How do you teach copywork?

Copywork can seem simplistic. Give your child a sentence or two and have them copy it. It can also seem like busy work, but the benefits are great! Copywork is a simple introduction to handwriting, spelling, and composition.  Have children copy only the best authors, with the best writing, and ideas to fill their growing minds.

When should I begin copywork?

Once a child learns how to write their letters comfortably, they are ready to start simple copywork. Start with very short sentences and have them copy it, always in their best handwriting. It is important that they give their best effort. If you find them struggling, give them less to copy. In the beginning, it’s okay if they only do a few words per sitting as long as it is in their best handwriting. You can gradually increase the length of the model as they become more and more comfortable. However, it is important to take their age into consideration. As they gain age and experience with copywork the quantity and quality of their work should improve.

Why copywork?

Copying models of good writing teaches children what good writing looks and sounds like, thereby improving their own writing. Many of the worlds greatest writers learned how to write through copywork. Benjamin Franklin would copy or outline essays and then try to recreate them on his own to see if he could write them better.

What is narration?

Narration is a technique which at its simplest means "telling back." Though in its fullest educational benefit there is more happening than simply comprehension.

If you read or see something – you remember 15%
If you hear something – you remember 20%
If you see and hear something – you remember 30-40%
If you tell it to someone – you remember 80-90%


Developmental stages with narrations:

  • Initially children will just give you the facts – just as they heard it.

  • Then they will start to make connections – as they give you a narration on the fresh information they have just heard/read they will add to it background information that they have gleaned from elsewhere, at a previous time.

  • They will start to make opinions, express opinions and support their opinions while giving you the information.

  • Then they will be able to see analogies (hidden meanings, wisdom connections) and draw life lessons from what they are reading.

When do we narrate?

We find that the children are telling us things that they have discovered from really young - we just encouraged this to continue. When they tell us about what they saw, what they did, what they heard they are beginning the skills of narrations. They will still be sorting out sequence of events, they may not start with a topic sentence so it takes a while to know what they are talking about, they may give you all the unimportant information first - this is a learning curve - the more they talk the more these things get sorted out.

When you read a book to your children, ask them to tell you the story, ask them to tell you what they have learned, or what they heard. Once again at the beginning, the order of their retelling may be all over the place, but they are learning and you will see change as they grow older.

You can get your children to narrate

  • When they read a book

  • When they see a movie

  • When they watch a documentary

  • When they visit a museum or art gallery

  • When they spend the day with friends

  • When they learn a new skill

What are the benefits of narration?

So much of our focus is on writing that we forget to look at the foundation of writing. We believe it is more important to have something to say than it is to write it properly. We want our children to be thinkers and to be able to communicate that thinking to others.


Most presume that that means students need good writing skills, and they do, but writing is putting our thoughts on paper - so first they need to be able to have the thoughts. We find that talking through issues, being widely read, and being encouraged to ask questions, and answer other people's questions, will give our children something of substance to write when it comes time to communicate in the written form.

It is much easier for a child to answer a few questions about a passage that was just read to them, than it is to provide a narration. Narration takes a much higher degree of comprehension and thought.  It is oral composition.  Narration has to be learned by practicing, as with any new skill, but the benefits will astound you!

Report a missing or broken link:  Info@ClassicalCharlotteMason.com

ClassicalCharlotteMason® is a registered trademark of Classical Charlotte Mason LLC.  All Rights Reserved.  Disclosure & Privacy Policy


ClassicalCharlotteMason.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and other affiliate programs, advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees at no additional cost to consumers.  Thank you for supporting Classical Charlotte Mason with the use of affiliate links.  

  • Instagram Social Icon
  • Pinterest Social Icon
  • Grey Facebook Icon