for the varying lengths and literary styles of copywork.
For your beginning student, you will want to choose pages that have primary-lines (the ones with the dotted center). We have some of these in our Free Resource Hub as well as in any of our All Purpose notebooking pages.