Dictation - Help for ages 7-8

Copywork, Cursive, Dictation, Grammar, Handwriting, Letter Writing, Memory Work, Narration, Read-Alouds, Spelling, Vocabulary, & Writing (many of these topics apply to other subjects such as Bible, History, and Science)
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Dictation - Help for ages 7-8

Unread post by overholt »

My son (7) struggles with dictation. The book suggests to only read it through twice. If the sentence has more than four or five words in it he doesn't remember it and I end up saying it at least 10 times.

It seems like that he is so caught up with spelling everything exactly right that he doesn't remember the next word. I know that part of this is his personality, he likes to do things well, and if he can't do it well, he doesn't want to do it.

Is it ok to break it down into half sentences? I just don't know how much to push this issue, and how much help to give. He wants to copy it instead, but that seems like just giving up.

Thank for any help, Laura

Unread post by cbollin »


I don't know if it is good/bad/indifferent, but I break it down for my kids as needed. First I say all of the sentence. Then I say some of the sentence. They repeat it and try to write it. I say some more. They write it. We go on. Lather rinse repeat. And the older they get, the more of it they retain.

I even call out "comma" 'period" "new sentence" "quote"and have tried to help with really difficult spellings.That's how it was done in my 8th grade French class. So that's what I do. I don't know if it is right or not.

And back in the days when I had to do transcriptions from tapes (in my days as an executive secretary), I hit those rewind pedals as needed. Although I do remember listening to longer sections all at once to get the idea of where the paragraph was going. Then play it again Sam, but much more slowly.

just my opinion for what it's worth.

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Unread post by kellybell »

I do what Crystal does (calling out just one or two words, saying "comma"). Often it helps to look over the dictation first. So, we read it. And, I'll ask, "What punctuation marks are in this?" and "Why those punctuation marks?" And, then "What words are going to be tricky to spell?" And "How will we remember to spell that word right? Any rules that it follows or breaks?"

I find that disucssing dictation (or spelling words) helps it sink in because we're being very deliberate about it.

After the dictation, I have her fix what she goofed up and we talk about it some more. If needed, we'll do the same dictation on the next day.

And, remember, seven is awfully young.
Kelly, wife to Jim since 1988, mom to Jamie (a girl, 1994), Mary (1996), Brian (1998) and Stephanie (2001).
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Unread post by mamaofredheads »

I do many of the same things Kelly does (go over the passage, look at difficult spelling words & discuss, look over punctuation with him - I don't call out punctuation, but DS would love it if I did LOL). The thing that has helped us most is that I usually let him do it on the white board (I found a small lined one at Walmart). After he is finished, I have him go back & check his work. For some reason it's "ok" to erase on the white board & fix it when it's not "ok" to have to do it on paper. LOL He likes to see if he can find all his errors & correct them so I can't find any.

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Unread post by overholt »

Thank you for your thoughts. It really makes me realize that maybe I was the one expecting perfection. I'll slow it down, and maybe with it not being so stressful for him he will remember more! Thank you again!
Mother of four. Hudson (7), AnnaMae (6), Clayton (4), and Victoria (2)
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Unread post by caod »

Posted: Sun Sep 09, 2007 9:03 pm
wlwest wrote:Teaching my 8 yr old son is like pulling teeth sometimes. He just hates to write. It's so hard, because I have a hard time knowing if it's a discipline issue or if I should modify the work??
I do think I started out asking too much of dd (8). PLL requires A LOT of writing if you were to do it all. I assume you are not having him do all that is indicated in the book. I have also learned to back off on the amount I ask for. The MFW rep told me PLL could be done primarily orally.

I have learned that my dd wants to have a list of what is expected and to be able to check off what she does. It works much better for her to know what is ahead and plan out her day.

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Unread post by kellybell »

Posted: Sun Sep 09, 2007 10:31 pm

A lot of times, I try to work WITH my dc and explain, "I see this is tough for you. Let's figure out why it is tough and work to make it less terrible for you." The idea is not to give up the tough subject or activity, but to find a way to modify it, split it up, break it down or whatever to make it bearable.

For one dd, it meant breaking Spelling Power into smaller chunks. For my ds, it meant some time off PLL to work on typing skills so he could type some of his work (instead of writing it). For another dd, it meant doing a half page of math, taking a break, and another half page. For all of them, it means recess between our group time and their individual time.

Keep in mind that it's not necessary for an 8 yob to be a dictation pro. He'll improve quickly with it, and it's fine for him to do just a little work now and work up to more in a few years.

Sometimes it's hard to figure out what is character and what is tough subject matter. Look in other subjects. If just one subject or activity is a bugaboo but other subjects aren't, then it's probably the subject. If all subjects cause groans and complaints, it is a character issue. If this is the case, it's fine to slow down or stop school and focus JUST on this attitude. When it's been addressed somewhat (it might take a while for 100% obedience), you can resume school.

Assuming you are working on the character issues, here are some things we've done to make dictation more bearable:

1. Substitute copywork for dictation. Just copying a passage allows him to practice spelling and punctuation. And, the grammar sinks in too.
2. Read the passage together first. Look for hard to spell words and tricky punctuation. Put the tough words on the board or on a cheat sheet. When doing the passage, he can try to not look at the cheat sheet but it's fine if he does.
3. Split the dictation into smaller segments. Do it over several days or several time slots of one day.
4. Substitute a boring passage for a similar one in his favorite book. Or dictate his AWANA verse. Whatever. Create other dictations for him. Does your ds love whales? Have him write down dictation from his favorite whale book.
5. Make a deal that you'll only do dictation on Mondays. You might have to re-order some lessons but that's okay. He won't like most Mondays but he'll approach the other days of the week with less dread.
6. Reward good-attitude dictation with M&Ms. Or a sticker chart leading to a new skateboard.

Unread post by cbollin »

tagging on a bit here, and it will probably repeat things that the others have said.

Ideas on dictation in general:

I think there are many subtle variations of dictation. There is no one completely correct way to do it. Some people will call out the punctuation marks, others don't. Some people will call out hard to spell words or provide a reference list for it, other's don't. Techniques change based on the student and over time.

Over the years of using dictation, here are some things I have learned from my days as a student as well as a teacher, and even in a temporary clerical job where dictation was a daily part of my life.

*listen to the whole passage first -- it's ok to put that book in front of an 8 y.o while you read it to them.

*After you have heard the passage said out loud, then slowly work on it. I found that in the beginning of the year, I set a standard for my young child (she is now 8 y.o). We had the standard of Complete One Sentence or complete 5 minutes of work -- whichever came last! And we always completed the sentence we were working on even if "time ran out". I was not as concerned in the first part of the year if my child didn't finish the entire passage in PLL or whatever else. Process over product. Very different at age 12 -- the process is established, and now we work on getting the product done. All things in their right place and time based on the ability of the individual.

*For a brief time in my life, I was a secretary to an executive vice president at a university. It was the first time I had ever used a dictating machine. (I felt young!!!! what is this thing? I bet Julie in MN is laughing at me now.) The VP used to call out spelling words that he guessed that I would have no clue about. So, I do the same thing with my kids. He did not call out punctuation. That was my job to know that and to edit it before getting it back on his desk. However, at 8 y.o my kids are still learning when a complete sentence ends. That's the advantage to studying the passage together before you dictate it. And I had to learn how to use other resource material to check my own work. So, I help my children learn how to do that as well. I expect my 6th grader to be able to use more than me as a reference resource.

*As the year progresses, your child should be able to remember longer sections of the passage. If the child can't remember it, then you know to say less. So, I have my 8 y.o say it back to me and then she begins to write. My 12 y.o doesn't need to do that as much. But we still adjust as we go. Hey, I did that with the Exec VP's dictations --- I hit the slow down pedal and the back it up pedal.

*Remember at 8 y.o, they are working on a lot of things during dictation -- penmanship, spelling, grammar -- and doing it all at once. It takes time to pull it together over the year. It is patience instead of frustration that wins out in the end.

ideas to help support our children while they do pencil and paper tasks:

* As you do any kind of writing exercises (dictation, copywork, notebooking, etc. ) --- always make sure of the little things before assuming the worst about attitudes. Yes, our children need to work on character issues. But what if something we are doing or not doing as teachers is causing the problem that needs to be solved? Remember how it was when they were infants and were being pinched by the seat belt because it was on too tight? We didn't assume they were rebellious brats against authority of the seat belt, did we? No. We adjusted the slack in the seat belt and kept driving. Well, I did at any rate.

Example with school work -- my oldest child was struggling with penmanship and hated it. But she is a child and couldn't pin point the problem --- turns out, she needed glasses and clearer instructions.
She said "it hurts to hold the pencil and it feels gross!" --- I ignored the childish whine and got her a pencil grip. (well, I didn't complete ignore the whine -- I told her I didn't understand baby words and asked her to tell me if she had a problem that she needed help with. She emotionally told me about it. Then we said it again without the emotions and then got a pencil grip.)
She said "my arm hurts" --- I showed her how to sit properly in her chair and got something for her feet to rest on. (ok -- I need a foot rest at the computer. time for some short crystal jokes,nah.... let's save it for later).

What about table and chair height? Are you asking your child to sit at kitchen table and they can't sit properly at it to perform pencil and paper tasks? I was doing that to my 8 y.o. You'd think that someone as short as I am would have realized that connection sooner. duh. It took a post from Julie in MN over here for that light to go on. So, I'm sharing it again --- make sure your child is in the correct position and that you are providing for that. Lots of options out there to meet that need.

Don't overlook those little things when there are problems. Sometimes it is the simple solutions that work. You know.... like when you think there is a major problem with your computer and all that happened is that the cord came loose from the port and you had to hit reset for the mouse to work? {blush} Start with the simple things and then when those aren't working, it tells you something is bigger going on.

just my way more than .02 on it.
Julie in MN
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Unread post by Julie in MN »

Posted: Mon Sep 10, 2007 10:37 am

Hi Wendy,
Little boys and writing is common subject around here :o) You can see by all the long answers (including mine) that it is a heartfelt concern for many. Here are recent discussions to help you feel like you're not alone!

PLL - How much Copywork/Dictation do you require?

Writing help -- sorting out Writing Mechanics vs. Writing Skills

I would add that I really feel that PLL was written for a classroom teacher. Yes, it is a gentle, lovely classroom method, but still it is different than one-on-one tutoring. The classroom teacher needs to keep students busy longer, and needs more writing in order to evaluate students' work. So adapting it in our homeschools seems perfectly appropriate.

PLL started out almost all oral in 3rd, and by 6th now he does more on the computer keyboard than he does orally (but still does a bunch orally).

MFW gives you prompts to make sure your child works on all the different skills each year, but you can mix it up for your particular child. Just use the grid to help evaluate whether you are covering all your bases. In the "copywork" box, you can write something else, like "used marker board" or "see history notebooking," so you know you did not neglect that piece altogether.

My son is getting old enough to negotiate with me. For instance, "If you write an especially long notebook page on the Vikings, then you can get by with that short description in ILL." However, it has not worked for me to give him a check-off list; then he just whips off minimal work in all subjects.

And finally, I would add that all children will not love being educated. Especially children who have many interests and activities they love. My best advice is to intersperse the things you know will cause a meltdown (writing?!) with the things that will perk him up (music, free time, read-alouds, science experiments, discussion, lunch, and especially phy ed).

And enjoy your young man. Girls are hard in their own way :o) Julie
P.S. Crystal, I was thinking of the time my oldest was crying "for no reason" and a cloth diaper pin was sticking into him!
Laura M
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Unread post by Laura M »

Posted: Mon Sep 10, 2007 4:21 pm

Hi Wendy....no brilliant solution for you, but just wanted you to know that I am TOTALLY in your boat! My 8yr old son sounds exactly like yours. We struggle daily and I have found a lot of good advice here that has really helped. I don't expect an overnight change but I do pray daily for him and I think things will improve. You are not alone.

A few things that have helped me and my son are: (and I think these were all mentioned in above posts)
*helping him to understand that he will not love every part of school but he must do them if he wants certain privileges
* I don't require him to do all the printing required. Most of PLL we do orally.
* I have a chart that he can see with the days of the week and what subjects he has to do that day...somehow it helps him to mentally check off subjects.
* He is motivated by some kind of reward at the end of the school day.
* Thankfully he is motivated by Scripture and what God expects of him, so I try to find verses to encourage him when he is having attitude problems.

I hope I have encouraged you...hang in there!
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Unread post by wlwest »

Posted: Mon Sep 10, 2007 8:12 pm

Thanks everyone for all the help! I will be trying all the different options tomorrow!

I think showing him the sentence first will really help. He does have a lot of trouble holding his pencil also. I figured I should just let him hold it the way it feels comfortable for him. My dh holds it the same way he does! Seems odd to me, but it works for them.

I think if he had some sort of printed out schedule, it would help ALOT. He just wants to get things done so he can go outside! lol
Thanks again
Julie in MN
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Unread post by Julie in MN »

Mum In Zion wrote:I am struggling with how to teach from the PLL book, particularly the Dictation Lessons. So far the rest of PLL is going smoothly.

My ds is only 7.5 and he struggles with spelling. Spelling really is the issue and his brain does get stuck, and when he gets stuck he has problems letting that word go and moving on to the next one. I have only tried 2 dictation lessons and both have ended in disaster. What should I be expecting from him at this stage? Is it really important to push the dictation or can I substitute with something else? don't want my ds to hate spelling and dictation, but I can see that could easily happen if we continue doing what we are doing. Any advice/suggestions would be much appreciated.

Here are some more suggestions for dictation when spelling is hard:

To be honest, we never did a lot of dictation at our house. Getting through the copywork often took long enough -- doing a little at a time every day. Pencils were a battle with my youngest, so he went to typing as much as possible. I suppose I could have done dictation at the keyboard :o)

I will say that this year (7th grade), he definitely uses a pencil for much longer periods of time. Don't know if that's encouraging or discouraging at this point :o) But I just wanted to show you that if all else fails, you can adapt.
Julie, married 29 yrs, finding our way without Shane
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Unread post by Poohbee »

I'll echo a couple of ideas that Crystal mentioned.

I've done dictation from PLL with my 7yo dd several times now. I cut back the dictation, and we don't do all of the sentences in the book. I think we did 2 or 3 sentences the first time and we'll gradually add more as I think she's ready for it. We look at the passage together first and discuss it. Then, I read the sentence, give her a little time to get started writing, and then I repeat it just once more. I encourage her to just spell words the best she can, and after dictation, we look at her work together. If she has misspelled some words, she circles them and writes them correctly underneath the misspelled word. I really focus on making sure she has a capital letter at the beginning of the sentence and punctuation at the end.

Just to give you an idea of how we do it. It's gone well, and I've been really pleased with my dds efforts, since this is the first she's ever done dictation. :-)
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Unread post by kellybell »

All great ideas. My 7 yo (turns 8 in Feb.) cannot handle dictation yet either. I use the "word bank" activity and also I look over the passage with her. We read it together and I ask "What is going to be difficult?" And she says what punctuation and spelling is going to be a bugaboo and we look at those difficult places.

If a dictation passage is too big for her to handle, then we do a sentence of it -- as well as another PLL lesson (maybe an oral one). The next day we do another sentence and find another PLL lesson, etc. That way, we keep moving through the book.

Soon it will click with her (as it did her three older siblings!)
Kelly, wife to Jim since 1988, mom to Jamie (a girl, 1994), Mary (1996), Brian (1998) and Stephanie (2001).
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Unread post by my3boys »

If this helps put things into perspective - my 7yo is just learning to read and write CVC words. By the posts here, it doesn't sound like there are very many 7yos ready for a lot of dictation, so your child is probably doing just fine.
Mom to 3 busy boys ages 11, 8, and 6
finished K, First, ECC, and CtG - currently using RtR

Unread post by cbollin »

Ideas for dictation help for 7 year old.

*study the passage before you start to point out punctuation. That way they know there are some things to remember

*Sounds like spelling is the real issue here. If there is a word that your child doesn't know how to spell, you have options. Some people out there think you should never help with hard spellings during dictation. However, I'm not one of them. If it is a word that I know they don't know how to spell, I either "call out the word letter by letter", or "give them a word bank ahead of time on the dry erase board". There is a lot of processing going on during dictation and if spelling gets their brain stuck, then I do not withhold help from my child on how to spell the word and get this, I even help when it is a word they do know if they ask for the help. Their brains get stuck and sometimes need the help. When I was in high school French class our teacher called out different words for spelling. When I was an executive admin secretary, I got to look up spellings of words while typing from dictation. I hit the stop button on the recording. I don't understand why it is a bad or wrong thing to help a 7 year old with spelling while writing. There are different educational philosophies that think otherwise.

*if there are a lot of spelling issues, then you might want to forget doing dictation for a while and just use the dictation exercises as copywork for a little bit longer. And then work a little bit more on spelling. Some children don't click with spelling instruction until they are older. So, in some cases they just need more time.

*shorten the amount of the dictation in PLL if needed. It doesn't need to be very long every day and at this age, it's ok if they aren't ready to do the whole passage length. Raise the expectations throughout the years.

*say the passage slowly. Some children do better if they repeat the passage out loud before starting to write it. Helps with the short term memory. And it is ok to break it up into smaller sections until they can remember it more accurately with longer sections.

*if you need more PLL ideas (other than dictation), email me for a long list or keep asking out loud over here too.

* My brain got to thinking.... where are you in the book??? hmmm maybe that is it???

If it is just the case of stuck brains or a few words in the passage, then those are the times for helping a bit (in my limited opinion). Examples -- PLL lesson 2 has the word "squirrel". Some kids are going to be discouraged from that word so you tell them how to spell it or do word bank or show them the word. Lesson 21, has a lot of "harder" words in it for a young student. Maybe your child just needs to do that lesson as copywork for some of those words.

and for lesson 32 -- consider doing the focus words "there" "their" as copywork or fill in the blank style of dictation no matter what you do for the rest of the sentences. Yes, some kids will have learned those homophones by lesson 32 and others will not.

So, feel free to adjust dictation to copywork if needed. And to also teach spelling when needed.

Mum In Zion
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Unread post by Mum In Zion »

Thank you, Ladies.

I knew I could count on you all for suggestions and encouragement :-)
I am going to look over your posts again this weekend and start fresh next week.

On a side note....
We have just finished our Thanksgiving Dinner. It felt a little strange being an Australian family, living in Israel, celebrating an American holiday :-) but it has tied in wonderfully to end our USA section of ECC.
It was also wonderful to go around the dinner table and hear what everyone is thankful for.

I'm thankful for all of you on the MFW Board and thankful that we found MFW as our curriculum.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving.

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Unread post by RachelT »

Hello there! I also wanted to add that my 7.5 yr old is not able to do the dictations with ease right now. Last year he still had to trace all copywork and this year he is finally able to copy something onto his own paper, but he still has to have a model in front of him. Spelling has been really hard for him and we have been doing handwriting copywork each day. Just this week I wondered if I was doing enough with the PLL dictations.

One way that we can learn from the dictations is to use a small white board and talk about the passage. For example, this week we did the lesson about "their" and "there". He read a sentence and I had him identify and spell out loud to me which of the two words was used. I wrote it on the white board and we talked about the meaning of it. We did this with each sentence and kept track of how many times each one was used and why they are used in each sentence. This way we "did the lesson" but he didn't have to do any writing. He had already done some copywork and I knew he would have to do more writing for something else.

Some other times I have written part of the dication passages on the white board with mistakes and then I have him help correct them.

Again, it's also a relief to me to hear that other 7 yr olds are adapting that part of PLL, too!

I'm glad you enjoyed Thanksgiving this year!
Rachel, wife to Doug ~ 1995, mom to J (17) and B (15)
MFW K (twice), 1st (twice), Adv., ECC, & CtG 2006-2010,
Classical Conversations 2010-2016,
ECC/AHL 2016-17, eclectic 2017-18, WHL & US1 2018-19

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