when to correct errors in writing

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  • When do you correct errors in your children’s writing? On the one hand, I know that I don’t want to stifle their creativity by putting too much emphasis on the technical aspect. On the other hand, I read somewhere (I don’t remember where, but it seemed to make sense!) that children shouldn’t get into the habit of making uncorrected errors in their writing because the visual of that mistake stays in their minds and it is harder for them then to remember the correct way. I can’t seem to find a balance. Any opinions?


    Oh, by the way, I’ve been lurking for a while but this is my first post. I am very excited to find a forum to help me with implementing CM’s ideas.

    Sonya Shafer

    Hi, Jean –

    That’s a great question — that I’m still researching, so take these comments as preliminary ( 🙂 ). In my mind I’ve kind of divided writing into four main activities: spelling lessons, copywork, written narrations, writing just for fun in free time. So far I’ve come across these concepts:

    • The counsel to not allow misspellings to make an imprint on the brain was given in relation to dictation/spelling lessons, when the child is studying the words and focusing his attention on how they are spelled. This idea would also apply to copywork because the child is supposed to look carefully and copy carefully rather than try to write from memory.
    • Charlotte gave many examples of the written narrations of her students, and I’ve seen spelling mistakes in those with the little “[sic]” inserted. [sic] is a notation from the editor meaning, “I know this is a mistake, but I want to keep it as it was originally given.” So from those examples, it looks like we are not to correct every spelling error in written narrations.
    • When it comes to writing just for fun, I haven’t found any reference in Charlotte’s writings yet. But judging from the written narration example, it seems like we shouldn’t correct everything in this type of writing either.

    So how will I apply those principles with my children? Here are the ideas I’m leaning toward:

    • I want my child to see words spelled correctly as much as possible. If she asks how to spell a word, I should be glad and tell her so she can see it correct (which is not always convenient for me to do!).
    • Any time I’m directing a writing activity (like writing thank-you notes, or a letter to Grandma), I should demonstrate the correct spellings of words and encourage my child to use them.
    • While I do not want to encourage long-term inventive spelling, I will not panic when my child misspells a word because of her desire to communicate in writing but her inexperience with that particular word. I will encourage her intent and the ideas she tried to present in her writing. (This is the stage I’m at with my youngest. She is writing captions on her crayon pictures. Most of the “words” have the correct initial letter and some have a final letter. But vowels are rarely included. That’s okay because we’ve gotten through only short-A so far in our reading lessons. I’m thrilled she’s making the connection between written words and spoken thoughts!)
    • I should not excuse misspellings due to laziness or inattention when it involves words that I know my child knows how to spell. So as words are studied in dictation exercises, I will hold my child accountable to spell them correctly in other writing as well. (This applies to my older children because dictation lessons don’t start until the child is at least 10 years old.)
    • With written narrations, I will encourage and focus mainly on the ideas that the child tried to communicate. After she has had time to get proficient at writing her thoughts on paper, we will start using those written narrations as the basis of composition lessons. But I will focus on only one thing at a time in those lessons, rather than tearing her narration apart and talking about all the things that are wrong with it. If I see a repeated spelling error in her written narrations, I will find a dictation passage or two that contains that word and use it to help correct that error, then hold her accountable in future writings.

    Whew! Sorry for the long post! As I mentioned, this is an area that I’m currently researching and I guess I got carried away. Thanks for the opportunity to do a written narration on my findings and thoughts so far. (Hope I didn’t misspell anything! 😉 )


    Thanks for your reply. I think those suggestions make alot of sense.



    Thanks for giving your thoughts on that, Sonya. I struggle with this also, as my dd8 writes alot just for fun, and the spelling is atrocious. But if I ever correct anything, I can just see her deflate – it isn’t worth it! However she is reaching and thinking about spelling – just yesterday she wrote a ‘mith’ about a ‘gready king’. She was trying to incorporate some spelling rules! She just got her ea and her ee mixed up.

    Plus I have alot of funny stuff to tease her with when she grows up . . .



    Dear Gem,

    I too have a dd8 who loves to write for fun, and I also found her “deflated” whenever I would correct her spelling on these projects. So…I decided one day to simply ASK her if she would LIKE for me to help her with her spelling in order to make her projects even better. (For it is not an option in her school work at this age.) And to my pleasant surprise she said, “Yes!” I think the key was making it a positive experience: “…your projects will be better.”

    On a side note: I also tried to put myself in her shoes, and tried to consider how I would feel if every time I made a spelling error in my “fun” writing (such as a post like this)someone would correct me(?) It would deflate me too! These little ones don’t have the luxury of “Spell Check”! 🙂


    All of the comments above are so encouraging. My ds8 loves to write stories but his spelling is horrible even on some words I think he should know but I chalk it up to he is in the “creative” mode not the “it has to be right” mode.

    I have noticed when he is focused on spelling during a spelling exercise he can spell pretty well without having studied the words..but if he were to use those same words in a story he most likely would have misspelled several just because his focus wasn’t on the spelling but on the thought he was trying to convey.

    Thanks for all the comments and for bringing up this question.


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