Copywork & Recitation

Copywork and recitiation are a fairly common phenomenon in homeschooling cirricula.  While our kids attend public school, we do participate in what is known as “afterschooling” (basically part-time homeschooling).  During the school year, afterschooling is mostly “unschooling”, but over the holidays and during the summer we try to add some structre to it.  One of the techniques we employ, year round, with some reguarlity is copywork and recitation.

What is Copywork:  Its copying something that someone else has said or written.  Perferably something that is well-written, notable, inspirational, etc.  Copywork is a chance to learn how good writing is formulated and to practice penmanship.

What is Recitation: Its reciting something that someone else has said or written.  As with copywork, preferably something with some meat to it.  Recitation is a chance to learn the cadence and rhythm of formal speaking, and to practice speaking in front of an audience. 

Why Copywork and Recitation?

  • Introduces your children to new people–important historical, literary and scientific figures
  • Introduces your children to new ideas and concepts
  • Offers a chance to learn new words
  • Offers a chance to learn new ways of using words
  • Demonstrates different types of writing and how writing has changed over time
  • Penmanship practice
  • Memory building!
  • Practice at formalized speaking

How we incorporate C&R:

Copywork and recitation is a fairly common aspect of homeschooling, but it can also be used at home with kids that are in public or private school, as well as in a classroom environment.  Our goal is that our children are challenged without being frustrated, and that they are exposed to ideas and people and forms of expression that they wouldn’t otherwise experience at their age.  In our family, we practice one quote a week, starting on Sunday or Monday.  Because our children are younger and still learning to read and write, we start out with a printed worksheet from a free online source (like this one), where we can input the text and have it print out a copyable version of the quote.  Really though, all you need to get started is the quote, a pen/pencil, and some paper.   For the most part, each day the practice is about 15-20 minutes–the main exception is the art project.  We also make it a rule to not keep the schedule as an unchangable thing–a harder quote might take two weeks, or perhaps life just gets in the way and we miss a day or two. 

Generally, we spend the first day reading and writing the quote using the worksheets (with older kids, this can be easily skipped), we also look-up any tricky words and discuss anything about the meaning of the quote that might not be clear.  The second and third days, we practice writing the quote on regular paper, without the worksheet.  We also practice reading the quote in its entirety and reciting the quote in sections.  On the fourth and fifth days, we practice writing the quote from memory and reciting the quote in the mirror.  Sometime during the week, we probably also make a poster, collage, or other artwork project about the quote and turn the quote into a skit, dance, song, puppet show, etc.  Often we will look up a new author and find out some information about who they were, where they were from, and when they lived, and what they did.  On the last day, the kids “perform” their quote (and often past quotes) as a mini-recital for the family. 

Copywork and recitation can be used as a stand-alone practice, or quotes can be chosen thematically to accompany other lessons…a month studying the ocean might have quotes by Jaques Cousteau, for example.  These quotes are also used as a way to introduce individual authors, scientistis, historical figures, etc.  Often families that use copywork and recitation choose quotes that reflect values and ethics, for carachter building, etc.  It is quite common among homeschooling resources to find copywork and recitation guides for Christian families that use Bible quotes or other religious literature as a means to teach their children their values.

Unfortunately, its a bit more difficult to find secular or non-Christian copywork and recitation guides (actually, I’ve yet to find one) with quotes preselected.  If you wish to incorporate copywork and recitation into your regualr work at home, expect to spend some time finding age and ability appropriate quotes that reflecting the ideas that you wish to teach your children in language that is rich and expressive.  But don’t worry too much about them being too advanced–one of the reasons we do copywork and recitation is to introduce the kids to different styles of writing and speaking, and to new words and phrases and ideas.


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