Why Your Child Should Try Copywork for Writing Practice

Why copywork helps children learn to write Chinese and English

Before I learned there was a formal term for this, copywork has been my 6-year-old daughter’s main way of learning to write Chinese and English.

She has been copying Chinese song lyrics and passages from books voluntarily, and she actually enjoys it! In addition to her dictation journal, copywork has been a big part of self-motivated process of practicing writing.

I’m going to explain what is copywork and why I think your child should try it for writing practice in any language!

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What is copywork?

A lot of parents have told me that they have never heard of copywork, but it’s actually been practice for centuries. While I’ve never seen copywork discussed in the context of bilingual learning, the concept came naturally to our family!

According to Story of the World, people would copy works (eg, the Holy Bible) by hand before the printing press, printers, and computers were invented.

5 Benefits of copywork for learning how to write Chinese, English, or any language

Writing is much more complicated than putting pencil to paper.

For example, Chinese characters have stroke order rules, which can be overwhelming for students who are learning how to express themselves. In addition, English spelling is full of irregularities.

  1. Copying words from other writers takes the pressure of generating new ideas. (Obviously, please don’t plagiarize though!)
  2. Instead, the writer can focus on the mechanical aspect of each Chinese stroke and radical component. Penmanship can be the focus rather than spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
  3. Rather than copying the same English letter or Chinese alphabet in workbooks ad nauseum, the writer can choose the content. If the content is meaningful, this can help with memorizing Chinese characters and English spelling.
  4. Copying favorite works is also an effective way to encourage your child to read!
  5. A child-led writing strategy can significantly boost motivation, skills, and stamina!

What works to copy

For the past couple of years, copywork has been my daughter’s low-stress way of practicing writing!

Although my daughter’s current 1st grade homework involves weekly copying of assigned English sentences, she’s free to copy anything else she wants.

Especially for Chinese, a minority language for our family, I strongly believe in finding joy in learning.

Because we live in an English-dominant community, my daughter technically has no need to learn Chinese. Therefore, our children deserve to have a Chinese learning experience that is internally motivating.

Song lyrics from favorite music

Chinese music is a fun way to learn the language, and my daughter enjoys copying while singing her favorite songs!

My daughter most frequently chooses 讚美之泉 Stream of Praise Chinese Christian Music for her copywork.

Favorite books

In addition to music, children can copy favorite stories!

She also enjoys copying bible verses for extra English writing practice, including dozens of bible verses for our advent calendar!

How to get started with copywork for child-led writing practice

In the beginning, take it slow and start with an easy Chinese character with few strokes or a short English word.

Know that every child’s learning pace and fine motor skills varies. They may be writing only a few words or a sentence for many months or even a year before they are ready to increase to multiple sentences and paragraphs.

Our experience with copywork for writing practice

Although my daughter has been writing English and Korean since before age 3, and Chinese on and off starting around age 4, the learning process has been patient and gradual, especially for Chinese. I mention her age NOT because kids should be writing at this point, but because even someone like her who was ready to write early needed longer time to be ready for the complexity that is Chinese writing.

Sometimes, my daughter wants to write pages of new words.  Other times, she’ll go for days or weeks without writing anything new, because she’s learning other things in life (eg, mastering the monkey bars, playing new piano songs).

You’ve probably noticed the same with your kids – that their development and interest might come in waves.  We experience that all the time, too! 🙂

However, after seeing her learning patterns over the past few years, I trust that she will learn the necessary skills when I can be flexible and acknowledge her interests.

Copying lyrics from the Chinese song 世上只有妈妈好

Copywork on worksheets, mini-books, and greeting cards

Since my daughter loves to make greeting cards and little booklets for our family, she is usually not using writing grids.

As she matures, I would like to encourage her to practice using Chinese writing worksheets to reinforce Chinese stroke order and alignment.

Currently, she is logging most of her copywork in a personal journal.

Copywork: copying song lyrics in Chinese for Chinese writing practice
Messier handwriting from copywork at age 5 years

Where to find printable Chinese lyrics in simplified and traditional Chinese

Since writing this post and sharing it on social media, many parents have told me that their kids welcomed the idea of copying song lyrics like my daughter!

Click on the button below to see free printable lyrics for Chinese children’s songs!

Have questions?

I’d love to hear your thoughts about teaching reading and writing at home and how it’s been going for your family.

Feel free to leave a comment with any concerns or thoughts about your family’s learning journey, and I’ll try my best to find a solution for you.

In the meantime, I hope the following articles can be helpful!

Teach kids how to read Chinese

Learning activities for every topic!

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Happy reading and writing, friends!

One Comment

  1. Thanks for the writeup on multilingual copywork. I’m curious how you introduced the idea in the first place and any scaffolding involved? Did you start off by introducing the notebook for instance and explain what it was for or suggesting your daughter write something down? Or pointing out parts of books that would be good to include and making that suggestion? It looks like in one of the pictures she may have started with tracing so I was curious. My daughter recently turned 5 and she’s fluent in English and Japanese, and reads both languages, but only really seems interested in writing in English, probably because Japanese has 2 syllabaries and a third alphabet of thousands of characters of Chinese origin so I’m especially curious about introducing it in a non-threatening way.

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