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!
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.
- Copying words from other writers takes the pressure of generating new ideas. (Obviously, please don’t plagiarize though!)
- 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.
- 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.
- Copying favorite works is also an effective way to encourage your child to read!
- 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.
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.
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.
Currently, she is logging most of her copywork in a personal journal.
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!
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
- When and How to Introduce Chinese Characters to Kids?
- Create a Print-Rich Environment with Labels that Promote Literacy
- How I Taught My Child 1000+ Chinese Characters as a Non-Fluent Speaker
- When Should My Child Learn Hanyu Pinyin?
- Montessori Salt Writing Tray – Fun Sensory Learning for Kids!
- Magic Water Writing Cloth and 地书 for Chinese Calligraphy Practice
- Handmade Cards for Reading and Writing Practice (English, Chinese, and Korean)
- How to Teach Chinese with Montessori Sandpaper Characters
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