Tip for Tuesday: Correcting
We’ve all had students who, after being corrected, begin to lose confidence and disengage from the lesson. Despite trying their hardest, it is inevitable that a student will make a few grammatical errors, pronunciation mistakes and misuse of words. Some students take corrections with a pinch of salt, accept it and move on. For others it can be much harder and with every mistake, it is another blow to their confidence leading to less concentration in the class and less participation for fear of getting it wrong.
So what do you do in this situation and what steps can you take to stop disappointment and disengagement from happening?
This week’s #tipfortuesday deals with this very issue: How to keep a student motivated and confident whilst correcting them.
Correction is seen as one of the most important parts of our sessions for Chinese parents. They want to know that their child is improving and can understand where they go wrong. No matter how hard the task is, it is our responsibility as Buddies to make sure that this is implemented and our Breadies are speaking and writing correctly. Of course, every student is affected by error correction differently so here are a few methods you can use in lessons:
1. Get the student to self-correct themselves.
Self-correction has been proven as one of the most effective ways to correct students, particularly ESL students. It allows the student to take control of their learning and feel like they are in control of their language, rather than just having to listen to the teacher tell them they’re wrong.
If your student is at a level 2 upwards level of English and can speak in simple sentences, self-correction can be made into a game. Whenever they make a mistake you put your hand up and they have to guess where they went wrong. If they get it wrong you can give them guidance, if they get it right celebrate it, give them a trophy and celebrate the fact that they could correct themselves.
If there is something they often get wrong – for example using ‘very’ instead of ‘really’ or vice versa, you can write a prompt on the whiteboard and light heartedly point at it when they make the mistake. This works for both spoken and written English.
In a study surrounding error correction for writing by ESL students, Chia Hsui-Tsao explains, ‘By challenging the student writers to think actively and find out the correct usage on their own, indirect correction has led to greater accuracy in student writing’. The same applies for spoken English.
2. Make sure that for every negative there is a positive.
Try to be balanced whilst correcting. Before explaining what it is the Bready has done wrong, point out something they’ve done well
And as part of this…
3. Take note of mistakes they make early on in the session, or in the session before and acknowledge it if they get it right later on!
Nothing boosts confidence like knowing your teacher has been paying attention to you and has noticed your efforts to improve.
4. Importantly - remind your student that making mistakes is not a bad thing.
Making mistakes is an important part of learning a language as it means you are trying out new vocabulary and grammar. Remind your Bready that it’s good to experiment and explore new ways of using English, it means they’re thinking. The only issue is when the mistake comes up again and again, which if this is the case… return to point one!
For younger Breadies this can be quite difficult. For level 0 students all you can do is really celebrate all that they do well and focus on everything they can remember and pronounce well. As long as you are enthusiastic, have a bright tone of voice and offer rewards like trophies and high fives for all that they do well you can help keep your young Bready positive and engaged in the class.
If the young Bready is having issues following your pronunciation, make it exaggerated and as silly as possible and get them to repeat it whilst making it closer and closer to the original sound of the word to turn correction into a fun activity.
5. Reformulate their mistakes.
Rather than getting your Bready to stop and explaining how they’re wrong, repeat their sentence back to them in the correct way. You can do this by posing it as a question or repeating the statement back to them with a little emphasis so they know where they went wrong.
“Yesterday I go to park”
“Aah, yesterday you went to the park! What did you see?”
It is a much softer way of making the Bready aware of their mistakes and is less disruptive than stopping them to correct them properly.
6. Assess how important it is to correct the mistake.
Sometimes it is detrimental to correct every single mistake, particularly if you see the Bready’s confidence dropping and they are making many mistakes. If this is the case and you’re spending too much time correcting and not enough time teaching, you can think about the importance of each correction. Rolf Donald’s piece for the British Council on error-correction sites Bartram and Walton’s book ‘Correction’ in which they list questions you should ask before making a correction. These include:
1. Does the mistake affect communication?
2. Are we concentrating on accuracy at the moment?
3. Is it really wrong? Or is it my imagination?
4. Why did the student make the mistake?
5. Is it the first time the student has spoken for a long time?
6. Could the student react badly to my correction?
7. Have they met this language point in the current lesson?
8. Is it something the students have already met?
9. Is this a mistake that several students are making?
10. Would the mistake irritate someone?
11. What time is it?
12. What day is it?
13. What's the weather like?
Of course, correction is important and our Breadies’ parents are looking for as much correction as possible so correct as much as you can during sessions.
7. Take a break from/change the activity!
If your Bready is really beginning to go quiet and is losing confidence fast, play a game! Try to make the class lighter and return to the activity later – or find a new way to tackle it, maybe looking at a related resource on the Dropbox or Padlet.
I hope that this has been useful in how to deal with correction. There are many great resources online for further reading. The British Council website is particularly good for tips and tricks.
There are also numerous academic studies into error correction in ESL, mainly surrounding writing more than spoken which you can find here and here
Buddies, what other techniques have you found effective in dealing with correction? Write in the comment below or alternatively drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org