Volume 11 • #77 • December 2008


I got an e-mail the other day asking whether it might be a good idea to send home each spelling list and sentence that the student had written so that the parent could watch the improvement as he made fewer and fewer mistakes.  That was an easy one.

NO.  Parents don’t want to see the awful things their kids produce.  They have already seen and heard enough horror stories from their teachers and blanched at some of his homework papers.   What they want to see is a final page with virtually everything correct on it and done in legible printing.  I keep the final, good one that goes into the folder, and if it is really a wonder, I make a copy and send that home with instructions that this is “one for the refrigerator.”   In fact, I don’t send anything home until the kid has done something impressive:  no little three letter words, no four letter words.  When he has done a page of two syllable words of five or six letters, it is impressive to the parent who has never seen his kid be able to spell, for instance, hubcap, or tonsil, or nutmeg, or disgust  without ever seeing them first. This is especially true if the child has only been in the program a few weeks. 

The most fun for me  is the day when the child gets farther along into multisyllable words and you can send home a page with 40 words on it like “splendidly,  sarcastic, Antarctic, publishing, dormitory, maximum” and the like. That is guaranteed to knock a parent’s eye out.  Definitely for the refrigerator.

One teacher I knew let an eight-year-old boy personally tear up all the papers that weren’t perfect and toss them into the wastebasket with a flourish! We always call the intermediate ones, works in progress.

I learned about this the hard way.  Once, thinking to impress a parent with the child’s amazing progress after part of a year with a college student I had trained, I had a conference with her, the child, the tutor and me.  I took with me the writing sample I had dictated to the student before starting her lessons, full of awful awfuls.  When I contrasted it proudly with  her latest effort,  the kid almost burst into tears. “I can’t believe I was ever that bad!” she said.

So I never did that again.



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