Mom-to-Mom Support/How to do dictation when my daughter isn’t a good speller?

How to do dictation when my daughter isn’t a good speller?


We are new to dictation this year, and I’m not exactly sure how it works. The 3rd grade curriculum suggests dictation from the Language of God grammar book. I thought I was supposed to read a sentence to my daughter and she would write it. But she is not a good speller, so she asks me how to spell most of the words. Rather than spell them all to her, I just gave her the book so she could copy the sentence. I’m not sure what the goal of dictation is. Will this approach of letting her copy achieve the goal of dictation? Thank you.

Dear Mom,

Your instincts are good! By instructing your daughter to copy a selection from the book, you are preparing her for the next step, which is dictation.

Copywork and dictation improve retention, writing, and listening skills; copywork and dictation are particularly useful for spelling and grammar practice, as they utilize a multi-sensory—auditory, visual, and tactile—means of learning.

A simple approach to copywork and dictation would be to pick a simple sentence from her grammar or spelling book, then discuss the nouns, verbs, punctuation, capital letters, and/or spelling.

Next, instruct the student to copy the sentence from the book. After she completes this exercise, she can check her own work by comparing it to the sentence in the book and correcting any errors.

The next day, you might briefly look at and discuss the sentence again, praising your student’s spelling, penmanship, or other good points, while at the same time issuing a gentle reminder to watch for any possible points of difficulty. Then instruct the student to listen carefully while you dictate the sentence to her.

If, using this method, you find that the dictation itself is still a bit too advanced for your student, and that she continues to want help with spelling most words, she might focus on copywork alone for a few months, until she becomes a bit more comfortable with dictation.

You may also wish, in a casual manner, to dictate spelling words to her on non-test days, perhaps while driving to the store, to help her begin to hear and mentally visualize individual words. Praise her when she spells words correctly, and point out that she is doing well with simple dictation.

Over time, exposure to words, sentences, and paragraphs through copywork and dictation will significantly improve your daughter’s grasp of grammar and spelling. By assigning copywork as you have been, you are laying a good foundation for English composition!

May God bless and guide your school year,

Nancy Nicholson

About Nancy Nicholson

Nancy Nicholson is one of the founding authors of Catholic Heritage Curricula. Equipped with an abundance of God-given talent, a major in Secondary Education–English, and years of experience homeschooling her own children, she has written over thirty educational titles, beginning with Little Stories for Little Folks. Her unique ability to develop programs and workbooks that “fit” both advanced and struggling students is due to her experience raising children of different ability levels and learning styles: two of her children are developmentally challenged, while another went on to graduate from Harvard and is now a college professor.