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Momto6inIN

What is the benefit of dictation?

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I get the benefits of copywork - internalizing high quality writing, correct grammar/punctuation and spelling, probably others I'm not remembering. But it seems to me that dictation doesn't really do anything "extra" that copywork doesn't, except maybe increase their memory. Am I missing something?

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They do overlap quite a bit! I think dictation approaches those same topics a bit differently, forcing the writer to retrieve spelling and mechanics rules from memory, rather than remembering them like a mental picture for the specific passage they have read. This is like the difference between translating a foreign language into English and mentally composing a sentence in that language to say out loud.

I also remember Nan in Mass talking about how her child who did more dictation was a much better note-taker in college. The details of her story escape me.

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Dictation encourages a child to keep longer portions in their head at a time, which does help in taking notes later.

We use dictation here for spelling.  Each day I give ds a passage, putting the new words on the board.  He listens, repeats, then writes.  In doing so, he's paying attention to nuances like punctuation (listening for comma pauses, hearing inflection to tell what the ending punctuation will be, etc.), reviewing spelling words from previous work, and strengthening his memory skills.

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1 hour ago, Momto6inIN said:

I get the benefits of copywork - internalizing high quality writing, correct grammar/punctuation and spelling, probably others I'm not remembering. But it seems to me that dictation doesn't really do anything "extra" that copywork doesn't, except maybe increase their memory. Am I missing something?

See I would have gone the other way. Copywork is a low level handwriting exercise with nominal benefits, something quickly outgrown as the child bores of it. Dictation is closer to real life, as they have to pull the spelling, etc. from their head, hold it, motor plan, get it out. My dd dumped copywork in 1st grade and continued dictation through about 7th. Dictation made a noticeable difference in her mastery of spelling and copywork was just busywork.

If you want to internalize high quality writing, there are plenty more ways, including reading quality literature, doing reader/writing workshops where you discuss the writer's craft, etc. I think maybe figure out why you're even doing either one (dictation or copywork). Maybe your kids are outgrowing both.

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I think of copywork as more passive and dictation as more active, we use both in our home school, gradually switching to dictation over copywork.  Copywork is great for handwriting practice and for imprinting patterns (though as PeterPan pointed out simply reading good books is enough for some children).  It also fosters attention to detail since to copy accurately requires one to pay attention to spelling, punctuation, etc.

In addition to what HomeAgain and others have said about translating those skills to active use with dictation (e.g. retrieving and actively using concepts rather than just copying it from a model), dictation is far more interactive between student and teacher.  In our home, dictation is used for teaching spelling and grammar (including diagraming) as well as literary elements in context.  I often find myself with a set goal for a dictation but in the process of dictating or during our brief "language lesson" the focus switches to what the child needs more.  For example, the dictation might be focusing on the use of colons but in the process I discover that the child has not yet mastered commas in a list of words so we focus on that instead.

I found a lot of helpful guidance for how to do dictation in the booklet by Bonnie Landry linked to in my siggy.  Buying a couple of Boomerang guides from Brave Writer (especially The Hound of the Baskervilles and Treasure Island) really helped me see how we could continue with dictation as my eldest passes from elementary level skills to more logic level ones.

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Thank you, this all makes sense to me!

Do you think there is a benefit to doing longer dictations passages, or does the length matter as they get older?

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9 minutes ago, Momto6inIN said:

Thank you, this all makes sense to me!

Do you think there is a benefit to doing longer dictations passages, or does the length matter as they get older?

Again, know why you're doing it. My dd wasn't *fast* so we had a goal of amount on the page. Like we'd do 1/2 page written, whatever our goal was. And that could take her 20-40 minutes, depending on where she was at the time. In say 3rd or 4th, it was longer because it was a huge focus. By junior high we were pretty short. So look at your goals. It would only be your 11 and 7 yos basically. With that 11 yo, you might have some goals that are more sophisticated (punctuation, complex sentences, whatever), so getting through a couple of those would be enough.

Edited by PeterPan
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11 minutes ago, Momto6inIN said:

Thank you, this all makes sense to me!

Do you think there is a benefit to doing longer dictations passages, or does the length matter as they get older?

My goal is to be done with our dictation from writing to lesson in 15-20 minutes, otherwise I don't have enough discipline to make sure we do it day in and day out.  However much we get done we get done in that amount of time, though at this point I know about how much to plan ahead.  Plus, DD10 is a slow writer and making her do more usually means that she starts losing focus and interest, which I've found are essential for dictation success.

FTR and in the interest of full disclosure, I'm trying to decide at the moment how to proceed with my soon to be 11 year old.  I am a firm believer in dictation but with my struggling speller we've had to switch to A&P for spelling and it has worked really well, we're on level B at the moment.  Doubling up with dictation just does not make sense because it makes our language lessons twice as long and alternating between dictation and A&P seems to make both less effective as far as what my goals are.  So, I'm thinking of switching to a grammar curriculum for next year for her to do independently while finishing up A&P and then getting back to dictation once her spelling skills are where they should be.

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Dictation has the added benefit of giving mother and child a chance to work on their relationship and anger management skills.  

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I guess I've been using copywork as my younger kids' first experiences in "composition". So when they are ready for more explicit composition instruction, I've dropped it. And I wasn't completely sure where dictation fits because it's not really a method to teach composition, but everywhere I read about it it seems to be combined with copywork as a similar exercise.

I think what I'm hearing you all say is that dictation a good way to combine spelling and grammar and punctuation practice all into one exercise. So do you all use it as your main grammar and spelling instruction method or do you use other curricula to teach those skills and use dictation as a practice exercise to combine them all together? 

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Dictation is not always a good teaching tool. For dyslexic kids, it can do far more self-esteem damage due to repeated lack of success than having any positive educational outcome. 

I quickly learned that I could make copy work active learning, not passive, by how we engaged with the selection. Copywork is used to teach mechanics, grammar, sentence structure, and paragraph structure. It is used to discuss what makes a passage interesting. Copywork is the basis for their introduction to independent writing.  It works here and without the stress of worrying about mistakes in dictation. That stress detracted from them focusing on learning anything from the process.

I am not a dictation fan for learning anything other than spelling. Dictation in our home is restricted to words I expect them to have mastered.

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Some people use the same passage for copywork and dictation throughout the week.

Monday: Observe the passage and annotate to highlight punctuation, capitalization, spelling, etc.

Tuesday: Write passage as copywork from annotated copy

Wednesday: Write passage as copywork from un-annotated copy

Thursday: Write passage from dictation

 

I didn’t actually use this method for either of my kids. My younger DD really disliked copywork, but was okay with dictation.

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18 minutes ago, Kuovonne said:

Some people use the same passage for copywork and dictation throughout the week.

Monday: Observe the passage and annotate to highlight punctuation, capitalization, spelling, etc.

Tuesday: Write passage as copywork from annotated copy

Wednesday: Write passage as copywork from un-annotated copy

Thursday: Write passage from dictation

 

I didn’t actually use this method for either of my kids. My younger DD really disliked copywork, but was okay with dictation.

This, of course, limits dictation to words they should be able to spell. It also could be very repetitive and cause loss of interest in the child.

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Different styles for different teachers and learners but I think it also depends on how one does dictation.  I have always spelled out words that were unfamiliar and written out proper nouns ahead of time, setting the child up for success.  We added words that I needed to spell to a list to study/drill and I would make sure to include those words in future dictations or just test them separately.  Sometimes she'd copy a passage one day and we'd use it for prepared dictation the next, but never the same passage for more than two days in a row.  Keeping both to 15 minutes per day meant that focus did not wane even though it was the same passage.

When I was in school we had dictations for a variety of purposes using different methods:  sometimes we were given the passage to study ahead of time (with or without copying it first as homework the night before), other times it was a cold dictation but using a particular grammar or spelling rule that we had previously studied, yet at other times the passage was partially written out on the board and we copied some and filled in blanks from a dictation.  There were times when we were given an assignment on top of the dictation (e.g. parsing one of the sentences).  More often than not, however, it was used as a testing mechanism.  Likewise, I don't stick with one method but do what makes sense for whatever I am trying to accomplish with the dictation, the difference being I'm using dictation for teaching and only incidentally for testing testing.

I also start written composition later than most on these boards (again, prejudiced by my own primary education which focused heavily on copywork, dictation, oral and written narrations for pretty much the first five or six years of school - nothing to do with CM methods whatsoever) and that is why we use copywork and dictation as learning tools for as long as we do.  And until I had to switch DD10 to A&P for spelling it was the only thing we used for all aspects of language arts, except composition.  Though I'd sometimes have her do an imitation exercise based on a dictation from a previous day and so we ended up tying in composition as well.

At the end of the day though, dictation is just another tool in the teacher's toolbox and it's nice to have a variety of tools to use or not as the teacher sees fit and what the child needs.  At this point dictations are such an integral part of how I function as a language arts teacher that I cannot imagine teaching the primary grades without it and I know that it is flexible enough to work with a variety of learning styles.  In another home, for another teacher-mother, other methods are more effective.  And of course, the usual caveat emptor: my eldest is ten 🙂 

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3 minutes ago, mms said:

Different styles for different teachers and learners but I think it also depends on how one does dictation.  I have always spelled out words that were unfamiliar and written out proper nouns ahead of time, setting the child up for success. 

Then if you had my kids, your dictation exercises would have just turned into copywork.  And doing repeated copying or studied dictation or whatever you want to call it would not lead to them spelling difficult words correctly.  Spelling success is not from just memorizing words in a few days.  It doesn't work that way.

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13 minutes ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

Then if you had my kids, your dictation exercises would have just turned into copywork.  And doing repeated copying or studied dictation or whatever you want to call it would not lead to them spelling difficult words correctly.  Spelling success is not from just memorizing words in a few days.  It doesn't work that way.

Which is why I had to switch to A&P with my struggling speller.  🙂 

ETA: We used LoriD's methods for studying spelling words for the words that she did not know how to spell during the dictation and this was very effective.  However, at that point it made language arts much more time consuming than I wanted it to be so A&P was the logical thing to try to streamline in that department.  And I'm very glad I did, it was precisely what she needed.  As I said, having different tools in one's tool box is a good thing.

Edited by mms

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On 6/24/2019 at 10:43 PM, Momto6inIN said:

I get the benefits of copywork - internalizing high quality writing, correct grammar/punctuation and spelling, probably others I'm not remembering. But it seems to me that dictation doesn't really do anything "extra" that copywork doesn't, except maybe increase their memory. Am I missing something?

To me I think it’s the next level to copywork.  In copywork the kids really just need to think about accurate letter formation.  In dictation, kids have to think about spelling and punctuation but not content.  Eventually you get to composition which is everything at once

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On 6/25/2019 at 6:10 AM, 8FillTheHeart said:

Dictation is not always a good teaching tool. For dyslexic kids, it can do far more self-esteem damage due to repeated lack of success than having any positive educational outcome

I quickly learned that I could make copy work active learning, not passive, by how we engaged with the selection. Copywork is used to teach mechanics, grammar, sentence structure, and paragraph structure. It is used to discuss what makes a passage interesting. Copywork is the basis for their introduction to independent writing.  It works here and without the stress of worrying about mistakes in dictation. That stress detracted from them focusing on learning anything from the process.

I am not a dictation fan for learning anything other than spelling. Dictation in our home is restricted to words I expect them to have mastered.

I think it may depend on the child. My profound dyslexic children have really benefited form dictation. - thought I do let them use a computer for all written work. It is instrumental for them to develop paragraph awareness. they don't have to come up with original text - just write down what I dictate to them. this takes some of those complex steps out of the process of writing - sort of the reverse of them scribing their thought to me for me to write.

 It also greatly assists in their ability to take notes.

ds15 still does dictation at least 3 times a week.

Edited by Melissa in Australia

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2 hours ago, Melissa in Australia said:

I think it may depend on the child. My profound dyslexic children have really benefited form dictation. - thought I do let them use a computer for all written work. It is instrumental for them to develop paragraph awareness. they don't have to come up with original text - just write down what I dictate to them. this takes some of those complex steps out of the process of writing - sort of the reverse of them scribing their thought to me for me to write.

 It also greatly assists in their ability to take notes.

ds15 still does dictation at least 3 times a week.

Definitely depends on the child. For my kids, there would be zero attention to paragraph awareness bc they would be hyper-focused on spelling individual words. Since they don't have to decide what to write, it becomes a long list of connected spelling (getting bogged down walking from tree to tree vs seeing the forest.)  

Not sure about the ability to take notes part. My kids have never struggled with a transition from non-formal education to classroom expectations. Since their notes are only for them, they don't have to worry how things are spelled and they have no problems deciphering their own phonetic spelling.

@Momto6inINDictation has been used by many people as a successful transition step toward independent composition. Same with written narrations. If those are approaches that appeal to you as a teacher, you should try them and see how your children respond. Are they essential? No. Can they be successful? Yes. It really comes down to personal preferences and how you want to approach things.  Dictation and written narrations are not methods I personally like to implement in our homeschool. There are other methods that can achieve the same outcomes.  

 

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6 hours ago, Ausmumof3 said:

To me I think it’s the next level to copywork.  In copywork the kids really just need to think about accurate letter formation.  In dictation, kids have to think about spelling and punctuation but not content.  Eventually you get to composition which is everything at once

This is interesting ... so do you start with copywork, move on to dictation, and then teach composition after that? How do you know when to move from one to the next level?

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19 minutes ago, Momto6inIN said:

This is interesting ... so do you start with copywork, move on to dictation, and then teach composition after that? How do you know when to move from one to the next level?

Not Ausmum, but the way it works in our house is that it overlaps.  When copywork is proficient, we start adding in short dictation pieces as part of the day. For a long time we do both.  Eventually copywork gets dropped and written narrations are added.  Then dictation and composition are taught side by side.  Then dictation gets dropped and the focus is on different styles of writing and format.

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I think dictation can also help to strengthen a student's working memory (we used it to gradually help my kids hold more words in mind at a time, which can make the writing process easier.) I used dictation more for mechanics, but copywork can help with that too. I prefer copywork for longer passages and for focusing on literary elements, but really, both can be used for working on a variety of goals. Here are a couple of blog posts:

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Well my oldest is seven but I can say the biggest benefit of dictation is that he likes it. My primary purpose is spelling practice, but after he spells in manuscript I have him copy again in cursive. I will probably also add in grammar parsing at some point. He does separate composition.

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On 6/27/2019 at 12:17 AM, Momto6inIN said:

This is interesting ... so do you start with copywork, move on to dictation, and then teach composition after that? How do you know when to move from one to the next level?

To be honest I came late to the party from more modern approaches so we don’t do much of any of it but basically what Homeagain said.  Learning at one level for copywork then slightly shorter/easier stuff for dictation.

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