Monday, February 23, 2009
The Tool of Dictation for Younger Children
In my last post regarding Charlotte Mason techniques, I addressed Copywork. In today's post, I'd like to discuss a bit about Dictation and how I have used it in our homeschooling.
Children can begin with copywork very early and most do fairly well with it. Dictation is the next step within the process of CM style of Language Arts. I do not recommend beginning dictation with a child until they are of the age that they can recall a small line of prose or scripture from memory. Also, the child should be able to read at least at a beginning level, in other words, he should be able to read the selection that has been chosen for the copywork and dictation.
I like to use a very simple line of literature or scripture when first beginning this process. Most often, my children will start with a quote from Miss Mason herself;
The dictation begins with several days of copywork preceding the actual act of the dictation.
Typically, I introduce the selection by reading it to the student and then go over any words that might be difficult to spell. I also am sure to point out marks of punctuation, if appropriate, I'll instruct in why a specific mark is being used, and I would also point out the layout of the selection. For instance, in the quote above, I would point out:
1. Why the "I" is capitalized,
2. The semicolon and the period and why each one is used.
3. The difficult spelling of ought.
4. The layout of the quote. It is not in one line, but rather 4 lines. This is how it should be copied and memorized.
The student will copy this selection each day for several days. Most often 4 - 5 days, but if he needs longer, that is fine as well. On the last day, instead of copying the piece, I will dictate it to him.
Dictation is done in the following manner. The student reviews the selection one last time being sure to commit to memory spellings, punctuation, and the layout of the selection.
When he is ready, I give him a blank piece of paper and a freshly sharpened pencil, complete with an eraser.
I instruct the student that as usual, this dictation needs to be in his best handwriting. Then I begin to slowly read the selection, a small bit at a time, carefully pausing at the marks of punctuation. I only recite each bit one time. If the student misses something, tell him to leave a blank and move forward.
At the end of the selection, I then re-dictate it to the student at a normal pace and he is to fill in any missed information at that time.
Once he feels that he has completed his dictation, I then hand him the original selection of copywork and ask him to find any errors that he has made. When he finishes, I ask him to correct the errors and place the number of errors at the top of the page.
Then I review his dictation and am careful to check for any errors that he may have missed on his own. I always praise the student for doing a wonderful job, if in fact they did. Take every opportunity you can to applaud a difficult word spelled correctly, a mark of punctuation placed appropriately, or the beautiful penmanship that the assignment had been finished in.
What I treasure about dictation is much of what is unseen while performing this activity. Through dictation, we are developing the habit of attention, the skill of memorization, editing, and the art of listening, which is so important for auditory development. We are also incorporating the learning of grammar, spelling, and the skill of beautiful handwriting.
Dictation and copywork are very simple techniques to implement in any home or school. Do not let their simplicity fool you however, as they are extremely powerful in the art of education.
I do want to add that the above technique is what I use for my younger/new to dictation students. I do things slightly different for my older students and will elaborate more on that in another post.