Dictation skills help in many areas of your child’s schooling!
One of my absolute favorite Charlotte Mason-style teaching strategies is the way she uses studied dictation. This is because studied dictation encompasses so many skills within a short session.
What skills are included within a studied dictation lesson?
Before the dictating begins, studying the passage first encourages students to picture correct spelling and punctuation on their mental blackboards. As the passage is dictated, students hone their auditory and verbal skills as they listen and repeat the passage before writing. Correcting their own passage by checking it against a correctly written model practices proofreading skills. Immediately fixing any mistakes means errors in spelling take less root in the child’s mind. Repeating a missed passage once daily until it is written correctly helps students replace an incorrect model with a correct model in their mind. Through the studied dictation process, your children are learning spelling, grammar, and punctuation skills too.
How can you help your children carry dictation skills over into their written work?
Once your children are making progress in dictation, it is time to begin helping them carry these skills over to their written work. One easy way to help students do this is to begin having them read aloud to you anything they write for school. As they read aloud what they have written, they will begin to catch some very noticeable mistakes. These obvious mistakes usually include missing words, double words, or very long run-on sentences with no punctuation. As students read aloud their written work, it is important that you are next to them with your pencil in hand. As they read, gently point out a few things to add. Often these things include missing words, periods, capital letters, commas, and question marks.
How can you address incorrect spelling in written work?
After your child has read aloud his written work, go back and write in pencil the correct spelling above any word that needs fixing. Then, have your child erase the incorrect word, copy your correct spelling in its place, and then erase your word (leaving a clean copy). If you do this regularly, your child will start to notice errors more and more on his own.
Proofreading takes training.
Proofreading takes training, just like anything else. It doesn’t happen naturally. One side note of this process is that you may see the volume of your child’s writing decline for awhile. This is alright, as it is honestly better to produce less quantity that is well-done than volumes written poorly. So, try having your child read aloud his writing today, and let the training begin!
A Charlotte Mason Moment:
“Having been brought up so far upon stylists the pupils are almost certain to have formed a good style: because they have been thrown into the society of many great minds, the will not make a servile copy of any one but will shape an individual style out of the wealth of material they possess; and because they have matter in abundance and of the best they will not write mere verbiage.”
(Home Education by Charlotte M., Vol 6, p. 194)
A Charlotte Mason Moment:
“Children in this Form (ages 9-12) have a wider range of reading, a more fertile field of thought, and more delightful subjects for composition. They write their little essays themselves (referring to written narration), and for the accuracy of their knowledge and justice of their expression, why ‘still the wonder grows’. They’ll describe their favorite scene from ‘The Tempest’ or ‘Woodstock’. They write to ‘tell’ stories from work set in Plutarch or Shakespeare or tell of the events of the day. They narrate from English, French, and General History, from the Old and New Testament, from ‘Stories from the History of Rome’, from Bullfinch’s ‘Age of Fable’, from, for example, Goldsmith’s or Wordsworth’s poems, from ‘The Heroe’s [sic] of Asgard’: in fact, Composition is not an adjunct but an integral part of their education in every subject.”
(Home Education by Charlotte M., Vol. 6, p. 192)
A Charlotte Mason Moment:
“Whatever a child or grown-up person can tell, that we may be sure he knows, and that which he cannot tell, he does not know… Now a passage to be memorized requires much conning, much repetition, and meanwhile the learners are ‘thinking’ about other matters, that is the mind is not at work in the act of memorizing. To read a passage with full attention and to tell it afterwards has a curiously different effect…
…the happy distinction between word memory and mind memory, which, once the force of it is realized, should bring about sweeping changes in our methods of education. Trusting to mind memory, we visualize the scene, are convinced by arguments, take pleasure in the turn of sentences and frame our own upon them: in fact that particular passage or chapter has been received into us and become a part of us just as literally as was yesterday’s dinner.”
(Home Education by Charlotte M., Vol. 6, p. 172)
Help your child build the habit of proofreading!
When a child reaches Creation to Christ (and the guides that come after it), it is time to work on proofreading. Typically, proofreading does not come naturally to children. This means it is a skill that must be practiced in order for it to become a habit.
How can you build the habit of proofreading?
To help ingrain the habit of proofreading, have your child read his written narrations out loud to you. As your child reads the narration aloud, have him pause and correct any mistakes he notices right away.
Don’t be surprised if your little honey reads right past his mistakes. If so, gently stop him and point out obvious mistakes that should be caught when reading aloud what was written. Some examples of obvious mistakes include the following: a word written twice, an omitted word, a lack of punctuation, an important letter missing within a word, or a problem in grammar or usage.
After your child has read the narration aloud, you should read the passage out loud next. As you read, guide your child in correcting any remaining errors in spelling, capitalization, or punctuation.
Use your child’s written narrations to build the habit of proofreading.
Written narrations are scheduled weekly in each of our guides from Preparing Hearts on up. This schedule makes the weekly written narration a perfect forum to practice good proofreading habits! Practice proofreading together each week, and you’ll eventually see the fruit of this exercise. Your child will begin to automatically read aloud and proof his narrations prior to handing them in to you. Having a weekly expectation for proofreading starts to establish a pattern for proofreading work.
Try this method for proofreading once each week using your child’s written narration.
Practice this method for proofreading with your child each week. I think you’ll see a new habit begin to slowly form as the years pass! I know this method has worked with all three of our older sons, and we’re already seeing progress with our fourth son too. Try it, and see what you think!
PS: For a way to begin teaching this skill to younger students in Bigger Hearts and Preparing Hearts, have a look at this blog post!