A Few Ideas for Copywork

I’ve written before about how much I love using graphboards for copywork. We’re using them again this year and still loving them. Someone gave us some cast-off blank boards which I give to the 3yos to keep them occupied while the big kids do their copywork.

But this year I’ve discovered whole new uses for those graphboards:

  • For a child who needs a little more hand control practice, write the letter or word with a dry-erase marker, and have him erase it with his finger. This was a huge confidence builder for Deux, who was feeling pretty rusty about handwriting at the beginning of the year. (Actually, it was his idea.)
  • Get a wet erase marker and write the word or phrase to be copied, then the child can trace right over the top. Again, very handy for new learners or those whose skills have gotten rusty but who don’t want to go back to square one.
  • Wet erase markers also have a much finer point, which makes them a good next step when the dry erase letters are too big.

Another awesome thing I’ve discovered is air writing. This was right there in Volume 1 of the Charlotte Mason series, but I missed it on the first go-round:

“As for his letters, the child usually teaches himself. He has his box of ivory letters and picks out p for pudding, b for blackbird, h for horse, big and little, and knows them both. But the learning of the alphabet should be made a means of cultivating the child’s observation: he should be made to see what he looks at. Make big B in the air, and let him name it; then let him make round O, and crooked S, and T for Tommy, and you name the letters as the little finger forms them with unsteady strokes in the air.”

This time, though, I’m teaching Dash and Dot to write their letters in the air as we learn them. They love it. It’s simple. It’s completely age-appropriate. And it solves the problem I had with the older two of them wanting to write letters before I thought they should be having handwriting lessons, with the consequence that they learned to write things upside down and backwards. Dash and Dot will occasionally try writing a letter on paper or their white boards, and thanks to the air-writing, their basic form and sequence of strokes are generally pretty close to correct.

Finally, I never got around to purchasing a handwriting program this year, so instead I’ve been using a free website with italic lessons. Now, I will confess, this is one of the hardest to navigate websites I have encountered, and there are no internal links. However, the approach to teaching italic is so easy. We started at the beginning of the year by drawing Martians. From there we moved to zigzags, and then to the letters u, i, and t, which require no more than a little swoop in the zigzag. Even Deux was willing to give this a try, though he was hardly willing to write anything more than his own name six weeks ago. Now the Duchess is writing a third of the alphabet in cursive and begging for more, and even Deux can do a few letters and correlating words in cursive. I teach the letters in groups, and then we practice words that use only the letters used so far.

If you use it, the most specific instructional materials are under the link that says “Quick Results, Easy Work.” Entry-level activities (including a link to the Martians) are under “Tracing.” Basic zigzags are under “Into Writing.” Then we progressed through the letter forms under “Model,” only in the order I deemed easiest: l family, then a family, then some of the o family, then b family. That’s as far as we’ve gotten. Or just read through the website and maybe you’ll find your own approach.

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