Category: Correcting Mistakes

When and How to Correct Errors in EFL Classes

As a teacher, you’ll have to correct your students when they make errors and mistakes. Correction is really important and can’t be ignored. A teacher who fails to do so may be thought as unprofessional or lazy.

Error correction is a matter of balance. Students need help in order to learn, teachers should not be too heavy handed when it comes to individual mistakes on the other hand.

This article will help you to decide when and how to correct your students’ errors, what approaches to take, and why the timing is vital.

Interrupt them to correct their errors when:

  • You want them to be accurate concerning new structures.
  • The majority of them is constantly making the same error.
  • The aim is achieving accuracy. In this case, you might correct errors more frequently.

Give delayed correction in the following situation:

  • If the aim of the activity is fluency and communication. In this case you can make a note of the errors and correct them later on.
  • During fluency activities, errors may be totally ignored.

Errors can remain uncorrected in the following situations:

  • In the middle of a group work or role play.
  • when a shy learner is daring to communicate.
  • If a learner is trying to express a complex or personal idea.

Vary your correction amount according to learners’ personalities.

  • Correct shy learners less and encouraging them to communicate.
  • Correct stronger learners more, so they are challenged.

Ways of self-correction and peer correction:

  • Making a gesture, stopping learners, giving a question.
  • Indicating to the nature of the error, by saying e.g., past tense.
  • Stressing the incorrect form.
  • Repeating the sentence with a questioning intonation.
  • Asking other learners for the correct form.
  • Asking one of the learners to write errors and correct them at the end of activity.

Advantages of self-correction and peer correction.

  • You know how much learners know and what they do not know.
  • Learners feel more confident and independent.
  • Learners know where they are.

Disadvantages of self-correction and peer correction.

  • Some learners might feel superior to others.
  • The same two or three learners might answer and dominate the class interactions.
  • The one who is corrected might feel frustrated.

Ways of correcting mistakes on written work.

  • Underlining errors and asking learners to correct them using correction symbols.
  • Providing correct answers for learners correcting specific errors and leaving others.
  • Getting learners to exchange their copies for peer correction.

Give feedback.

Giving feedback at the end of the class is very important to clarify anything and to correct any error made during the class. Encourage students to ask questions and try to get to the bottom of any queries and confusions.


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Techniques for Giving Feedback

feedback

1- You should interrupt learners when they make a mistake or error when:

– You want learners to be accurate concerning new structures.

– The majority of learners are constantly making the same error.

2- You can give delayed feedback in the following situation:

– If the aim of the activity is fluency and communication.  Make a note of errors and correct them later on.

3- Some errors should remain uncorrected by the teacher, for example:

– In the middle of a group work or role play.

– When a shy learner is daring to communicate.

– If a learner is trying to express a complex or personal idea.

4- You correct learners in different ways according to the tasks given, for example:

– During fluency activities, errors are totally ignored.

– If the aim is accuracy, you might correct more frequently.

5- You vary your correction strategies according to learners’ personalities by:

– Correcting shy learners less, and encouraging them to communicate.

– Correcting stronger learners more, so they are challenged.

6- You help learners to self-correct or correct each other’s errors by:

– Making a gesture, stopping learners, giving a question.

– Indicating to the nature of the error, by saying e.g. past tense.

– Stressing the incorrect form.

– Repeating the sentence with a questioning intonation.

– Asking other learners for the correct form.

– Asking one of the learners to write errors and correct them at the end of activity.

7- Some advantages of self-correction and peer correction:

– You know how much learners do and do not know.

– Learners feel more confident and independent.

– Learners know where they are.

8- Some disadvantages of self-correction and peer correction:

– Some learners might feel superior to others.

– The same two or three brilliant learners might answer and dominate the class interactions. The one who is corrected might feel frustrated.

9- Some practical ways of giving feedback on written work:

– Dotting errors and asking learners to correct them / using correction symbols.

– Providing correct answers for learners / correcting specific errors and leaving others.

– Getting learners to exchange their copies / praising learners’ writing for its strength.

Some ideas about correcting pupils’ speaking mistakes

Making mistakes is actually a very natural and necessary part of the learning process.

Pupils may make mistakes when:

  • They are tired,
  • They haven’t understood a part of the lesson,
  • They think in their native language,
  • They have some kind of confusion especially with vocabulary.

Making mistakes is a positive sign as it:

  • provides information about what progress the pupil and the class are making. If many of the pupils are making the same mistakes, You may decide to review part of a lesson.
  • shows learning. It is natural for language learners to overgeneralise rules. It is like an experimental process. We try something to see if it works. If it doesn’t work we try something else until we get it right. Mistakes can be a part of the experimentation.

You don’t need to correct each mistake:

  • More correction does NOT lead to fewer mistakes.
  • If the aim of the lesson is on accuracy, focus some attention on correcting mistakes.
  • If the aim of the lesson is on fluency, focus more attention on successful communication and less on the mistakes that occur.
  • If you correct too much, it could affect negatively the pupils’ willingness and motivation to participate in class.
  • Too much stress on mistakes correction may lead pupils to silence.

Some ways to correct your pupils’ speaking mistakes:

  • You can show that a mistake has been made by giving a surprised look.
  • Sometimes simply shaking your head is enough to indicate a mistake.
  • Hand gestures are also an effective way to point out mistakes.
  • You can note mistakes and write them on the board at the end of the class and ask pupils to correct them.
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