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How to Improve Kids' Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar Skills with Copywork

Updated on September 6, 2012

A lot schools today don’t put much focus on teaching correct spelling and grammar. They want to instill a love of writing in children and worry that enforcing correct grammar, spelling and punctuation will stifle this. In many schools, teachers don't correct children's writing. Invented spelling is also becoming more common as schools start to focus on creative writing as early as kindergarten.

Many students are graduating from high school and even college with poor writing skills as a result. Copywork is one method of writing practice that parents can use with their children to improve writing skills. Copywork can easily be used in a homeschool environment. It is also something parents of public and private school students can easily add to homework, if the school isn't promoting correct spelling and grammar skills.

Copywork can improve grammar, spelling and punctuation skills
Copywork can improve grammar, spelling and punctuation skills

What is Copywork?

Copywork is writing something out by hand. It involves copying letters, words, sentences or paragraphs. Copywork is a method that was strongly advocated by Charlotte Mason, a 19th century educator. She believed that copywork provided penmanship exercise and exposed children to a wide variety of writing styles. Allowing spelling and grammar mistakes would reinforce bad writing habits, since a child may not recognize when words are spelled correctly or not. Children would also develop the habit of using bad grammar.

Copywork exposes children to correct grammar, spelling and punctuation. Charlotte Mason believed that copywork assignments should be short, approximately 5 to 10 minutes a day. Children progress from letters and words to whole sentences. Then they move on to whole paragraphs and eventually a whole page. It is important that children use neat handwriting during copywork exercises.

How to Use Copywork

Many people use poetry, quotes or paragraphs from great books as copywork exercises. But copywork can also be used to teach subjects like science and social studies. A child could learn the continents or the names of the presidents by copying them. Or they could write out some sentences from a science or history book to reinforce important concepts. This is especially good for 2nd grade and up when most kids are competent writers. You can also get a workbook called Writing With Ease that provides both copy and narration exercises.

Make sure your child is writing neatly during copywork exercises. For younger kids, use specially lined paper to make forming neat letters easier.


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    • Learn Things Web profile image

      Learn Things Web 5 years ago from California


      It is hard to learn the basics as an adult because bad writing habits have become second nature by that time. It really is necessary to build correct writing habits from the beginning.

    • macteacher profile image

      Wendy Golden 5 years ago from New York

      It's sad but true, schools no longer teach spelling and grammar. I got out of the regular classroom because of this and decided to teach computers instead. Children need to learn proper grammar and spelling or they are at a disadvantage for the rest of their lives. It's very hard to learn the basics as an adult, because no one taught you as a kid. I"m glad parents like you are home schooling. This will ensure that at least some American kids are literate when they grow up. ;-)

    • Julie Fletcher profile image

      Julie Fletcher 5 years ago

      I was introduced to the Mason 'way' by a friend and fellow Hubber. I need to utilize copywork here at home. Trying to homeschool and so far the writing/reading is not coming along. The kids are far more interested in science, which is great, but they don't seem to understand that they will learn far more by reading. Great Hub!

    • Melis Ann profile image

      Melis Ann 5 years ago from Mom On A Health Hunt

      I always loved doing copywork as a kid. Then again, I'm one who learns by writing things down. I think it would be helpful in training kids in spelling and grammar. Interesting and SHARED!

    • SPK5367 profile image

      SPK5367 5 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      We use copywork in our homeschool and I really believe in it. Interestingly enough, when I started homeschooling twelve years ago I saw it in a language arts curriculum and summarily dismissed it as boring and a waste of time. Was I wrong! I think Miss Mason was really onto something with copywork and with dictation as well.