Do you have a child working on spelling or studied dictation?
Is your child working through the spelling lists in Beyond or Bigger Hearts? Or, is your child working through the studied dictation passages in the guides that come next? Either way, today’s teaching tip is for you!
Visualizing words on a mental blackboard is one key Charlotte Mason skill for spelling.
One of the skills we are working toward is for the child to be able to visualize words on his/her mental blackboard. Capturing the correct spelling of a word is much easier if the word really stands out in a way that the mind can quickly “capture.”
Using a black marker on a white surface helps the mind “capture” the word.
Whenever you have to write a word for your child to visualize, it is good to use a black marker on a white surface. This can be a black marker on a white index card like the spelling cards for Beyond or Bigger Hearts. Or, the same technique works for words you may desire your child to focus on within the dictation passages. These words can be written on a whiteboard with a black marker for the child to study prior to having the passage dictated.
Tracing difficult words using a black pencil on a white page helps students “capture” the word too.
Another technique that works is to have the child trace any difficult words within the dictation passage using his/her black pencil. Having the words outlined in black on the white page helps kiddos mentally “capture” the word too! Try these tips and see if they help your child with spelling and dictation. I know these tips have helped mine!
A Breakthrough in Spelling: Charlotte Mason’s Method of Studied Dictation
Charlotte Mason’s method of studied dictation was truly a breakthrough in teaching spelling! The good news is, we can still do it today, and it only takes 5 minutes. So, just what is Charlotte Mason’s method of studied dictation? Well, to put it simply, she had children study a passage first. Then, she had the parent dictate the passage phrase by phrase, had the children repeat the phrase, and had the children write it. This was all done from a single reading, without repetition. She then had children immediately fix any errors, using the passage that was studied for help. Pretty easy, right? Well, at Heart of Dakota, we love Charlotte Mason’s method of studied dictation, and here’s why!
In studied dictation, children learn the skill of seeing correctly spelled words within the context of writing.
In studied dictation, children have to capture the whole image of a sentence or a passage in their minds. They need to look at the sentences as a whole, as well as capture the individual words and their parts. This really trains children in the habit of seeing correctly spelled words within the context of writing. After all, this is the ultimate goal of learning to spell! We want kiddos to carryover their spelling to their writing. So, practicing spelling words within the context of writing sentences just makes sense.
In studied dictation, children learn to listen carefully, which helps them strengthen auditory skills.
Studied dictation also forces kiddos to strengthen auditory skills, as they listen to the parent read the passage only once. Children learn to listen for the purpose of repeating perfectly from a single reading. Prior to writing, they then repeat back what the parent said. This strengthens the skill of holding a phrase or sentence in the mind long enough to be able to repeat it back without error and then write it.
In studied dictation, children learn to proofread their work carefully and check it with a model.
After writing the phrase or sentence, children then proofread their work before checking it against the model. This is a terrific way for children to form the habit of proofreading their written work! It truly makes good proofreaders out of kiddos over time. Last, they check their own work, which trains children in checking their work against a correctly written model. They become precise checkers with continual practice.
In studied dictation, children learn to practice immediate correction.
When children miss a passage, they mark any mistakes on the passage. They then immediately correct the mistakes on their own copy. In doing so, children practice yet another skill, which is immediate correction. Moreover, the following day when the child must repeat a passage, he/she pays much closer attention to whatever was missed the day before. This, in essence, finally causes the incorrect mental picture of a word in the mind to be rewritten or mentally corrected. The old, incorrect image is now replaced with the new, correct image. This is the very mental work that must be done in order for the poor speller to fix his/her poor spelling habits. It is also something the good speller does naturally.
Charlotte Mason had a continual focus on children NOT seeing words written incorrectly.
Charlotte Mason had a continual focus on children NOT seeing words written incorrectly. She believed the incorrect image of the word became imprinted on the mind (causing the “wrong” spelling to now “look” right)! This is why kiddos who struggle with poor spelling often have no idea whether a word is spelled correctly or not. It is because they have seen the word written incorrectly so many times that their mind can’t recognize the correct spelling – even when they try!
Charlotte Mason would not have been an advocate of spelling programs that require children to find misspelled words within passages.
Many spelling programs have a section that requires a child to find the misspelled word within a provided passage. In light of Charlotte Mason’s method of studied dictation, this type of exercise is definitely not a good idea! It actually gives the mind yet another opportunity to take a mental picture of an incorrectly spelled word! The theory for including this within a spelling program is that it is good practice for standardized tests,where kiddos will be asked to find the incorrectly spelled word. But in truth, it is training the child to focus on the misspelled word rather than on the correctly spelled words! Children who have been trained in the studied dictation method often have no trouble finding incorrectly spelled words on tests. They are too used to seeing the words spelled correctly! Incorrect words truly jump off the page… no practice needed!
Heart of Dakota and Studied Dictation
At Heart of Dakota, we love studied dictation! Starting with Bigger Hearts for His Glory, we include multiple levels of dictation passages. Though Charlotte Mason advocated dictation be taken directly from a literature passage being studied, we use the Charlotte Mason method of studied dictation while still progressing systematically through passages that gradually increase in difficulty. The dictation passages we use come from an old dictation book that was the standard for teaching spelling in bygone years!
In closing, through studied dictation, we teach children the skills of capturing a correct mental image of a string of words, auditorily hearing the sentence and repeating it back correctly, writing the words in the correct sequence (including all punctuation and capitalization), and proofreading and correcting their work to make sure the right mental image remains (rather than the wrong one). Over time, these skills transfer to students carefully proofreading their own written work in other subjects, which is exactly what we want! Heart of Dakota’s guides include plans to help you implement Charlotte Mason’s studied dictation methods successfully in your homeschooling, and that’s “More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment” to enjoy!!!
In Charlotte Mason’s method of dictation, what does a student do next if she spelled everything right in the passage?
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!
Each day I get to help families with placement in Heart of Dakota. I’ve enjoyed doing this for over a decade and consider it an incredible blessing and a privilege! I see a trend for many students who come to Heart of Dakota from other curricula. They are often placing lower on the placement chart in writing, spelling, and grammar. They have done much work orally. But, now that they are getting older, parents are looking ahead to middle school and high school work. They are concerned their students won’t be ready.
Impact on Spelling and Editing Skills
Since much of the work was done orally by students, their spelling has also been impacted. They just have not written enough to form the habit of spelling well. Likewise, they have done little to no editing of their own written work. The parent has not been editing either, as students have been doing their work orally. This leaves the parent with all of the responsibility of editing a larger volume of work, as students should be writing more as they mature. So, a responsibility that should be shared or shifting more to the student has landed soundly in the parent’s lap! Not what we busy homeschool moms need, right?!?
How Reading Aloud Everything Can Impact Students’ Writing
When older students are combined with much younger students and therefore everything must be read aloud either by them or the parent, their writing is impacted. Seeing the text on the page as you read in your head fixes proper spelling in your mind. This in turn helps you have a better chance of spelling words correctly in your own writing. Older students who have not read independently often do not write well independently for this reason. This is why Charlotte Mason advocated students at the age of 9 be responsible for their reading. Can you think back to yourself as a 5th grade student? I know, for some of us, this is going waaaaaay back. But, thinking back, how would your teachers reading everything aloud to you have impacted your writing? Probably significantly, and not in a way you’d like.
The good news – Heart of Dakota’s plans are designed to help students improve their writing!
Students incrementally become stronger writers using Heart of Dakota’s plans! Simply following the daily plans and using the writing helps in the appendix of each guide helps students gradually improve. However, what do you do if you are coming to Heart of Dakota later? Or, what if you did Heart of Dakota from the start, but you altered the plans so work was done orally instead? Well, take heart! Students can and will improve given time, as they create new writing habits. So, here are 5 tips to help your children strengthen their writing skills and be on the road to writing well!
#1: Follow Heart of Dakota’s plans by requiring all writing in assignments to be completed.
Start small if need be! Students assigned to write 5- 7 sentences for a written narration should start with 5 good short sentences. Quality trumps quantity to begin with! Students should use proper spelling in all copywork, written narrations, and formal writing assignments. However, editing writing in all subject areas helps as well. So, if you see a word spelled wrong in science, for example, try to help them fix it. Though work need not be perfect, spelling is something to try to edit in all subject areas as much as possible.
#2: Use the editing tips in the back of the guide.
Take time to edit to help your student become a strong writer! Working through the list following the directions in the Appendix will help students form good editing habits. The responsibility for editing will gradually shift more from you to your students. As this happens, your kiddos will learn writing carefully from the start equals less editing at the end. Keep in mind, students write one draft for written narrations. A parent should not require a student to rewrite an entire written narration in a second or third draft. Rather, students edit their first draft to the best of their ability with a parent offering help and encouragement as needed.
#3: Do dictation every day you homeschool.
Heart of Dakota’s plans assign dictation 3 out of 4 days a week. Struggling spellers can see more improvement in their spelling by doing dictation daily. Be sure to follow the directions at the start of dictation carefully, as they follow Charlotte Mason’s tried and true methods. For one of my sons who struggled with spelling, we did dictation daily. It took his scores on standardized testing from below average to above average. He didn’t become a stellar speller overnight, mind you! But, slow and steady consistent dictation and editing helped him improve greatly!
#4: Students should read when assigned to do so.
Carrie wrote Heart of Dakota’s plans to include living books. She chose these books specifically with reading roles in mind. Students placed properly in a guide can independently read what has been assigned or quickly grow into the reading. Carrie didn’t forget parents’ love to read aloud either! Parents always get to enjoy reading something too. I love the books I get to read aloud with my sons! But, I also love my sons enjoying reading on their own too! Keep in mind not all living books function best as read alouds. Likewise, the reading assignments vary in length. Some readings are long! Students are meant to read them more quickly independently. As Charlotte Mason advocated children 9 years or older begin doing their own reading, Carrie chose books with this in mind.
#5: Teach students to shrink their writing to fit on notebook paper.
Students who are new to writing often write quite large. They also often do not know how to write with proper spacing. Writing on lined notebook paper for subjects such as R & S English, science questions, Common Place book entries, etc. can be a challenge. You can help by pointing out the left and right margins. Likewise, you can draw their attention to spacing between words. Helping them visualize a dotted line within the wide line also helps with writing lower case letters. Students can skip lines, as this helps them better see how to edit their written work. They can also experiment with various pencils and grippers, until they find what they like best. Parents can jot editing notes in the margin for easy reference.
I use these tips with my own sons each day! I have seen such improvement in writing, spelling, and grammar through the years with Heart of Dakota. My job as editor decreases and shifts to my sons’ job as they mature. This is what helps them be able to write well without me! And that, in my mind, is the final goal for writing! Hope this helps as you encourage your own kiddos to become the best writers they can be!
P.S. For more on written narrations as a form of assessment, click here!
P.S.S. For more on dictation as a way to teach spelling to struggling students, click here!
My daughter with special needs is able to read, but spelling is a huge issue. I am wondering for a child that can’t spell if writing practice is counter productive? I’m worried having her write things out is actually reinforcing bad spelling habits. I’ve been having her do beginning dictation with Heart of Dakota. But, I wonder if written narrations, where she is creating ideas herself, is just maybe reinforcing poor spelling in her mind? I do correct it. But, she still sees it when she writes it wrong the first time, and she makes the same mistakes over and over. What should I do? I guess my question is, does having my child with special needs write create bad spelling habits? Thanks in advance!
“Please Help with Special Needs Spelling in Writing”
Dear “Please Help with Special Needs and Spelling in Writing,”
Thanks for sharing about your daughter! Charlotte Mason viewed the mind to function like a camera. As we see words spelled in written form over and over, we begin to think the word ‘looks right’ even if it is spelled wrong. That is why spelling programs that include misspelled words for students to correct are detrimental to truly learning proper spelling!
You are so right that writing a word and seeing it incorrectly multiple times fixes the “wrong” spelling in your daughter’s mind, until the wrong way starts to look right! So, whenever you do something where your daughter will write, copy a portion of it on the markerboard. She can then look at it to copy it on her paper correctly. Also, never have her copy so much that it wears her out. This will cause her copying to quickly go downhill, as I’m sure you know.
Or, if it is difficult for your daughter to copy from markerboard to paper correctly, you can write on paper instead. Just leave a space below each line for her to copy directly under your text letter by letter. Hope that helps!