Reader Seema asks:
My students mess up in their writing using capital M for Mom and D for dad in all places. How can I teach them (first graders) when to capitalize mom and when not to. How can I make it easy for them?
Geeta Padmanabhan answers:
Family relationships are capitalised when used as proper names.
I sent a thank-you note to Aunt Sarah, but not to my other aunts.
Here is a present I bought for Mother
.Did you buy a present for your mother?
If the kids are capitalizing “mom”, they can do it in two situations.
1] When they are addressing “mom”. For example:
Mom, are you there?
 When they use it as a proper name.
You know who is in that room? It is Mom. Here the kid thinks her mother’s name is Mom. That’s how the kid has always known her.
You will notice there is no ‘whose’ marker (my, your, his, her, their) before the word “Mom”. If the sentence establishes the relationship with that marker, “mom” starts with a lower case letter. Once the relationship is established, she is just my/your/her/his/its “mom”.
Example: “Is that your mom?”
So if a kid writes:
“Mom makes me do all the work” or “I buy a gift for Mom” we have to accept it as right.
It becomes wrong only when the sentence goes, “My Mom drives me to school.”
Children learn through drill work. Some of the work we have for beginners:
 Write your name on the corner of every page of your workbook.
 Your city, district
 Names of parents, friends
 Then move on to sentences. The sentences are simple first and then have proper names.
Example: River Nile flows through Africa.
Exercises could be
[a] Fill in the blanks
[b] Correct the sentences.
[c] This simple letter has mistakes in capitalization. Can you fix it? Kids get familiar with letters as well.
[d] Game of tic-tac-toe for capitalization
[e] Kids pick a capital letter from a box of cards. Then write a word using it as the first letter.
[f] Make it clear there are no capital letters in the middle of a word. Give a list (fish, fiSh). Which one is right?
[g] Building sentences. Break sentences into three parts. Put them in three columns. Ask kids to form sentences using capital letters as clues.
Hope this helps.