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When You Should Correct Your Students

One of the most important functions of the teachers is correcting students’ mistakes.

NOT Correcting Is Possible

But, sometimes there can be good reasons for not correcting some mistakes.

Curiously enough, NOT correcting is as important as correcting and is probably more difficult to do effectively.

It’s easy for some students to come up with the right sentence after saying it, so the teacher should wait for a while before giving the right answer.  

Encourage Self-Correction

Correction should always be kept to a minimum and students should be made to correct themselves as far as possible.

You should always try to find out if a student can correct his own errors before leaping in with “the right answer”.

With the student who made a mistake you may, at first, have to say:

  • “No!”
  • “Excuse me!”
  • “Try again.” or some such formula to encourage auto-correction

And if you were clear and systematic in your signals the student would very quickly react to your signs that he needs to reformulate his sentence.

Difference Between Error Correction And Answer Reformulation

There is a big difference between the correction of an error and the reformulation of an answer that isn’t what the teacher wants. Sometimes this can lead to confusion.

E.g. If you say: “When did you last send a registered letter?” and the answer is: “Last Tuesday.” But you want a long answer from your student to find out if he can correctly place “last” in the sentence.

If you say “No. try again”, he is likely to think that “Last Tuesday” is not a valid answer to your question and he may say “Three” or something like that which will confuse the situation.

On the contrary, just to emphasize the fact that he is on the right track, it is probably better to preface your intervention with “Yes” and say, for example: “Yes, I …..” and make some sort of gesture to indicate that you want him to go on from there.

When You Should Correct Mistakes

In the communicative part of a lesson, students should express themselves with a minimum of correction. Only mistakes that hinder understanding and the flow of communication should be corrected by the teacher. (Though you can note some misusages for treatment later)

Students need to get a feeling of competence when they make an effort to speak at length and in this case, constant intervention can be demotivating.

Grammatical mistakes are in a different category from mistakes that embody a real danger of misunderstanding.

Mistakes that cause misunderstanding can be treated by simply taking what the student says literally and then reacting to the misunderstanding to force the student to rethink and reformulate.

Tell students that they should care for not only what they say but also for what it means, what it should mean, or what it could mean.

Sometimes the results they get will be unexpected in real-life situations and they will have to deal with the situation.

Give them some practice at that and let them see how this kind of thing can happen.

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