Copy work is mentioned in many places in the homeschooling world. It is even included in most Five Senses Literature Lessons programs. But what is it and why should you do it?
Copy work is exactly what it sounds like.
It means you select a word, sentence, or passage from a book and have your child copy it. The goal is to improve handwriting and teach grammar in a more organic way. Skills like spelling and reading may also improve as the student copies passages that are more complex than the level they are able to write currently. Copy work can also be a passage that you want your child to memorize. The act of writing it out helps put the information into the brain in a different way.
As an occupational therapist, I am a huge fan of copy work!
Kids who struggle with writing often need to work on their spacing, sizing and general handwriting skills in small chunks over a long time to become comfortable with writing. Doing copy work reduces the stress of having the student think of what to write. By looking at the passage, they may not even have to think too hard about how to form the letters. Children who really struggle with handwriting often forget how some letters are made.
Regular copy work makes kids practice their letters in a meaningful way. It creates a different way to interact with language and the lessons the passage is tied to. Copying a sentence that is of interest to the child, or that has an interesting word or bit of grammar helps the child ingest lessons in a more natural way than traditional textbooks.
Cursive or Print?
One of the beautiful things about copy work is that you can adapt it to whatever writing style your child is working on. You can write a single word, like their name, in all capital letters for them to copy. Write a short sentence or phrase in print on large or small lines, depending on your child’s skill. You can write directly on their paper and let them copy each word right below yours. Or you can have them copy off another paper when they are ready for that.
Have your child work on copying in cursive, when they start developing that skill. Writing and copying favorite quotes in cursive is a wonderful way to keep working on handwriting with older students.
I recommend adding copy work to your regular routine at least once a week to help your child improve their handwriting.
About the Author
Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.