Friday, July 04, 2008

In Praise of Dictation and Shakespeare

When Kamron was in kindergarten we had started one of those fill in the blank spelling workbooks. After having him diligently work through about three pages I scrapped it. To me it was not worth the struggle with me pencil-allergic son to get him to spell the and in and cat and dog. I figured he was sure to pick up these words on his own without figuring out which of the ten choices fit in the specifically shaped blank. Then last year, my slightly less pencil allergic son was writing an essay-his spelling was terrible. What had I done? Now, I still didn't fill bad that he hadn't been doing spelling workbooks, but clearly something had to be done. I thought of getting a high priced spelling program, but before I did that I decided to try what Charlotte Mason said to do, which is dictation. Maybe it would help with his spelling. So I began pulling the most interesting sentences that I could find from the books we were reading and I gave them to Kamron, one at a time. I told him he would have two days to study the sentence and then I would hide the sentence and read it to him and he was to write it down in his best handwriting, getting all of the spelling and punctuation correct. He studied and he wrote out words he thought were tricky. I coached him on looking at a word until he could see it with his eyes closed, and then we hid it and I read it to him. At first I made sure he got each word right by immediately correcting any mistakes. Within two weeks his spelling errors in all of his writing diminished by half. This last week, we did this sentence from The Hobbit -
"He dreamed that a crack in the wall at the back of the cave got bigger and bigger, and opened wider and wider, and he was very afraid but could but could not call out or do anything but lie and look."
his 'd' in dreamed was backward and that was it. I am so happy to have Charlotte Mason as a mentor, her methods are so often right on target.

We are also doing something else she recommends, which is to study Shakespeare from a young age. This term we are studying "Twelfth Night." We are not tackling his actual play, but the version by the Lambs. I begin by giving a little background information and then once a week we read about 3 pages and then act it out. This helps the children to keep all of the characters straight. We got to the point in the play where Orsino asks Viola, who is dressed up like a boy to go and help him woo Olivia. Aubrey broke down in laughter, and sits up and says, "Let me guess Olivia is going to fall in love with Viola, because she thinks Viola is a boy and then everything is going to get mixed up." Of course, this is exactly what does happen. They could not act it out seriously and so turned it into even more of a comedy than it is. Their cousin studies with us 2 to 4 days a week and has been here for the whole play so far. Aubrey is Viola and their cousin was the ship's captain at first and then became Orsino. Kamron on the other hand wanted to stay the long lost twin brother, who, last we heard, is still tied up to the mast of a ship. So he's over in the background, with his hands behind him like he's tied making blub, blub, blub noises. Aubrey began to do both parts of Viola and Olivia amid laughter and they never did get through it, but I'm sure they will remember it so that's okay. Who knew Shakespeare could be so funny? Oh, by the way, "woo" is apparently an absolutely hilarious word if you are between 8 and 10 years old.


Twinlinebackers said...

Thanks for your explanation of the dictation you're doing. I am a Shakespeare nut so I have turned up my nose at using Lamb's version instead of the real thing but after your post I am reconsidering. What age would you start? My oldest two are 4 but I'm thinking of asking my friend to join us. Her kids are 0,2,5 &6. What of those ages do you think could participate? I'll have to get those books and try it out.

I'm loving your blog so I hope you don't mind my visiting. (I'm from the ldsmomed group).

Melissa said...

I actually do like the Lamb's book, along with the Nesbit book for the younger ages. I begin Shakespeare with these books at about 6 years old. The children also have heard the versions by Jim Weiss many times and so are very familiar with about 8 of his plays now. I like the comedies for these ages, but we have also done Romeo and Juliet-they memorized and preformed the balcony scene for that one. Now that my oldest is almost 10 I am planning on tackling an actual Shakespeare play later this year with them. We will probably do one that they are very familiar with, (probably, The Merchant of Venice) so that they can concentrate on the language rather than plot for the first one.

Thank you for your kind words about my blog. You are very welcome to visit. It is actually very encouraging when people comment, it makes me want to write more=).

Candace said...

This is great info to know.