Check mates

19th January 2007 at 00:00
"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

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today