To correct or not to correct, that is the question. I’m a big fan of making errors in language learning - it is a sign that we are trying something new and we are not afraid of it. The key to success it to learn from our own mistakes and move on. So, there’s no doubt regarding the importance of helping learners understand what mistakes they make and why. After all, they attend your lessons to improve their English - they can’t do that without being corrected when they make mistakes, right? Well - yes and no. For a teacher, especially a newly qualified one, it is sometimes difficult to decide what errors to address and what to let slide. It is even more difficult to decide when and how to correct them. My goal here is to offer some self-reflection points regarding your oral error correction approach. Let’s go straight to it - Do you over-correct?
Do you over-correct? (slides 1 & 2)
Reflect on the following questions:
What to correct
You might assume that it’s ok to correct every single mistake that your students make. In fact, many learners appreciate this kind of detailed correction, as they feel that their language will improve as a result of this. They might even note down your comments in their notebooks and write down several examples to use as reference at a later stage. Unfortunately, despite their - and your - best intentions, this method doesn’t seem to have a long-lasting effect.
(slides 3 & 4) Look at the following examples:
Reflect: Would you correct these? Why? Why not?
(slide 5) Let’s see another example:
Reflect: Would you correct this? Why? Why not?
Of course, it should be ‘Stefano is at home’, but I don’t think it’s worth correcting at this stage, as this sentence is not part of the target language. However, I would correct a mistake with the preposition ‘for’, linked to the present continuous (target language).
So, WHAT errors should we correct? In my opinion, those that are connected to the target language.
When to correct
There’s no simple answer to this because...it depends! To help with this, ask yourself:
(slide 6) Does the activity focus on accuracy or fluency?
If your students are practicing fluency, you want them to be able to speak spontaneously and think on their feet - consider delayed correction.
On the other hand, if they are preparing their speech, they should be focusing on their accuracy - consider on the spot correction.
Here are my thoughts:
For fluency - make notes of their errors (and of good examples of language use) as you listen to them. Allocate some time at the end of the activity (or at the end of the lesson) to engage the whole class in a feedback session. White on the board the sentences that have issues and give students a chance to correct them - this is a great opportunity for delayed correction. Remember that who made the mistake is not important!
Don’t forget to give examples of good language use. Ask your students to reflect on why you are impressed with what they said and encourage them to share their thoughts.
For accuracy - give students time to plan and prepare their work/speech/presentation etc. Monitor them as they work, and provide immediate, on the spot correction.
How to correct
(slide 7) When your learner makes an error on a language point they should be familiar with.
Reflect: What’s your first reaction? How do you help them correct their mistake?
(slide 8) I follow this process:
(slide 9) At a glance
Here is a summary of my suggestions:
Pro Tip: Depending on the lesson you have planned, it could be a good idea to inform your students (or decide with them) how and when you are going to carry out your error correction.
Of course, there can be many variables that can affect the way you provide oral error correction case by case, on a daily basis. These are just general guidelines to describe my personal approach to oral error correction.
Would you like to know more about oral error correction?
I’ve found this article very interesting https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/error-correction-2
Click below for the slides - download, adapt, and use!