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Three Different Types of Error Correction in Classrooms

Three Different Types of Error Correction in Classrooms | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Unlike ESL students, who take advantage of living in countries that English is widely used on a regular basis, people who try to learn English as a foreign language or EFL learners' exposure to English is inevitably limited to those three to four hours a week that they spend in academic environments. Their needs are consequently a little bit different from ESL students.

Regarding the limited sources, they have access to, including teachers' talk and textbook audios that are unnaturally slow and way too clear, EFL students, therefore, need to look for more authentic and genuine materials in order to provide themselves with a better quality of input and improve their listening and speaking skills. Some recommended sources like YouTube videos, English movies, series, and so forth consistently help them enhance their receptive skills, but when it comes to productive skills, specifically speaking, these students might have been able to improve their fluency using the suggested sources, but the importance of accuracy appears to be neglected.

So what can an EFL teacher do in order to improve the accuracy and fluency of their students?

Constructive error treatment, which is a familiar aspect of teaching for all the teachers around the world, needs to be more valued in a situation like this since it is a very crucial skill for a teacher to know when and how students' errors should be dealt with before it is too late.


This is a chance you give your students to look back, analyze and think about what they have just said in order to correct their own errors and avoid repeating the same mistake again by attracting their full attention to the corrected form.

There are lots of techniques applied by teachers in order to promote self-correction in their classes, including a variety of appropriate gestures and facial expressions. To notify students of their mistakes, you can also code your gestures like pointing back and front for past and future tenses or shaping an imaginary mustache for propitious male and female pronouns usage.

Don't forget that too much correction like this gradually makes students dependent on their constant eye contact with you and disturbs student-to-student eye contact, which is a necessary feature for a more student-centered class.

Some teachers use a colored flag and shake it to spot a mistake when students are talking. A Mr.Noman puppet also does the same thing by reacting to students' mistakes.

If you want your students to repeat what they said in a corrected form, cup your ear with your palm, show a puzzled facial expression, or simply ask them to repeat what they said by using proper phrases.

Another thing you can do is repeating their sentences and pausing before a specific mistake.

  • Student: "He opened the door and took her keys."
  • Teacher: "He opened the door and took…?"
  • Student: "He opened the door and took his keys."

If it is still hard for the student to spot the error, you can try giving options:

  • Student: "He opened the door and took her keys."
  • Teacher: "He opened the door and took her or his keys?"
  • Student: "He opened the door and took his keys."

Writing assignments also give students the think-time they need to correct their own mistakes. You can highlight their mistakes and start teaching them writing correction codes like SP for spelling mistakes or WT for the wrong tense from very early levels. When they know the whereabouts and type of the error, they can correct it easily.

If an error is recurring or a specific student keeps repeating the same mistake, it is probably fossilized. Write it on a piece of paper and assign the student to correct it. Keep doing this every time you hear the same error until it disappears.

Notice that native speakers of English or any other languages don't normally tend to correct their own mistakes, so self-correction is not considered a natural habit and leads to poorer results in exams like IELTS.


If a student is not able to recognize and correct his/her mistakes, you might want to give other students the chance to correct their counterparts' errors. It helps them with their listening skills and makes them focus and listen cautiously and aimfully. You can also reduce your talking time and increase students' talking time and participation. It is not a very popular approach, though, since it sometimes gets very noisy when the whole class tries to correct somebody's mistake.

In order to avoid jumping on a trembling student like a wolf pack to correct his/her mistake, ask students to make notes while they are listening and correct them later.

You can also exchange writing assignments and ask students to correct their classmates' mistakes.


This is the most popular type of correction among both students and teachers and probably the last thing you are supposed to do as a teacher. Give students the chance to correct themselves as much as possible, get help from their classmates, and if they really can't handle it, you are the last person who can intervene and help them correct the error.

If your task is not aimed for accuracy, in order to avoid interrupting the flow of speech, make notes while the activity is in process and you are monitoring. After the feedback on the task is aimfully provided, feedback on language can be applied by boarding the errors you made notes of, and students can correct them in pairs or groups. If you start boarding the errors before the task is done, you probably attract too much unwanted attention and cause distraction from the task, so just let them focus on the task and do it later.

There is a preference to correct pronunciation errors on the spot, but if you have made notes of some, choral and individual drilling help students recall and learn the correct pronunciation.

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Eventually, the country and the culture you are teaching in and the age of students can affect the quality of your feedback on language. Although younger learners are more receptive and less embarrassed when corrected, it's logical to conclude that overcorrection is demotivating, kills creativity, and makes students feel insecure and unsure about their abilities.

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