Penmanship, copywork, and composition can be quite confusing understanding the purpose of each when you are new to teaching composition.
Cultivating the Creative Process
Penmanship is learning how to write and form letters, while composition is composing or crafting sentences to convey thoughts in an organized and logical way.
1. Practice does make perfect. Avoid Stop and Start.
The physical act of learning how to write comes before being able to pen words into beautiful thoughts.
The mistake made by many moms is not knowing in the beginning if your child is struggling with the actual physical act of penmanship or if it’s the actual process of of forming his thoughts down on paper in a coherent way.
You don’t know that until you sit down together and start writing.
Too, a lot of schools don’t have time to teach cursive anymore or think that writing will be obsolete soon. Assuming that your child has decent and legible handwriting before teaching composition is a common mistake.
There is nothing more frustrating for a new writer than to struggle with the physical act of writing with the added pressure of composing ideas.
2. Process over Product. Avoid Rushing the Flow of Thought Just to Put “Something” on Paper.
As I mentioned, composition is a mental process of learning how to organize thoughts and convey words that are easily understood. Handwriting is a physical process.
As you can see when a child is still struggling to write, then your expectations for a 5 paragraph essay may not be met. It is very laborious and children need a lot of encouragement.
It is important to emphasize to your child that writing is a process. Don’t assume they know that from the curriculum you are using.
Excellent composition curriculum has a way of taking them down a path to model that process, but some kids need to understand the big picture so they know what they are striving for.
Look at these steps to a good masterpiece:
- editing; and
This takes time.
You can help by being consistent and choosing quality over quantity in the beginning.
It is better to write a few sentences each day than to go days without writing and then expect your child to sit down and go through the 5 step writing process. Too, I’ve used many writing programs through the years and each one having something I needed at the time. I used WriteShop when my kids were young because it breaks the writing process down for me. In addition, an added perk for me is that it’s written by a homeschool mom. That means she understands my background is not in teaching. So plenty of hand holding, background information, and tips are given in the currriculum.
3. Manageable Chunks. Avoid Handwriting in Areas that are not Important.
Also, cutting back writing on subjects that don’t matter like workbooks or working math problems orally will save the hand and brain power until composition time.
Copywork is also a valuable aid for any writer and not just new writers.
Is Writing Obsolete?
Copywork means to learn by mimicking good writers and copying short passages.
This trains the child to see and hear how well crafted passages, verses and prose should flow.
It is not meant to keep your child busy, but it is about him taking his time and learning by copying great writers of the past.
The mechanics of writing like punctuation is another part of learning to write correctly.
A visual picture of where commas, periods, and capitals are placed in the sentence helps your child to pay attention to the details in his writing.
Understanding the basics of composition will help you to avoid common mistakes of teaching beginning composition.
What do you think? Have you already started to make a few of these mistakes?
Look at these other tips:
- How to Teach Cursive and Composition With A Fresh Perspective
- 3 Ways to Choose the BEST Writing Curriculum (for a Growing Homeschool Family)
- The Ultimate Guide to Poetry for Multiple Ages (For the Intimidated)
Hugs and love ya,
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