Do you have a young one who just can't spell well? Try copywork.
Do you wish your kids read Bible verses, fantastic quotes, poems or at least knew a few maxims? Try copywork.
Concerned about grammar? Try copywork.
Want to move from print to cursive? Is your child interested in calligraphy? Try copywork.
Want your child to memorize important information? Try copywork.
Although it sounds a little "old fashioned" copywork can do all this and more. Yes, your child is literally copying what someone else has already said or written - as well educated people have done throughout history.
To begin students should have the line being copied and directly below it should be the space for them to write. If they are young (6 or 7) you can still have the guidelines for baseline, mid line and upper line.
As they become more confident you can move to having the passage at the top of the page and space below for them to copy.
Eventually they can copy from a board. This is actually a DIFFICULT task because of the amount of tracking on paper, in the room, likelihood of distraction, etc. So this is a GREAT way to prepare for the classroom.
Copywork should always be done as neatly as possible. Children should check their own work. You can also emphasize a point or two (spelling, grammar, word usage, etc.) if you like. The actual copying should start with small pieces and maybe work up to 5 to 7 minutes. If your child struggles to write - set the timer and let him be done at 10 minutes.
How copywork helps:
Students can focus on handwriting because they aren't having to think about what to say or how to spell it - they can just look at the paper and form the letters properly. It is also not tracing - which doesn't really teach them how to form the letters properly (have you ever watch a kid totally ignore the arrows and write it any which way). That's why we start with forming a letter "perfectly" and then move on. Muscle memory and such.
At first kids will probably copy letter for letter. However, they should quickly move to word by word - but they have it right in front of them to check. It isn't a test, it is practice with proper spelling. Eventually they should "transcribe" which means they read a few words and then write them and then go back for the next section. CM talks about asking children to "take a picture" of the word in their mind. This reinforces proper spelling of a variety of words as they read excellent passages. If you really want to focus on spelling you can talk about the phonics of the word (ay the two letter ay that can be at the end of English words, etc.). Students can also immediately correct themselves without a sense of failure. This might also sound like preparation for taking notes? Who knew it can do that too!?
Famous quotes, Bible passages poems and sayings - all things worth remembering. Writing it down in your own hand can help you remember it better. Why not introduce these little gems to your child's life in a simple way? It also can help kids understand poetry. When they slow down enough to copy it they can better recognize the rhyme, rhythm, alliteration and other techniques used within the poem. Don't belabor the point.
Grammar. Truth be told I still struggle with the right places to put the commas in a quotation. However, with copywork you do it and then check it and correct immediately. It's not a test, you are just observing it done correctly - again and again - and then you know. So pick passages that illustrate the difficulty your child is having and let them copy and check. No pressure, but they will learn the right way to do it.
Copywork is a great way to introduce a new type of handwriting - typically cursive. Again, the model is right in front of them and they are copying it. Start with letters (correct formation is key) and then move into words and eventually sentences - worth knowing. If your child is interested in calligraphy helping them find passages worth copying can allow them to focus on using the pen correctly to form the letters. Plus, it means they will create something worth keeping.
Writing something down is one way to help you memorize and study it. Just don't do what I did in 4th grade and leave out a whole stanza of the poem you are supposed to memorize!! Check your work! If you want to memorize, copy it more than once - if you want exposure, just do it once.
Eventually, copywork moves into studied dictation and common placing - but those are for another day.
Resources for copywork:
Bible Verses: You can easily search for free ones. I like the packs at Intoxicated on Life. Use them as they best fit your needs.
History: I LOVE Writing Through History. It is a bit more than copywork - it is a 4 year cycle program with 2 levels (1st - 3rd grade and 4th to 6th grade) and multiple fonts. Each level includes stories, original documents, historical narratives and more from that era. She then picks out passages for coypwork for your students. So if you want to combine story, copywork and history easily - THIS IS IT. I would highly recommend this as a summer resource. Read for 10 minutes, narrate for 5, write for 5 and you have covered history, literature, composing and copywork all in one. The pieces could easily be used for written narrations if you children are old enough to do that (9 yo+).
You can also choose your own passages (from literature you are reading, maxims or sayings, etc.) and make your own at a site like this. You could start with maxims from Benjamin Franklin or Washington's Rules of Civility. Why not copy the Preamble to the Constitution, parts of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream speech" or a quote from your favorite book (actually my son always copies the joke or tricky part of the story)?
Copywork is a VERY simple idea that works on multiple skills at once and can create a permanent record of your child's handwriting development, books/ stories read, poetry they loved, verses they memorized, etc. Of course, you can just have the children pick their favorite passages from what they are reading and help them to learn to record wisdom from others (but that is moving into common placing).
To show honor to their work I highly recommend getting a special notebook just for copy work. This makes it easier to keep track of the passages you have worked on and is much better than papers scattered everywhere (ask me how I know?). Even a simple composition book will do. As they get older they might want something fancier.
If you want to read about how others use copywork you can check it out here, here (I love her jar idea) or here.