Narration, Copywork and Dictation, Oh my!

Dec 5, 2011

An explanation of how to implement copywork, narration and dictation into your Charlotte Mason style homeschool. #homeschool #charlottemason

Making a switch to the Charlotte Mason method can be intimidating. I know it took a while for me to implement the method.

I've been there. I understand the struggle.

 A few days ago, I shared with you why narration is a useful tool. Now let's talk about how to use narration, copywork and dictation in your homeschool. 

How to Use Narration in Your Homeschool

Narration trains a child to pay attention.
  • Read to the child. This may be scriptures, a poem or a book. Read it only once. The child should be grasping the information in a single telling.
  • After the reading, have the child tell you about what was read.
Lessons should be short. 

  • 15 minutes for elementary age
  • 30 minutes for middle school
  • 45 minutes for high school. 

If I am reading to the children, I read for 15 minutes for the sake of my youngest, who is 8 years old. When Alexis, age 13, reads on her own, she reads for 30 minutes followed by an oral or written narration.

The younger the child is, the more simple and "disconnected" their thoughts. Their narration skills improve as their brain develops. While you don't want to pressure them with comprehension questions and demands for more, if they are "stuck" it doesn't hurt to prompt them "What did the thief say to his master?" or "Where did they find the treasure box?" to get them going.

How to Use Copywork and Dictation in Your Homeschool

Copywork is used for teaching proper handwriting skills and the beginnings of grammar and spelling.
  • Give the child a sentence, poem or passage, depending on her age and ability. She should copy it exactly as she sees it with all the capitals, punctuations, spelling, etc.
Dictation is the tool we use to teach proper spelling, grammar and punctuation. At about the age of 10, and according to the child's abilities, dictation replaces copywork.
  • Give the child a poem or passage at the beginning of the week. The child should read and re-read (and perhaps practice writing) the material until he feels familiar with all of the grammatical aspects: punctuation, capitalization and spelling. 
  • Once the child is comfortable with it (I usually ask on Friday), read the passage, one sentence at a time, as the child writes it. Mistakes are corrected by you as they are made. Simply erase the mistake and write the correction without drawing attention to the mistake. We don't want to draw attention to the incorrect version as the child will focus on and commit the wrong version to memory. We want to create the "picture" of the correct version in their minds.
Utilizing these tools in your homeschool regularly will assist your child in developing the skills of paying close attention and recalling details. It helps them organize their thoughts and convey them verbally, all the while teaching grammar and handwriting skills.

Do you already using these tools? Did you see something here that is "new" to your thoughts on narration, copywork and dictation?

Learn how to use the Charlotte Mason method in your homeschool! 
In just one semester you can be fully implementing the methods of Charlotte Mason in your homeschool. Learn one step at a time with this ebook by Cindy West.

Happy Homeschooling!


  1. Pauline Montgomery12/07/2011

    Great clarifying tips! Thank you for sharing your wisdom on this subject!

  2. Amy Tuttle12/08/2011

    I've been CMing for going on 8 years now and I'm still studying... not because it's that complicated, but because yeah, it's a different mindset, and most of all because it covers all areas of life, not simply a method... :)

    I think your post is nice and clear. Thanks for sharing it ;)

    amy in peru

  3. Why thank you! Glad you enjoyed it!

  4. Thanks, Amy. Good. I am so glad that it's clear. And I agree.. it goes on and on, the learning aspect. I'm not sure I've mastered a few things.. like the kids, I'm always learning too.

  5. Bronwyn Marcus12/13/2011

    love that quote above!

  6. I am following a classical approach in our homeschool and have found all of these tools to be so valuable to their language program. One of my girls has started to narrate books that she reads on her own. It's so exciting to see them develop a love for learning!

  7. Great tips!  I am working on going more in this direction in our homeschool, as well.  One of my boys has some difficulty with handwriting, but we're working on it!  :-)

    Many blessings,

  8. Great, isn't it? Thanks for popping in..

  9. Classical and Charlotte Mason go together well, don't they? Thanks for visiting..

  10. Baby steps, right Lisa? It's what moves us forward...

  11. Great tips! Thanks so much! I'm a new homeschooling mom this year, and have just now introduced copywork into our lessons. My kids actually seem to be enjoying it. lol. I don't think they realize that they are actually learning!


  12. Hi April! Well then.. welcome to The Holistic Homeschooler AND  to homeschooling!! Ya know I think that's why the Charlotte Mason method works so well. We're just doing things we naturally do and doesn't feel like "work" to any of us.

  13. I don't know much about the Charlotte Mason approach, but I do a lot of reading out loud to my 15 yr old.  I always have.  I found out years ago it's her best way of learning.


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