Check mates

"Don't forget to check your work before you hand it in." No matter how often and plaintively teachers repeat the mantra, most children are so relieved to reach the last full stop that they don't do the final, essential proof-read.

So how to convince them? Establish routines at the start of term, and remind children relentlessly. Set a good example by checking your shared writing (perhaps you could lace it with a few errors to discover and correct). Then be militant about proof-reading for a few weeks.

The more you insist in the early weeks, the more likely it will turn into habit. You could also make it fun. Galina Dolya, a Moscow headteacher, suggests providing colourful "proof-reading glasses" or special eyeshades - when pupils are wearing them it reminds them to read for mistakes, not meaning. Or they could swap books and check each other's work (much easier to find your chum's mistakes than your own). But by Year 5 they should be checking their own writing, and correcting errors. Please send any other ideas to

For one of the greatest problems in English teaching, we need all the help we can get Sue Palmer is a literacy consultant

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