Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Copywork, Transcription, Spelling and Dictation

Following is the general method of Charlotte Mason's writing lessons as outlined in her 1st Volume: Home Education, pp. 233 - 243.

The initial focus of writing lessons is careful work. Begin with short lessons
of five or ten minutes practicing capital letters in a font of your choice. The
exact letter he is copying should be visible in front of him as he is copying
it. Charlotte Mason recommended a font called the "New Handwriting," a style of
Italics, because it was "beautiful to behold." Begin practice with the simplest
capital letters and large on a chalkboard, allowing them to correct as they go.
"...let the child accomplish something perfectly in every lesson - a stroke, a
pothook, a letter." Progress to the smaller letters when he is able to make his
letters "with some firmness and decision".

"Secure that the child begins by making perfect letters and is never allowed to
make faulty ones, and the rest he will do for himself; as for 'a good hand,' do
not hurry him; his 'handwriting' will come by-and-by out of the character that
is in him" Continue practice using medium sized text until the child is writing
with ease before moving to a smaller sized text to avoid bad habits from
forming. At this stage your child is learning "to control his hand and constrain
it to obey his eye."

Rushed writing can lead to messy handwriting. Do not cause a child to rush their
writing by requiring a set amount of work to be done per day. Rather, give a set
amount of time for writing practice per day, making sure they take as much time
as necessary to make careful letters. As your child's teacher, keep in mind that
while we want to ensure careful writing, we also want to remain flexible to the
person and understand that "variety and beauty of form are attractive, even to
little children and ... the attempt to create something which interests them,
cheers and crowns their stupendous efforts with a pleasure that cannot be looked
for in the task of copying monotonous shapes."

Begin with the blackboard, then pencil, and later pen.

Around seven or eight years old, have your child begin working on slow and
beautiful transcription for ten or fifteen minutes per day. Position them
comfortably at a desk or table with a light source from the left. Transcription
should be an introduction to spelling. Children should be encouraged to look at
the word, see a picture of it with their eyes shut, and then write from memory.
If they are unable to 'see' a picture of it, suggest that they spell it in their
mind. Make sure your child is copying word for word, not letter for letter. "In
all writing lessons, free use should be made of the black-board by both teacher
and children by way of model and practice."

"A certain sense of possession and delight may be added to this exercise if
children are allowed to choose for transcription their favourite verse in one
poem and another." This is better than to write an entire poem. "...a book of
their own, made up of their own chosen verses, should give them pleasure."

The secret of spelling lies in the the habit of visualizing words from memory.
Typically, teachers will underline or circle in red mistaken words, thereby
causing a child to focus on misspelled words. Wrong words should be quickly
covered or erased and children should be taught to visualize in their mind's eye
the correct spelling of the word.

"Dictation lessons, conducted in some such way as the following, usually result
in good spelling. A child of eight or nine prepares a paragraph, older children
a page, or two or three pages. The child prepares by himself, looking at the
word he is not sure of, and then seeing it with his eyes shut. Before he begins,
the teacher asks what words he thinks will need his attention. He generally
knows, but the teacher may point out any word likely to be a cause of stumbling.
He lets his teacher know when he is ready. The teacher asks if there are any
words he is not sure of. These she puts, one by one, on the blackboard, letting
the child look till he has a picture, and then rubbing the word out. If anyone
is still doubtful he should be called to put the word he is not sure of on the
board, the teacher watching to rub out the word when a wrong letter begins to
appear, and again helping the child to get a mental picture. Then the teacher
gives out the dictation, clause by clause, each clause repeated once. She
dictates with a view to the pointing, which the children are expected to put in
as they write; but they must not be told 'comma,' 'semicolon,' etc. After the
sort of preparation I have described, which takes ten minutes or less, there is
rarely an error in spelling. If there be, it is well worth while for the teacher
to be on the watch with slips of stamp-paper to put over the wrong word, that
its image may be erased as far as possible. At the end of the lesson, the child
should again study the wrong word in his book until he says he is sure of, and
should write it correctly on the stamp-paper."

Dictation selections can be chosen from the child's weekly readings.

You can find the book A New Handwriting for Teachers by Monica Bridges as recommended by Charlotte Mason in Vol.1, pp.235-236 here: http://www.amblesideonline.org/CM/NewHandwriting.html