Trailer Park Unschoolers

Because you don't need to be rich to unschool!

Talk Amongst Yourselves: Copy Work, Reading, and Writing


I’m just trying to get some discussions going here. I can see I have a lot of readers, but not much conversing is going on. I would love to see more of that, and some honest batting around of ideas might just toss me a bit of good info! So, here goes the first topic:

Just a couple days back I talked about learning to read by learning to write. It got me thinking about the how of reading and writing. It’s clear that reading and writing are directly linked. At the very least, in order to have something to read, something must have first been written down. You really can’t have reading without writing. At the same time, there’s no point in writing if no one knows how to read it. It just becomes pointless scratches on paper.

That being said, how do people learn to read? I’m not talking memorizing a few words and being able to recognize them. I mean how do people learn to decode written text, to expand their known words? How do they learn to break down and pronounce the unfamiliar words they encounter? There must be a way to understand how it happens, and more importantly, how it doesn’t.

Obviously phonics is the magic decoder ring that teaches everyone how to decode new words, it comes with all these rules that used to drive me crazy as a kid. I didn’t understand why things didn’t always get written as they sound. In my mind, phonetic spelling would imply it was spelled using the rules of phonics, but that never seemed to ne the case.

More importantly, can kids learn to decode unfamiliar words by learning to sight read? I’m pretty certain they can learn to sight read by copy work? In theory, if someone were to write a word enough times and build the mental association, they would learn to recognize it by sight. Or is something deeper going on here? By constructing the words over and over a letter at a time can someone learn phonics in a subtle, natural way? Will they learn to sound out the letters and combinations as they write, making it sound like saying the word in slow motion as it’s written? Wouldn’t that build phonics skills, not sight reading vocabulary?

More importantly, isn’t one of the eventual goals of reading to see a word and instantly know it? Isn’t that sight reading? And you only default to phonics when entering the domain of an unfamiliar word?

In theory it would seem like it’s perfectly possible to learn reading from first learning to write, in other words, from copy work? In other words, you can’t learn to write by learning to read, but you can learn to read by first learning to write. If that’s the case, why not tackle both at once and start with writing?

What do you think? Can writing and copy work lead to learning how to read? Is it better to learn to read first, then apply that knowledge to crafting your words? Is one way really better or are they both equally as good?


Author: Fox

With four kids, who has time for much? We spend a lot of time together, which translates to a lot of knitting time for me when we hang out. We've been trying to get back to our unschooling roots. We watch a lot of videos, play a lot of games, and pay attention to the things we notice in our everyday life. It's been quite the big adventure!

14 thoughts on “Talk Amongst Yourselves: Copy Work, Reading, and Writing

  1. I had to read this a few times before I was able to respond in a semi-intelligent articulation of my thoughts. Every week in school there would be a list of 10 – 15 words which we would work with all week, and then at the end of the week we would be quizzed on the word (dictation). During the week we would have to define the selected words, create a sentence with the words, among a few other activities. I think hearing the word, spelling the word, defining the word, using the word, would in turn cause you to identify/use the word… In college we actually spent a lecture doing essentially just that. There was a word we were given, it was defined, and then letter by letter we went through the class having to start a sentence with your said letter of the alphabet while squeezing our ‘new’ word into it. For example “Pragmatic” – meaning ‘realistic’, if you were number 6 in the class list you would be “F” so you would have to say a sentence starting with an “F” word while making sense and using pragmatic (Firstly, this is not the most pragmatic way to spend time). Essentially it was a college leveled spin on elementary learning……. As for if one is better than another, I think that it is all dependent on the individual and their own learning approach – what works for one may not work for all………….. I apologize if this isnt what you were looking for. I sometimes don’t know if I should respond or not because or views are different and I never want to come across being rude/judgmental – I know I have told you many times even if I don’t have the same view, I 100% respect and value your beliefs and I am afraid to come off anything but respectful….

    • No worries there. I totally respect your opinion. I love hearing different views as it expands my own understanding. Sometimes discussion can help solidify my own views. Sometimes it helps me come to a new, better understanding. I love your college spin on learning new words. I might just turn that into a game with the kids. It would make an excellent game for the car. And that is exactly why I like getting feedback.

      And some of the whole point of this is to get people talking, maybe get my readers to get to know each other a bit. I have some awesome readers and it would be fun to see some of those great minds connect too!

      Most of all I love hearing all the fantastic ideas that come my way. I may not use all of them, but I definitely like having a long list of ideas to draw on when my own resources are running thin.

      • Oh awesome!!! I will definitely try and comment more!!!

        The college game was fun, especially seeing what others would come up with – and thanking God you were not the one stuck with “X”.

        I have heard that if you see/hear a word, define it and then use it in at least 5 sentences your brain will remember and recognize that word.

      • I thought I’d heard something like that! It’s amazing how the brain works.

        I can only imagine there must be some more challenging letters for that game than others. Still, it definitely sounds fun!

      • To expand the vocabulary/spelling even further after a couple rounds and say the sentence cannot start with a word less than 3 letters long, that way “A” cannot be its own word.

      • That’s fantastic. As the kids get older the game could totally grow with them. I love it!

      • Totally just thought about this, what about scrabble or boggle? I am a such a nerd and love word games. My mom, sister and I used to play scrabble every night growing up. Even could get the scrabble dictionary for more independent play

      • I used to hate Scrabble. I was never any good at it. The jumble of letters always looked like a jumble of letters to me. I guess that would make me the perfect person to play word games with kids! I know the kids would feel they had a fighting chance against me! I guess I should look into picking those games up when we’re financially back on our feet. We should definitely institute game night again!

      • google the board, and make it out of cardboard!

      • Ah, Google, my hero… That’s a good idea. It would probably be cheaper than tracking down the non Words With Friends version and less hassle!

      • haha exactly!!!! Not to mention having to constantly replace tiles which were lost. “Words with Friends” and “Draw something” is so irritating – SCRABBLE and PICTIONARY… sad sad world

      • That’s how I feel. It’s fine for Facebook, but not for the classic board games!

  2. If your looking for homemade boggle game boards check my pinterest reading board. I know I jave somerhing there for it. Other than that. … sorry I have no useful comments. Lol. As I.memtioned on your last relayed post we are jist starting oit but I’m interested to see what other comments come of this.

    • I’ll definitely have to check it out once I figure out how to get to Pintrest from my phone. I’m kind of just starting out too. I hope some interesting comments come of this!

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