Dictation and copywork are two staples of a classical education that many families who practice homeschooling miss out on. Often times, this is because parents fail to recognize the many benefits of dictation and copywork or simply do not know how to effectively implement dictation practice into their child's routine. If you are following a classical curriculum with your child and want to get the most from your dictation exercises, you should make sure to follow these five tips.
Dictation should be integrated into your child's studies as soon as they begin to write. By first grade, your child should be able to complete simple dictations of two or three-word sentences. By second or third grade, they should progress to full sentences, and by fifth or sixth grade they should be able to handle complex paragraphs.
However, if your sixth-grade child has little or no experience with dictation, you will want to start with simple, two word sentences. They will progress through the stages of dictation more quickly, but it is important that you give them time to practice their dictation skills before demanding more complex work from them.
Allow Time for Comprehension
Many children will be eager to start writing as soon as you read the first syllable of a dictation. This is often because children are afraid they will not have time to write the entire sentence or they will not be able to remember the sentence. However, it is important for the student to understand what they are writing as they write it.
To aid in comprehension, you should make a rule that your child cannot begin writing until you have completed the sentence. You should also get in the habit of reading the sentence at a normal speed, then repeating it slowly. If your child needs it repeated again, you should comply with their request.
Pair With Copywork
Many parents make the mistake of progressing from copywork to dictation as their children grow. However, these two tasks work well together as they allow the student to see the proper technique and imitate it.
To pair dictation with copywork you can assign copywork one day, then repeat the same passage the next day during dictation. You should then have the student check their dictation against the original work. Instead of simply marking and correcting their mistakes, they should copy the entire passage again. Eventually, you can drop the first day of copywork and start with the dictation, but it is important to always have your student copy the entire passage correctly checking it.
Select Passages That Are Interesting to Your Student
A great aspect of dictation is that it can utilize any piece of literature. From history textbooks to religious texts, you have many options to choose from. When making your selection, you should choose something that the student finds interesting. This will help keep them engaged, especially when you are practicing longer dictations. Their higher level of engagement will also help them with their overall comprehension of the passage.
Dictation and copywork should be done multiple times a week. The idea is to expose the student to correct grammar, spelling, and sentence structure in a more active manner than simply reading. However, if they rarely complete dictations, they will likely struggle with the basic skills required for dictation and are less likely to gain the benefits of the practice.
After a few weeks of a dedicated dictation practice, you and your student may find that you regularly look forward to your dictations. You can introduce interesting material to your instruction and your child can gain confidence through concrete, measurable practice.