"The earliest practice in writing proper for children of seven or eight should be, not letter writing or dictation, but transcription, slow and beautiful work..." - Mason, Vol. 1, p. 238
Mason had some other ideas that I don't see mentioned very often when it comes to copywork. One is that the student should look at the word, visualize it in their mind's eye, and then try to write it from memory. This takes time!
Children should be encouraged to look at the word, see a picture of it with their eyes shut, and then write from memory. - Mason, Vol. 1, p. 238The Boy's Book of Verse by Helen Dean Fish . It is, of course, perfectly appropriate for girls, too. My 15 ds is presently copying "Ultima Ratio Regum" by Stephen Spender. Read the one review at Amazon for a great endorsement. Which leads to my next point about letting the student select his own copywork.
Mason tells us to let the child choose the verse that he likes. Mason tells us that if you make them always write the entire poem, it will "stale" upon the children. It's as if the copywork is almost to be thought of like a commonplace entry...or a nature notebook entry...or a Book of Centuries entry... - the student's own choice.
A certain sense of possession and delight may be added to this exercise if children are allowed to choose for transcription their favourite verse in one poem and another. This is better than to write a favourite poem, an exercise which stales on the little people before it is finished. But a book of their own, made up of their own chosen verses, should give them pleasure. - Mason, Vol. 1, p. 238All of this reminds me of this Wendell Berry poem:
Suppose we did our work
like the snow, quietly, quietly,
leaving nothing out.
- from New Collected Poems by Wendell Berry
P.S. - Jen Spencer brought this interesting technique idea to my attention. Mason suggests that the student should, from the beginning, hold the pencil between the first and second fingers, steadying the pencil with the thumb. This would seem to indicate that the pen would then sit comfortably between the knuckle of the middle and the index finger.
It would be a great gain if children were taught from the first to hold the pen between the first and second fingers, steadying it with the thumb. This position avoids the uncomfortable strain on the muscles produced by the usual way of holding a pen––a strain which causes writer's cramp in later days when there is much writing to be done. - Mason, Vol. 1, p. 239