Sunday, October 15, 2006

Who's Coming Out with Me?

We follow a Charlotte Mason philosophy of education. Pamela does copywork (for penmanship) and studied dictation (for grammar, spelling, capitalization, or punctuation). She has never been able to master recitation of poetry because she found it difficult to remember what little word went where. Over the summer, I had some revelations, and my new approach seems to be working! Yesterday, on the drive to see the movie One Night with the King, Pamela recited the first two verses of "Growing Up" by A.A. Milne, to her father, just for fun:
I’ve got shoes with grown up laces.
I’ve got knickers and a pair of braces.
I’m all ready to run some races.
Who’s coming out with me?

I’ve got a nice new pair of braces.
I’ve got shoes with new brown laces.
I know wonderful paddly places.
Who’s coming out with me?

Every morning my new grace is,
“Thank you, God, for my nice braces.
I can tie my new brown laces.”
Who’s coming out with me?
The answer came to me at a Charlotte Mason conference in Boiling Springs, North Carolina last June when three presentations and one of Pamela's abilities inspired the final solution. One presentation covered studied dictation and described a very simple, efficient way to do and document dictation, while another on recitation encouraged me to keep trying. The presentation about good instruction left me with a profound thought: information must have context and meaning and must be connected to previous knowledge for the mind to remember. Finally, I realized that Pamela had been reciting for years in the form of echolalia (television commercials and videos) and Mother Goose rhymes. She can memorize word patterns with enough exposure.

Since Pamela adores nursery rhymes, they must have meaning for her. Over the summer, she did studied dictation one rhyme at a time, which focused her mind on the context behind the little words she easily forgets. Because she has previous knowledge of these rhymes, dictation allowed her to focus upon little words. For every mistake made in a dictation, I wrote a short language arts lesson, providing both meaning and context behind the rules. Because it took a week or two of repeated dictations to get a perfect dictation, the process repeatedly exposed Pamela to a poem in a multi-sensory way (by seeing the poem while studying for a dictation, hearing me dictate it, and writing it for the dictation).

The big break through came after our first page of nursery rhymes. Pamela must have been bored for she handed me When We Were Very Young and she said, "I want 'Growing Up'"! She stunned me because that poem has twelve lines! Several sentences are very similar, and I would never have picked something I assumed to be so difficult. Going back to good instruction, this poem has meaning for Pamela. Having enjoyed the poem enough to ask for it, she clearly has previous knowledge of it. The proof is in the pudding for she has already mastered eight of twelve lines.

In the process of learning two verses, we have covered many topics in language arts: subjects and verbs, complete sentences, using uppercase versus lowercase letters in sentences, contractions for is, adding the suffix ful, adding y to words with e at the end, and using articles with singular versus plural nouns. Studied dictation is such an elegant way to teach children what they need to know when they need to know!


lindafay said...

Hello Tammy,
Thank you for leaving your insights about dictation at my web site. I see that you have an out- of-date link referring to a previous article I wrote about dictation. The new working link is

Further posts about dictation are located here:

Whenever I have readers with autistic children wanting to implement CM's ideas I send them your way. Thanks for helping others.


walking said...

Linda, I corrected the link!!! Thanks for telling me!!! :-)

Thanks for spreading the word about CM's methods and autism!

lindafay said...

Oops. I'm sorry the link didn't show up, Tammy. It looks as if you found it on your own.

Blessings today,