Home School Life Journal From Preschool to High School

Home School Life Journal ........... Ceramics by Katie Bergenholtz
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

Different Types of Writing and How to Do Them

We mostly follow the suggestions set out by Charlotte Mason for our writing progression. Terms such as narration and copywork are used in many different ways by different people until it sometimes becomes confusing which is what. It gets even more confusing when one type of writing is used at the same time another is employed. For example, my students might have a piece of copywork to do one day, a dictation to do the next, a narration to do the third day and a report on the fourth day. They may be all on the same subject or on different subjects, but the skills are intertwined. So, what is the differences between them?


Purpose: Handwriting, Spelling, Punctuation and Capitalization, Vocabulary, Sentence Structure, habits of observation and attention

How To: Copywork is done by giving the student a model of handwriting to copy. The goal is beautiful work, whether writing one letter or one sentence. Passages can be selected from good living books or selections of poetry, sayings and the like can be used.


Purpose: spellingpunctuation and capitalization, listening comprehension, vocabulary, sentence structure; reinforces the habits of observation and attention
How To: Student is asked study a word, sentence or passage that the teacher picks ahead of time to make sure he knows how to spell every word in it. The teacher also makes sure that the student takes note of anything that the teacher wants the student to learn from or practice with the piece such as punctuation and capitalization before it is dictated to the student a little at a time, such as phrase by phrase.


Purpose: Listening or Reading Comprehension, vocabulary, sentence structure, grammar
How To: Narration goes through several stages.It begins with oral narration, in which the teacher reads a small piece and then the child tells back what he finds the main idea and the most important details from the passage. The small piece begins with a few paragraphs, progresses to a page, and then to a chapter. 
After oral narration is successfully mastered, written narrations begin, but the practice of oral narrations continue at the same time. For example, a student can sketch pictures or label diagrams while still mastering oral narrations of a chapter. Written narrations then progresses to a sentence and then a paragraph of their lessons. As you shift from oral to written narrations, you may want to go back to even smaller pieces of information than you had built up and expect the amount they produce to go down. Written narrations is a new and more advanced skill from oral narrations. As the written narrations become more advanced, so will the skill of the oral narrations. The oral narrations at this point may extend beyond a strict retelling and include original thoughts, conclusions, and evaluations of the lesson material. 
The written narrations can be written in lapbooks, on notebook pages or on plain paper. 
You can give your child word list with vocabulary essential to the narration to help with the writing of the narration. The ratio of oral narrations goes down as the student advances grades and written narrations increase. By high school the student is doing almost all written narrations, and the oral narrations are naturally turned into discussions and debates.

Report Writing

Purpose: writing skills, vocabulary, sentence structure, grammar
How To:You may begin the skills for this during the oral narration stage of narrations by writing down on a white board a brief outline of what your student says. Or you can work together to create a brief outline or list of key ideas. Let your student compose a written report with the help of those notes. This report can be done on a notebooking page or plain paper. 
To begin, you can offer a notebooking page with two or three divisions on it and ask your student to answer one question per division. Write the questions you want your student to answer on sticky notes and attach the questions right where the answer goes on the notebooking page. Some consider this a continuation of narrations, but I like to separate the skills. In the beginning the sentence structure and grammar will need work. Do not be too vigilant in correcting too many of these or your new writer will become discouraged. Correct only one or two things each time, covering the concept generally, so that he can apply it to all his work, and not just this piece. Some of these skills can also be taught while he is doing dictation.
You will slowly begin to teach the student how to make his own key word outline and to take notes on interesting vocabulary that can be used in their reports themselves until they are independently writing.


  1. I like the way you've laid out the different types of writing and their progression so clearly.

  2. This is a great explanation of all the different types. We've done all of them in some flavor or other with the exception of dictation, which I probably should have them start adding in........

  3. That will be so helpful for folks that are new to figure out all the terms. We haven't really done research writing with the exception of documenting facts in our Nature Notebooks. You' ve given me something to think about!

  4. Oh!! I've been wanting to start working on dictation and wasn't sure how to go about it - I think I now have my answer - thanks so much Phyllis!!

  5. I love it when you do this sort of post. You've set it out so clearly. Thank you!


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