3. Copying. Have the person recopy the correct composition (or the target section), paying close attention to capitalization, punctuation, spelling, paragraphing, etc. The copy could be either handwritten or typed on the computer, whichever would be easier for the student. When the student has finished copying, have him check carefully for accuracy. Then check it yourself, helping the student correct errors. You might help the student find errors by saying something like "Is there a word in this line that should be capitalized?" or "You have this word spelled two different ways—which one is right?" For errors involving concepts that the student is not yet able to understand, you can simply supply the correct form or you can leave the error uncorrected. 

4. Writing from Dictation. Have the person write the composition, or target section, from your dictation. If you suspect the person is unable to spell some words that will be needed, make those spellings available. Let the student assume responsibility for capitalization and punctuation rules he has mastered. For rules that are less familiar to him, give a brief reminder of the correct form. Explanations are not needed at this point (unless the student asks for them); the point is to have the student use correct forms. 

When the student has finished writing, have him read the composition aloud, and perhaps silently, checking for correctness. Point out some of the things the student has done correctly, especially those that involve newly acquired (or developing) skills. You might also want to help students recognize errors (as in Step 3). It is not necessary to find and correct every error. The point is to gradually be acquiring skills. 

5. Writing Independently. Have the student write the composition, or the target section, without referring to earlier versions. (The spelling list may still be used.) The goal is not to use exactly the same words but to effectively express the ideas that have been rehearsed. 

When the person has finished writing, have him read the composition aloud, and silently if he wishes, checking for content and errors. Let him correct what he wants to correct. Talk with him about the things he has done correctly, especially regarding content and new skills that are emerging. 

This process is geared toward helping students use English correctly. Errors are prevented by having students dictate their composition. Correct forms are reinforced when students copy a correct version of their composition. Spellings of difficult words are supplied in Steps 4 and 5 so that the student can spell the words correctly. Especially in the latter steps, feedback focuses on what students are doing right

The more students use English correctly, the more familiar they will become with the correct forms—and the more likely they will be to use those forms in future writing. An English handbook enables students to quickly and easily get the information they need in order to use English correctly. 


Fran Santoro Hamilton's thirty-five years as teacher, writer, and editor have enabled her to distill the English language to its essentials. Fran is the author of Hands-On English, an English handbook that makes grammar visual, and she cosponsors The Grannie Annie Family Story Celebration. Fran provides many free resources at www.GrammarAndMore.com.

Copyright, 2009. All rights reserved by author below. Content provided by The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC