More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment
Charlotte Mason’s Method of Studied Dictation
Heart of Dakota uses Charlotte Mason’s method of studied dictation to teach spelling beginning in Bigger Hearts for His Glory. Charlotte Mason’s dictation emphasizes the studying of a passage in order to fix it within one’s mind. Students practice the habit of making a mental or a photographic image of the text. This includes paying attention to how words are spelled, where capital letters are found, and which punctuation marks are used. Training the mind to capture correct images of words, sentences, and eventually passages is a powerful tool in spelling. Often it does more for kiddos who have struggled with spelling than any amount of memorizing rules can do.
Three Different Sons, Three Different Ways to Study for Dictation
When my three sons first began studying for their dictation passages, I gave them helpful tips on how to study. I’d point out the paragraph indentation, any difficult words to spell, and any punctuation marks. Then, I’d give each of them as much time as they needed to study the passage on their own. They would call me when they were ready, usually within 5 minutes. Interestingly enough, each of my sons developed their own unique way of studying for dictation.
Study Method #1 – Wyatt’s Way of Studying:
Wyatt would read the passage in his head first a few times. Then, he’d get a black dry erase marker and a white markerboard. While reading the passage through another time, he’d jot on the markerboard anything special to remember. So, for example, he’d write the first word of the paragraph indented and capitalized. If there was a punctuation mark after a word, he’d write the word and then the punctuation mark following it. Any words that were difficult to spell also made it on the list.
All of these notes were jotted like shorthand, moving sequentially from left to right on the markerboard. They were even written on the proper place on the markerboard within the right ‘lines.’ Of course, there were no lines on the markerboard. So to me, it just looked like a bunch of floating words and punctuation marks on the markerboard. I finally asked him what he was doing. Imagine my surprise when he explained his method to me! When it came time for me to read the passage to him, the markerboard was put aside. This method of studying for dictation worked well for Wyatt!
Study Method #2 – Riley’s Way of Studying:
Riley’s method was quite simple. He studied the passage in complete silence. All the studying was going on in his head. When I asked him how he was studying it, he simply said he was reading it in his head. He said he just pictured it as he read. This method of studying dictation worked well for Riley!
Study Method #3 – Emmett’s Way of Studying:
Emmett’s method is much like his personality, talkative and exuberant. He talks through the entire passage out loud. As he reads, he gives commentary on the passage. For example, “Hmmmm. ‘Flo-rence’ with a ‘c’ ‘e,’ NOT with an ‘s’ at all. Oooh! ‘Night-in-gale’ – that’s really 3 words, Mom!” He also circles on the page anything he wants to remember, like capital letters and punctuation marks. Finally, to practice spelling difficult words, he closes his eyes and spells them out loud. He tells me he is picturing the word. Then, he opens his eyes and either shouts “Got it!” or “Shoot!” If he says “Got it!”, he spelled it right. If he says “Shoot,” he spelled it wrong, and he studies the word again. Then, he closes his eyes and tries again until he can spell it out loud and shout “Got it!” This method of studying dictation is working well for Emmett.
Finding Your Own Way to Study for Charlotte Mason Dictation Passages
In summation, dictation is an excellent way to train our children to write carefully with good spelling and mechanics. It is a good idea to model how to study the passage to our students. Drawing attention to capitalization, punctuation, and easily misspelled words is especially helpful. However, students may find their own unique method of studying for dictation, and this will probably be their best method. Therefore, personal study methods are to be encouraged. Hopefully my sons’ methods will help you and your children find success in exploring your own personal dictation study methods!