2005-06-02 / Direct Answers

Answers from the Teacher

My sixth grader never proofreads any of his homework. I’ve been helping him look over everything, but now I don’t know how to get him to do it on his own. He completes his assignments, puts them in his backpack and hands them in the next day, mistakes included. How do I get him to give his work a second look?

First, let’s not overlook what he’s doing well: completing his homework independently and getting it into his bookbag and finally to the teacher the next day. He’s doing most of what he needs to do, and he’s able to do it successfully without much prodding from you. He should be commended for his success in these areas.

Proofreading one’s work is important not only for English papers or Social Studies assignments. Everything that gets handed to the teacher should be thoroughly proofread by the student, including math homework. Your son should look over all his work to be sure he hasn’t skipped anything, to check not only for accurate answers, but also proper punctuation, spelling and grammar.

Some students are so focused on “getting it done” that they work from top to bottom of the page, and simply put their work away when they finish. Ideally, students should go back to the top of the page and look over each line they’ve written, or each problem they’ve solved. I suggest your son take a break before proofreading his work. When he’s finished have him leave it out on the kitchen table or his desk. Have him walk away and take a break before coming back to check it over. Or he could leave it until the next morning, check it then and put it in his book bag. Sometimes a little time away from the task at hand can help students catch mistakes or omissions better than if they look it over quickly, just to get it done. To help your son learn the im-portant step of proofreading his work, the most important thing you can do is help him achieve some level of success and independence.

My daughter has a huge social stu-dies test that she must pass in June. What are some study tips to help her succeed?

First, be sure that she has all the information she needs to study, even if it’s just a list of topics. Next, write out a study guide by putting the topics in order, either chronologically or thematically. Next, have her call up some of her friends and invite them over for a party, a study party, that is. Assuming she has friends who must take the same test, organize a get-together to have the students talk about each topic on the study guide. Keep the group small, only about four of five serious students. You can play the lead role, if you and your daughter are comfortable with that, but chances are she may want to do this without you.

College students form study groups naturally, but high school students may need a little more guidance. The study group should try to meet three times at the very least, perhaps at weekly intervals. Even one hour of discussion with others will help your daughter do better on her test than if she had just studied her notes on her own.

Send questions to: Answers from the Teacher, P.O. Box 54, South Egremont, MA 01258. Questions may also be e-mailed to answersfromtheteacher@adelphia.net.

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