Correction techniques. When teaching English many problems

When teaching English many problems arise. These range from discipline right through to a students comprehension. One of the more problematic areas is that of correction techniques, which contains writing corrections and speaking corrections.

When correcting writing and speaking, writing is perhaps the easier of the two. A teacher can easily identify spelling and grammar errors. Although the error is easily identified, the reason for the error may not. There are many reasons why an error may occur. Perhaps the student clearly did not understand and was purely guessing, the result of the student trying to use more complicated grammar, or it is due to a lack of concentration1. Depending on why the error was made can affect how it is corrected. If it is an obvious error then the teacher may be tough. If the error resulted from the student trying something new the teacher could be more lenient. Before correcting, the teacher should consider the following. 'Comprehensibility, despite the errors can [the teacher] understand the material. Did [the student] complete the task' [Then there is] punctuation.2' By asking these simple questions, the teacher can decide how to correct the writing.

Some say student ' student correction is good; however, this method depends largely on making sure the students are responsible enough to do this. When it comes to writing, teacher ' student correction is perhaps the more accurate although more time consuming. One way of correcting writing is using different colour pens from that used by the student. Rolf Donald gives a helpful way to use this method. 'Underline inappropriate language in a specific colour and appropriate language in a different colour.3' In doing this, the teacher identifies the error but leaves the student to find out exactly what is wrong4. If the student cannot find why it is an error, the teacher can point it out. This method gives the student responsibility for their English. It also can give the student confidence in using English. A fun way of helping students improve both their written English and confidence is through games.

One such game is the mistake maze. Students have a maze containing sentences. The maze consists of two different coloured arrows corresponding to the sentences. The students have to identify correct and incorrect sentences. They follow the arrows by identifying the sentences and make their way through the maze. This exercise helps students understand why sentences are correct or incorrect.5

Unlike written errors, spoken errors are more difficult to ascertain. When hearing a spoken error a teacher should consider the following. 'Does the mistake affect communication' Is it really wrong or [just the teachers] imagination' Why did the student make the mistake' Is this a mistake that several students are making'6' Through these questions, the teacher decides whether correction is necessary. When correcting it is advisable not to interrupt the student while they are speaking. Doing this can affect the students confidence and perhaps make them unwilling to participate in the future. It is better to wait until the student has finished speaking and repeat what they have said in a correct clarifying statement. In this way, the student is aware of the error and corrected in a manner that does not cause undue embarrassment. This type of error is termed 'delay correction' as stated by Rolf Donald in his article 'Error Correction 2'. Donald also suggests providing the student with a written suggestion on what to work on and to give them this after class7. Another suggestion he makes is to record the students' speech and see if they can discover their mistakes themselves8. This is a viable tool to encourage students to speak more in class. This is most effective through recording students' role-plays. One final way of providing spoken correction is through the ideas of Simon Mumford and Steve Darn, termed teachers shadow.

The teacher chooses a student to follow them around the class during a speaking activity. When the teacher hears an error, they replace that student with their shadow. This is a fun and active way for the students to understand the teachers' perspective.9

These are only a few methods for English correction. The fact is there are as many methods as teachers. The important thing is how a teacher uses a correction method. Convey to the students that making mistakes is something, everyone does. Having the teacher make fun of themself when they make a mistake exemplifies this. In using positive correction methods, a teacher helps foster a positive learning environment.


1Rolf Donald 'Error Correction 1.' in British Council Teaching English, (15 October 2006).





6Rolf Donald 'Error Correction 2.' in British Council Teaching English, (15 October 2006).



9Simon Mumford and Steven Darn, 'Classroom management: Speaking Correction,' in One Stop English,'docid=146455, (15 October 2006).