One of the core ideas behind the Charlotte Mason method is that children do something with what they have learned. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, but one specific way that allows children to practice their understanding of proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation and practice good handwriting skills is dictation.
Dictation consists of the parent reading to the child who then writes down exactly what the parent has said. The length of the dictation will depend on the age of the child. Beginning students will need to spend time doing copywork first. Copywork is making an exact written copy of what you see. New language arts concepts may be presented in the form of copywork that allows the student to learn about a new rule of punctuation or grammar and the spelling of new words. For beginners copywork is sufficient, but once they have developed skill at copying, their copywork can then be used for dictation. This method of copying and then dictating can be used with older students, too. Dictation, which does not include new language arts concepts or new spelling words, should be attempted once children have a firm grip on a particular concept.
During dictation, you will need to decide exactly how much help you will give your child. This may involve reviewing the pertinent grammar rule before taking a dictation or allowing the child to read the dictation before you give it to him. You can also allow your child to have a list of spelling stumpers, words he has difficulty spelling or new words he hasn’t learned yet. When working with longer passages with several paragraphs, you’ll want to help by telling your student that there is a new paragraph. Help them develop an ear for hearing when a new paragraph should begin by reading through the passage before dictating it and discussing where the paragraph breaks might come.
Once the dictation is complete, the child compares his copy with the original copy. Misspelled words can be added to his spelling list, and problems with grammar or punctuation can be reviewed.
Charlotte Mason’s Steps of a Dictation Lesson
In Home Education, Mason states that an 8 or 9-year-old child can prepare a paragraph for dictation while an older child can prepare one to three pages. She believes that proper preparation before a dictation is necessary to avoid repetition of the same mistakes from dictation to dictation. She advises that a child look over the dictation and get a mental picture of every word that he is unsure of. Once he’s sure of all the words, the parent can start dictating clause by clause, repeating each clause only once. Dictation should be read so that the reading points to the commas or semicolons used, but never by actually telling the child where to put a comma. After correcting the dictation, the child then studies any misspelled words again by visualizing them.
Material for use in copywork or dictation can come from many sources. Passages from children’s literature, poetry, and the Bible are good dictation lessons. You or your child can also select passages from the child’s reading.
New McGuffey First Reader
The New McGuffey Fourth Reader
The New England Primer
The Family Library of Poetry and Song
Page 5 is the table of contents and the poems start on page 73.
A free curriculum designed to be as close as possible to the curriculum that Charlotte Mason used in her own PNEU schools.
- Ambleside Online Copywork Project
The Ambleside Online Copywork Project is a group dedicated to creating copywork samples that correspond to the Ambleside Online curriculum. Copywork samples are available in the files section and updated regularly.
- Ambleside Online Copywork Paper
This forum has been set up as a means of collecting copywork verses and quotes into one accessible area for the CharlotteMasonHomeschoolers Yahoo group.
Bible Quotes For Phonics, Copywork and Spelling
As the title implies, short Bible quotes (King James Version) provide practice for each of the 15 rules of spelling from the Scaredy Cat Reading System. You will not want to limit them, however. They can also be used for handwriting practice, reading, or in many other ways. Since the verses are phonetically arranged, this book may supplement any beginning reading or spelling program.
The Harp and Laurel Wreath: Poetry and Dictation for the Classical Curriculum
The Harp and Laurel Wreath is an excellent collection of poems, scriptures, quotes, dictation selections (taken from plays, classics, etc.), excerpts from documents (The Preamble to the US Constitution is in here.), and more. These selections are divided and labeled according to the stage at which each would be introduced (Grammatical, Dialectical, etc.), which means they are also in an age-appropriate order.
Favorite Poems Old and New
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Graves, Langston Hughes, and Kate Greenaway are just a few of the classic and contemporary poets represented in this comprehensive collection of over 700 poems.
Copywork and Poetry Resources from Queen Homeschool Supplies
Sandi Queen has a series of books of thematic copywork lessons.
A Strong Start in Language
An inexpensive book that details the “natural method” of learning language arts that includes advice on dictation.
Learning Languages Art through Literatures
This series of language arts books are based on the dictation method.
Heart of Wisdom Unit Studies
Heart Wisdom offers a four-year multi-level unit study curriculum that covers history chronologically and science in the order of creation. It incorporates the Charlotte Mason teaching approach in all its materials.
Startwrite – Handwriting Software
Startwrite is a software handwriting product that allows you to create your own handwriting curriculum. Startwrite is a simplified word processor complete with Zaner-Bloser manuscript, D'Nealian modern manuscript, Getty-Dubay or Portland italic, and now traditional cursive fonts. With these fonts you can create your own handwriting sheets tailored to the specific needs of your child.