Using copywork to develop penmanship, grammar & punctuation...and having fun whilst doing it!

Using copywork to develop writing skills, including handwriting, grammar and punctuation

I was introduced to the practice of copywork maybe three or four years ago when I stumbled upon the World of Bravewriter, and I've been hooked ever since. 

It really is such a simple activity which packs a powerful learning punch, yet is often so undervalued or misunderstood.

Copywork is so much more than just the art of copying offers a multitude of important writing skills, helping budding writers work on not only their penmanship, but also gives opportunity to analyse some one else's writing, work on spelling, punctuation and go through the inner-mechanics of grammar.

What is copywork?

It is as obvious as it sounds. The art of copying a chosen text.

This isn't only for early writers as you may think, on the contrary copywork is a learning activity for all ages across all writing abilities, and I'll get to the benefits a little further down.

You might ask what is the most appropriate text to use....

Now, this is where I must tell you, a very special skill or talent is indeed required here so please pay attention. 

Julie Bogart (Bravewriter's creator) explains this skill in great depth so that we're able to master it with perfection at home in front of our children. 

 I would highly recommend you find one of her videos where she demonstrates this skill live in person, however I will do my best to explain it here for you, and hope I can do justice to explain the level dedication involved....
  1. First, take the book of your choosing
  2. Second, close your eyes
  3. Third, open the book at any random page.
  4. Fourth, point your index finger, and place it anywhere on the page.
  5. You have just found your text to copy.
Easy right!

There really is no secret formula. 

Any text will do, and if you select a text that your child is familiar with reading, it will help them to read the passage with a better understanding of its context, compared to working with a stand-alone isolated portion of text we typically find in standard curriculums and textbooks.  

Using copywork to teach penmanship, grammar and punctuation

Benefits of copywork

When I first heard about copywork, I didn't realise immediately the huge benefits it provides. It sounded too simplistic a concept to be anything of great substance.

Oh how I was wrong!

I remember coming across this webinar on Copywork and Dictation from Julie Bogart of Bravewriter and it taught me so much.

There is more to the act of copying text than merely copying text. You're developing a host of skills, and when you expand upon that copywork to include French Dictation and dictation, you're able to add an even greater element of learning to the task.

Copywork sample

Interest and attention

You know when you read a sample sentance or paragraph in the average school textbook, its isolated, random (and often quite boring). Its not presented with the fully rounded and comprehensive context.

Whereas selecting a passage from any book of interest to your child; be that a book they are currently reading on their bedside table, a nature magazine they devour, or any book on a topic they are currently working on, you capture the interest of the child because that text is already interesting to them.


Its obvious, copywork helps with handwriting practice. Enough said.

Grammar and punctuation

Because your child can read what comes before and after the selected passage for copying, it provides a stronger foundation for understanding any grammatical points you draw on within it.

For example, say you want to teach your child about the use of quotation marks. Select a familiar book, which uses quotation marks to show speech.
Your child when he reads the page, straight away without being told, recognises from the context that what he is reading is the speech of someone. He's familiar with the background of the content he's reading, so it makes understanding quotation mark usage easier to grasp.

The same is said for any other part of grammar or punctuation.

When we're looking at grammar and punctuation in a text, I like to photocopy the passage we're working with before they put pen to paper, and talk through any grammatical points, and with a highlighter, ask the kids to read through it to highlight any particular parts of speech or punctuation I want them to notice.

Highlighting points of grammar and punctuation as part of a copywork routine


If you want to teach the difference between there, their and they're...find them being used in a book which provides context to understand each spelling usage.

If your child misspells a particular word regularly, find a series of texts which uses that word to provide the opportunity to practice it.

Analysing text

Copywork provides an opportunity to analysis someone else's writing, looking at the writing voice and styles of different authors.

Copywork and learning languages

Copywork is a great tool if you're learning a different language, with the same benefits as presented above.

In our homeschool, we often incorporate copywork into our Morning Basket routine where we write an ayah a day and look at it's Tafseer, as well as including Arabic copywork from Arabic early reader books and curriculum we use.

Make copywork fun!

Copywork can be done anywhere, on any material. It doesn't have to just be in a regular old exercise book every time.
Using black paper and metalic pens to have fun with copywork

  • We've tried working on black paper with gold and silver pens...the results were amazing! Working on black paper is so much more exciting than white and really gives a bit of umph to the task.
  • Write on different coloured papers.
  • Write with gel pens....and use all the colours, there is no need to only stick to traditional black or blue. 
  • Write with chalk outside on the pavement (I'd recommend a shorter passage for this though).
  • Write on a whiteboard - some kids particularly enjoy writing on a whiteboard. I don't know if its the smooth gliding of the pen which makes writing easy, or the feeling of being a teacher for a few minutes that makes it more fun!
  • Write in paint.
  • Write using white crayon on white paper (so it is invisible) before washing over it with some watercolours.
  • Write on a window with whiteboard markers 
In our house, we have a regular copywork book, and also a copywork folder where we can store work that has been produced on anything other than just lined paper. Using both the exercise book and more fun mediums, allows us to help prevent the act of copywork becoming stale. 

Copywork book and folder for storing work written on different mediums

Want to learn more about copywork?

The best explanation to copywork and its benefits, is from Julie Bogart in this video webinar titled Copywork and Dictation.

If you want to take a deep dive into understanding the benefits of this simple yet hugely rewarding practice, check out this webinar. I remember watching it years ago, and I learnt so much from it.

One of the wisdoms I've come to learn as a home educator, is there are so many talented people out there with skills and knowledge that I don't have....but can develop inshaAllah, by benefiting what they offer.

Teachers take teacher training days to keep developing their skills. And I see webinars like this one, as part of my home educator training, and I love finding out how I can make my homeschool better bi'ithnillah.

Copywork Q&A

Before I wrote this post, I asked over on a Muslim Homeschool's Instagram page for any questions you may have about copywork.

Does it matter whether or not the child understands what he/she is copying?

Does it matter if they understand what they're copying......I'd say there is certainly more benefit if they do. 

Remember, copywork offers more than practicing penmanship alone. Even if you are not looking analytically at every piece of copywork done (who has time to do that?), just the very act of reading and writing it is going to develop their own writing voice as they notice that of others. 

Are they copying verbatim?

I'm not ashamed to admit I had to google the meaning of "Verbatim" ….a word I've never heard of in my life (or at least not noticed it before).

For anyone else like me, according to the Cambridge Dictionary on Google, verbatim means: 
Using exactly the same words that were originally used.

The simple answer to this is: yes. 

Copywork is the process of copying the text or passage exactly as it is written; every letter, every word, every piece of punctuation, every new paragraph.

Are you looking for a fun way to start copywork at home with consistency?

Have a look at my Reading, Copywork and Free Writing journal that includes a free parents guide.

Using copywork to develop writting skills, punctuation and grammar in homeschool
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  1. Jazaakillaahu khairan for this thorough write-up. We (or perhaps myself more than the children) love copywriting and it definitely helps improve their writing over time Allaahumma baarik.


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