An all-purpose exercise that reinforces spelling, punctuation, grammar, pronunciation, short-term memory, handwriting, and attention-to-detail all at once, is Dictation.
Dictation can work its magic in a classroom setting or in a one-on-one tutorial situation. For parents with limited time and uncertain computer access, Dictation is Hamburger Helper for English. Two or three dictations a week can go a long way to keep essential English skills fresh.
Language teacher Mary Finocchiaro summarized the benefits of dictation this way:
[Dictation] ensures attentive listening; it trains pupils to distinguish sounds; it helps fix concepts of punctuation; it enables pupils to learn to transfer oral sounds to written symbols; it helps to develop aural comprehension; and it assists in self-evaluation.
Of all these benefits, I think the last may be the most beneficial. Many was the time when I was still a classroom English teacher when, after spending hours marking English papers with what I felt were helpful suggestions and encouragements, I would return them, see students look at the letter grade and toss the paper into the trash.
The dictation exercise requires students to come to grips with their errors. It requires them to note each error and correct it. The more times they correct an error for themselves, the less likely it is they will continue to make it. When the dictations are kept in a bound exercise book, students have a record of their improvement.
The beauty of the dictation exercise is that it can be used with students of any age.