Copywork for the Modern Classroom
What the Heck is Copywork?
Copywork is a practice that is common in the homeschooling community, but seldom makes an appearance in today’s “modern” classrooms. It is exactly what it sounds like – students “copying” the writing of other people with the primary goal of improving the student’s handwriting. Each day, or a few days each week, the student copies a selection given to them by their teacher (or parent) for the student to copy.
But it sounds boring…
It can be! But not boring in a bad way. Boring in a meditative, soothing, comforting, repetitive way, like coloring for adults. Copywork allows the student to focus on one aspect of writing, handwriting.
What Do Students Learn From Doing Copywork?
The beauty of copywork is that the student doesn’t need to think about coming up with a topic, how to organize their paper, adding details and dialogue, if their words are spelled correctly, verb usage, proper punctuation, or the dozens of other issues they are asked to remember in a typical writing class. Students focus instead on the four main aspects of handwriting:
- Letter Formation – are students forming their letters correctly? Copywork gives students the time and space to focus on these basics. This is especially great for students who are new to writing (either in print or in cursive).
- Line Use – students are given the chance to use capital and lower case letters and to pay attention to whether or not their letters are falling in the correct place on the lines.
- Spacing – many new writers, or students with fine motor difficulty, tend to clump their words together, making their writing illegible. Copywork allows them to view a model of ideal spacing and to form their sentences with the proper spacing in mind.
- Punctuation – students are provided with a model of appropriate punctuation and copy this model accordingly. This provides a great reminder about when and how each type of punctuation is used. This can be especially useful when introducing new types of punctuation, such as commas and quotation marks. The student practices the punctuation the correct way using a precise model and is more likely to incorporate these more advanced forms of punctuation in their own writing.
How Should Copywork be Graded?
Grading is, of course, up to each individual teacher. Copywork is a great way to point out very specific handwriting issues in the four different areas mentioned above. We like to take a highlighter or marker to mark the “best” letter, word, or sentence, in a student’s copywork. A one-on-one conversation often works well too. You can say things like, “Wow, I really like the way this capital “B” touches the top line and the bottom line without going over,” or “Hmm – I can’t seem to tell when this word ends and the next word begins.” You can also ask the child to name his best letter or word and explain why using the four features they are working on. These specific types of feedback really get students to focus on the attributes of their own handwriting and to see that it is an area that can be improved with practice.
Copywork makes for a great warm-up or homework activity since the prep is extremely low.
Words of Warning
If you create your own copywork passages, use a font that you want your student to emulate. A type-face “a” or “g” will throw off young learners, so stick with fonts that are child-friendly. You can hand-write your own copywork passages, but be sure that YOUR handwriting is completely legible. It is also best for each child in a classroom to have a copy of the passage that they can view up the words up close and not have to look up, remember what they’ve seen on the board, and then look back down again. You want to make the experience as seamless as possible for your learners.
Interested in trying out copywork with your student or child? Here is a freebie of an easy, 5-day practice pack for young learners. Or head on over to the handwriting section of our store for products for copywork, including cursive. We’d love to hear what you think!