We still use a spelling list. (We like the lists from PocketBasics.com) I have found it easier for me to teach the various spelling rules when we have followed a list. I can easily review what rules I have and haven’t presented to the child…and set about continuing on with that. If I feel that a child does not grasp a particular spelling/grammar rule, then I will search for a passage or selection of work so that they can specifically write it out for copy work.

Copy work is preparation for dictation

The reason I have used a spelling list is also because I haven’t been as diligent with the practice of dictation as I would have liked, but that’s life eh! I do believe that the CM method of education is full and rich and thorough if adhered to…which is where I fall down.

The Lessons

We would do a passage for copy work on Day One. I read the passage aloud to the children once or twice. I would review any of the spelling and grammar rules that are applicable and I would then teach new concepts from the passage. I tell the child that they can spend time and take care with this selection as they will be writing it for dictation soon. I ask them to notice any words that they may need to spend time on or look up in the dictionary. I ask them to notice any grammar or punctuation rules, and we discuss it. If they haven’t noticed anything, then I jump in with my comments but I like to give them opportunity first. At the end of the lesson, I ask the child to read the passage aloud to me. (I think this is an important step) They also have to read (or listen to) good living books and then narrate to me. After a few days (depending on the passage I’ve selected) I will have the child write the selection from dictation. This is where they need to apply the habit of attention, else they will get spelling and punctuation incorrect.

Dictation Lesson

To start the dictation lesson, which may be on day 2, 3 or 4 (on this day, dictation REPLACES copy work and is not in addition to), I read the passage aloud to them. I’ll slowly read a phrase at a time as the child writes it on their paper. I try not to re-read any phrase as I’m trying to develop the habit of attention, requiring them to concentrate and use their memory…but I don’t let myself get hung up on it. My goal is to train them in the habit of attention, develop their ability to focus and recall, to have neat handwriting and develop their spelling, grammar and punctuation skills.

I think the basis of a CM English program is Copywork and then also Dictation, Narration, and good Living Books. Exposure to Great Ideas is a big part of this.


Another tip which I have found very useful is to have a double copy of a book that I’m reading aloud. As I’m reading it aloud, another child will have the second copy and be following me along. This helps them to SEE and HEAR the word so they hear the correct pronunciation and see the correct spelling in a very gentle way.

I also buddy read: where I will read a passage and then the child will read a passage. Having the child read aloud is very important as I can *hear* exactly where they are having difficulty and then I can help them straight away without needing to wait until the rule or concept arises in the textbook.

Focussed Seasons

We also have focused seasons which probably isn’t very CMish but it works well for us. By seasons I mean that we will have a period of time (could be weeks or months) where we will all learn and focus on grammar. We’ll do a course like Winston Grammar and we focus on it during our copy work times. We might put another topic or area on the backburner for awhile as we do this. Then, when I feel that we’ve done enough there for the time being, I’ll put grammar to the backburner and bring another area into focus. Some people can’t handle this way of doing things but it is the only way that I can manage.

I hope some of this has been helpful, if only in sparking some ideas.

There are a few links that you might like to read over:

AmblesideOnline Scope and Sequence for LA

LA with Penny Gardner

Copywork with the Parker’s