(The following is a summary of information I gleaned from Writing With Ease by Susan Wise Bauer.)
Narration – Putting Thoughts into Words
- Skill: holding words he has heard in his mind long enough to say them back/restate them.
- Not asking for original ideas.
- Not asking him to put his ideas on paper.
Copywork – Putting Words onto Paper
- Skill: visualizing the sentence.
- Requires labor, fine motor skills, and an understanding of the mechanics of writing.
- Allows him to focus on the process itself, separate from figuring out what to say.
- Allows the beginner to build the needed visual memory of what written language looks like.
Dictation – Putting the Visualized Sentence on Paper
- Skill: holding the visualized sentence in his mind long enough to write it down.
- Able to accomplish this because his mind is stocked with images of properly written language.
- Not asking them to come up with ideas and also put them on paper.
You are concentrating on the mastery of the process of putting ideas into words and words onto paper.
You are not requiring original writing which requires “ideas into words; words onto paper” AND coming up with an original idea. (Don’t discourage original writing; just don’t require it or “grade” it.)
I had the privilege of implementing these practices with several students during Writing Camp this summer. It was delightful to see them work diligently with each of these elements. We also had some fun with visualizing vocabulary from the day’s writing.