Writing Mistakes: To Correct or Not to Correct?


Writing mistakes: To correct or not to correct?

female high school student doing homeworkThat is a question that many parents must face when helping their children with homework, especially writing assignments. Do we help them when they use the wrong “too” form? Or do we let them go to school knowing that their sentence reads, “I like books to”? Some parents often ask us how they can help without causing an argument over using the right tense in a paper. Below, you’ll find some great tips on how to help your child without writing their essay for them.



Proofreading vs. Doing the Work Yourself: My daughter’s in ninth grade and she’s doing a lot of essay writing at the moment. How much should I correct in terms of grammar and sentence structure when I proofread her work?

Writing is one of those things that we really struggle with as parents. Kids often get stuck trying to think of a starting point in their writing. For your daughter, I would recommend helping her to get started. Once kids get going, they can often do pretty well, but coming up with that initial topic sentence or that thesis statement is hard for them. Brainstorm with your daughter what might be a good lead-in sentence.

After your child has written a rough draft, you can use a strategy called COPS. COPS is an acronym for helping kids proofread their work:

C = capital letters

O =organization

P = punctuation

S = spelling

For example, if you see a capitalization error and a spelling error in your daughter’s first sentence, you can simply write on that line one C and one S so that she can go back and find the mistakes.

In general, a parent’s pen should never touch the paper. Talk to your daughter about where she might be able to improve her essay, but don’t make the corrections for her. Allow her to find her errors and then go from there.


Fixing Mistakes, Avoiding an Argument: My son drives me crazy with his writing!  He’s in fourth grade and doesn’t use capital letters or correct punctuation, even though he knows he should. When I tell him to go back and fix the mistakes, he gets upset and it often results in a big argument between us. How do I help him fix mistakes without causing all of these arguments?

Getting kids to proofread their work is tough, especially when the assignment is already complete. When you try to get your son to correct his errors after the fact, it probably feels punitive to him.

Instead, address the issue before he even starts. If you know that written language is his Achilles’ heel, pick one thing that is important for him to master. Simply using capital letters is an easy place to start. Prior to tackling the assignment, grab a post-it note, and write “capitals” on it. Put it in his homework area before he starts that writing assignment. Now, you’ve given your son a visual cue, which is far superior to a verbal one.

Pretty much every kid I know responds better to a visual cue. Visual cues are in eyesight for the duration of a task, whereas verbal cues are often easy to forget or feel like nagging. If you can do it before your child begins the assignment and you call attention by using a visual cue, that will help your child to be a lot more successful.


Addressing Spelling Errors via Games, Not Nagging: I have one child who has never had an issue with spelling; it’s always come naturally to him. My other child, however, always has issues with spelling and seems to spell her words out phonetically. How can I help her improve her spelling skills?

Kids will often spell phonetically up until the end of elementary school. It’s not unusual, but to improve this, you want to look for common words to correct. These are called the Dolch Sight Words and there are about 100 that kids should memorize. Dolch words are words like “friend” and “because” and “again”; they are words that kids see consistently and should know how to spell correctly.

If you see that your child is spelling one of these very, very common words incorrectly, I would correct her on it. You can make a copy of this list and keep it in your child’s homework area so it’s easy to reference. That takes the nagging away. Make it a game to see if they can spell 5 words on that list correctly.

shutterstock_207975373Our tutors have worked with plenty of kids who are phenomenal readers but just not great spellers. At the end of the day, don’t stress about spelling phonetically. As long as they understand the common sight words, they will be fine until middle school. In this day and age, once they get to middle school, most of their assignments are on the computer with spellcheck. Once kids get on the computer, spelling becomes less of an issue.


The ability to read and write is key to success in the classroom. If you feel as though your child may need an extra push with writing, give us a call at 703-934-8282 to speak with one of our Education Specialists. A writing tutor may be what they need to succeed.