The method is as old as the mind of man, the distressful fact is that it has been made so little use of in general education…

A Charlotte Mason Moment:

“As for all the teaching in the nature of ‘told to the children’, most children get their share of that whether in the infant school or at home, but this is practically outside the sphere of that part of education which demands a conscious mental effort, from the scholar, the mental effort of telling again that which has been read or heard. That is how we all learn, we tell again, to ourselves if need be, the matter we wish to retain, the sermon, the lecture, the conversation. The method is as old as the mind of man, the distressful fact is that it has been made so little use of in general education.”

(Home Education by Charlotte M. Mason Vol. 6, pp. 159, 160)

PS: If you’re interested in learning some practical ways students can study for Charlotte Mason-style dictation passages, have a look at this blog article linked below!

Ways to Study for Charlotte Mason Dictation Passages

Charlotte Mason’s Method of Studied Dictation

Dear Carrie

In Charlotte Mason’s method of dictation, what does a student do next if she spelled everything right in the passage?

Dear Carrie,

I am new to Charlotte Mason’s method of dictation, though I have read many good things about it. I’m excited to try Charlotte Mason’s method of dictation with Heart of Dakota! My daughter is beginning Bigger Hearts for His Glory. She does fairly well with spelling. I am wondering if she passes the first dictation passage, if I have her move on to the next passage? Or, if I see she passes the dictation passage, do I tell her she is done with spelling for the week? If it is the former, what do I have her do if we run out of dictation passages?  So, I guess my question is, in Charlotte Mason’s method of dictation, what does a student do next if she spelled everything right in the passage?


“Ms. Please Help Me with Charlotte Mason’s Method  of Dictation”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Me with Charlotte Mason’s Method of Dictation,”

This is such a good question about dictation!  I struggled with this question too until I read more about Charlotte Mason’s style of studied dictation. Her emphasis within dictation is actually on the studying of the passage in order to fix it within one’s mind. In essence, students practice the habit of making a mental or a photographic image of the text. They pay special attention to how the words are spelled, where the capital letters are found, which punctuation marks are used, and where the punctuation marks are in the sentence.

Poor spellers have often seen a word spelled incorrectly in their own writing so many times that the misspelled word looks ‘right’ to them.

I found Charlotte Mason’s studied dictation methods to be so interesting!  In my days as a public school teacher, it was that very skill that was lacking for poor spellers. They had no idea whether a word looked right or not, which is often the technique used by natural spellers to tell whether a word is spelled correctly. The poor spellers had seen the word spelled incorrectly so many times in their own writing that the wrong spelling actually looked right.

Spelling programs that incorrectly spell words within spelling exercises reinforce incorrect spelling.

It is amazing to me how many spelling programs have a section where kiddos are asked to find the incorrectly spelled word within the spelling exercises!  Students are then, in essence, taking a mental picture of the incorrect spelling. Charlotte Mason would find this to be a poor activity, as it reinforces incorrect spelling. She was very adamant that any word spelled incorrectly be covered up and fixed immediately. This way, students do not fix the wrong image within the mind.

Students trained to capture the correct image of words, sentences, and passages in their minds have a powerful tool in spelling.

Training the mind to capture a correct image of a word, sentence, and eventually passage is a powerful tool in spelling. It is often a tool that does more for kiddos who have struggled with spelling in the past, than any amount of memorizing rules does. I found this idea to be amazing! It is one that I had never heard during my years of training as a teacher, yet it makes so much sense. And, what’s more, it really works! I was so surprised to find that studied dictation was the method used for spelling here in America in the early 1900’s. It is a tried and true method for spelling. I think your daughter is sure to enjoy Charlotte Mason’s method of studied dictation!



P.S. To find out more about Heart of Dakota, click here!


Is dictation good for struggling spellers?

Dear Carrie,

Is dictation good for struggling spellers or just good for average to natural spellers?

My 10 year old daughter really struggles with spelling. I have used several curriculums with her, and she still has such a hard time. I feel like nothing has worked with her. My question is about dictation in Preparing Hearts for His Glory. Do you think would this be a good option for a struggling speller? Will dictation improve her spelling, or should I look into something else for her? She is well below grade level in this area and is also a reluctant writer. So, I know she will already struggle with all the writing she has to do this year. I want to build her confidence this year, and it seems like spelling lists have not helped her retain skills. She does have some mild dyslexic tendencies, but we have never had her tested. So, should I do the dictation with her? Is dictation good for struggling spellers or just good for average to natural spellers? Thanks in advance for your help!


“Please Help Me with Spelling”

Dear “Please Help Me with Spelling,”

The Charlotte Mason method of studied dictation takes at least a year to truly see the fruit of it. It is a slow burn that pays big dividends in the long haul. It actually does work well both for natural spellers and for kiddos who struggle with spelling. We get to hear so many updates from families who use HOD; by email, by message board, and at conventions. So, I can say with confidence that even kiddos with learning challenges such as dysgraphia progress well with studied dictation. We hear from many families with kiddos who were poor spellers who are thrilled to be seeing some progress!

Consistent use of studied dictation has many benefits!

The method that we use in the guides is very important in the success of studied dictation. The consistent use of studied dictation also makes a difference. There are many posts on the board about studied dictation, so I encourage you to search and read them. If you do try PHFHG’s studied dictation, I would advise you to give it at least a year. I would also encourage you not to continue with another spelling program at the same time. Instead, try using studied dictation as your spelling program. I think you will be surprised at the progress your students will make. It is a method that has many benefits in the long haul for all types of spellers.

Try using studied dictation instead of a formal spelling program!

I can understand the hesitance to let go of a formal spelling program, as I had that same hesitance. With my oldest son, in order to tell whether studied dictation really worked, I tested him in Spelling Power. First, I tested him at the beginning of the year to give his spelling a “level.” Then, I used only studied dictation all year. At year-end, I tested him in Spelling Power again. I was surprised to discover he’d jumped several levels in spelling from using studied dictation (while not using Spelling Power)! This made a believer out of me. My oldest son only used studied dictation after that and has graduated high school.

I’ve seen the success of using studied dictation with my own children and hope you do too!

My next 3 kiddos have all only done the spelling/dictation within the HOD guides. While my second oldest son is definitely a natural speller, my other boys vary on their natural spelling abilities. My oldest is a great memorizer, but needed dictation to carryover his memorization of words to his writing. Though my second oldest is a natural speller, he needed studied dictation to improve proofreading and accuracy in his writing. He also needed to learn to listen carefully to a single reading of the dictation passage prior to writing. He has benefitted greatly from studied dictation in that regard. My third son has a more difficult time with spelling. Yet, he is consistently progressing, slowly but surely. My last little guy is a terrific copier but needs to learn to capture the word images in his mind. Studied dictation will be of help to him too! I share this to help you visualize how studied dictation could be of benefit to your own kiddos. I hope you see the benefits of studied dictation completed consistently over time. Thanks for asking this question!



P.S. For more information about how students can study for dictation, click here!

Ways to Study for Charlotte Mason Dictation Passages

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:
Passed 9 Dictation Passages in a Row

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:
A Silent Successful Way of Studying for Dictation

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:
Nana and Emmett Doing Dictation Together

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
Dictation Builds Strong Spelling and Careful Writing Skills

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!

In Christ,

Why You Should Continue With Copywork Once Dictation and Written Narrations Have Begun

Dear Carrie

What benefits do you see for children to continue copywork once dictation and written narrations are well underway?

Dear Carrie,

The reasons for continuing dictation, oral narration, and written narration through the middle and upper years make sense to me. I myself have seen fruit from these methods! I’ve been grateful for how much they have helped my children in the process of learning to write. Copywork also makes sense to me in the elementary years, and it helped my 3 oldest when they were learning to write. One thing I don’t understood though is the continuation of copywork beyond 5th grade. I have noticed copywork continues through high school. What benefits do you see for children to continue copywork once dictation and written narrations are well underway?

“Please Help Me See the Benefits of Copywork for Olders”

Dear “Please Help Me See the Benefits of Copywork for Olders,”

This is an excellent question! Heading into upper levels of education, copywork begins taking on a new focus. As students copy from increasingly difficult narrative history books and classic literature, more in-depth elements are present. An author’s style, voice, word choice, descriptive language, use of humor, foreshadowing, mood, and important dialogue can be perceived. In essence, students are copying from great writers and beginning to internalize the author’s use of language.

Many of our founding fathers used this strategy.

This strategy was used by many of our founding fathers as part of their education and all through their lives. Benjamin Franklin was known for copying lengthy passages from the Bible and from Pilgrim’s Progress. He then later tried to write these verbatim, without looking at the model. Thomas Jefferson was also known to copy extensively from various works to internalize the material and note important phrasing.

Charlotte Mason advocated the practice of keeping a Common Place Book through high school.

High school students continue keeping a Common Place Book, selecting meaningful quotes or passages from classic literature for their book. Charlotte Mason advocated this practice throughout high school, and we feel it is an excellent use of students’ time. As students read, they watch for notable quotes or passages and select their favorites from among them. Finally, they copy them into their book for later reference, creating a ‘Common Place’ for their special quotes or passages.

Copywork of Scripture and poetry is especially beneficial.

Continuing copywork of Scripture is another area that is well worth the time spent copying. Within Heart of Dakota, students typically copy verses and passages that they have been asked to memorize. This makes the Scripture within their Common Place Books especially meaningful. Poetry is another area worthy of copywork. Poetry copywork reflects the structure of poems, the flow of words, the sentiments evoked, and the style of the poet.

Continuing copywork ensures students take note of excellent writing.

Copywork is such an overlooked skill especially as students begin doing more of their own writing. However, the inclusion of copywork in Heart of Dakota ensures students are continuing to take note of excellent writing. It keeps students watching how strong writers express themselves and thinking of ways they can imitate great writing. When students read and then copy from what they read, they remember better what was read. The quotes help the student recall the book to mind. So, there are many benefits to copywork all throughout life, no matter what age you are!