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Centre Short TEFL
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Correction Techniques It is important to understand the difference between a mistake and an error. A mistake is typically thought of as a ?slip? of the tongue or the pen. native english speakers and non-native english speakers alike can make mistakes, which can then be self-corrected. An error, on the other hand, ?reflects the competence of the learner? (Brown, 2000). Unlike mistakes, errors cannot be self-corrected. They are a result of a gap between the knowledge of a competent adult native english speaker and a non-native english speaker. An error can be made because: * the student believes that it is correct; *he/she doesn?t know the correct form of the language; * the student knows the correct form but cannot get it right. If error correction is done appropriately it serves an extremely important learning tool for second language learners. If it is overused, carelessly used, or used at the wrong times then it hinders learning more than helps (Lightbown, P. & Spada, 1993). Errors cannot be corrected and need to be dealt with by the teaching or re-teaching. Errors are often noticed in less-guided practice activities when the same error is made by a number of learners, leading the teacher to realize that something has gone wrong in earlier stages of the teaching/learning process.
Mistakes, on the other hand, are products of the learner?s efforts to produce language despite prior knowledge. They may be due to variety of factors including over-enthusiasm, over-generalization of rules, interference from the mother tongue, and once the cause has been established, can be dealt with by a number of correction techniques (Simon Mumford and Steve Darn). When to correct? The ESA correction techniques vary according to the stage of the lesson. During the Engage phase, correction is avoided, as the focus is solely on communication and fluency. The Study phase, however, pinpoints accuracy (determine), and corrections are made for all mistakes and errors. While in the Activate stage, corrections should be kept to an absolute minimum and made only when the errors affect comprehension or deal with the target teaching point. According to the ESA method there are three occasions when it is relevant to correct: 1. The mistake is with the language point we ate teaching. 2. The mistake is being regularly repeated either by the student or other class members and so risks becoming ingrained. 3. The mistake seriously delays or blocks the progress of understanding. Accuracy and fluency: Mistakes are usually corrected immediately when the aim of the stage of the lesson is to improve
accuracy, particularly during the drilling of the target language and during guided practice. Attention to mistakes in this stage improves the chances of correct use of the language later, while mistakes made during less-guided practice often indicate that the teacher has not dealt effectively with mistakes at the accuracy phase. When the aim is fluency, less disturbing, ?gentle? or delayed correction techniques are required in order not to damage either the flow of the activity or the confidence of the students. An error has been identified; teachers have to consider the type of the error and how to deal with it. What the teacher needs to consider before correcting an error? (Jim Scrivener, 1994) 1. Decide what kind of error has been made ? grammatical, vocabulary, punctuation, pronunciation, etc. 2. Decide whether to deal with it or not ? is it useful to correct it? 3. Decide when to correct it ? immediately, at the end of the activity, later. 4. Decide who will correct ? the teacher, student self-correction, or other students. 5. Decide on an appropriate technique to indicate that an error has occurred or to enable correction. 6. Consider students? age and their approach to learning: some students are risk-takers; while others will only say something if they are sure it is correct.
While being risk-taker is generally positive as it leads to greater fluency, some students only seem to be concerned with the fluency at the expense of accuracy. Correction techniques I. On the spot (selective) ? it can affect student?s confidence. Has to be done with caution and not too often. choose the appropriate technique that doesn?t slow down the pace too much and be careful not to ?jump? on one student for making a mistake. - Echo the error. - Ask for repetition. - Repeat up to the error. - Ask question: highlight student?s error by asking a question that will expose the error. - Provide options: without stopping the flow of the lesson, write options on the board. - Gestures. - Write on the board, underline: the standard whiteboard technique. Highlight the error with an underline. II. Delayed error corrections (After) ? At an appropriate stop in the lesson, do some error correction. A good place to do this is at the end of a section, practice, or an activity. It is good in purpose not to make students feel uncomfortable to say ?I heard ?? instead of ?You said ??, or just write the sentence on the board, and change the sentence for anonymity. - Echo the Error: ?I heard ?? - Ask for Reformulation (questions):
can you change this question to get the same answer? - Repeat up to the error: good for vocabulary error, write the sentence on the board up to the error, have students finish the sentence. This can be done with all students, thus re-enforcing the correct form to be used by hearing several variations. - Ask a question: good for correcting checks and getting students to repeat a section where they made an error, simply ask them a question that will bring up the error. The question can be directed at any student or all students. - Repetition of the correct answer: once the error has been corrected, have the students repeat the correct answer. This technique works best with low level students or when the error seems to have become a bad habit. - Provide options: write the error on the board and provide several options. Have the students choose the option they think is the best. - Use visual aids: draw a timeline, pie chart, picture or other visual aids on the board to help students to understand the error. - Highlight the issue: rather than bringing out a specific error, when teachers notice repeated errors of the same type, highlight this issue and discuss. If necessary, mark students? files and teach the appropriate curriculum items as soon as possible. III. Anonymous error correction:
with delay error correction, try to make the correction anonymous. For a grammar mistakes, try changing the nouns so the sentence is unidentifiable by the students but still helps them learn and understand their mistake. This anonymity will help students feel more confident by not highlighting a specific student mistake in front of peers. All students will benefit from this consideration as all students will be curious to fix the mistake, not knowing who made it originally. IV. Self correction: If students can fix their own mistakes, it shows that they understand and allows them to feel more confident in their knowledge. Confident self-correction habits lead to students depending less on others and thus speaking more freely, knowing if they make a mistake they can correct it themselves. They will become more confident speaking outside of the classroom, which is the true goal of ESL education. V. Peer correction: peer correction will increase not only students? talk time but also students? interaction. This is particularly easy to do with homework and written work, but can be done on the spot and with delayed correction on the board. VI. Self-correction the Silent Way: Invented by Caleb Gattegno, this approach helps students develop the habit of monitoring their language and correcting
their mistakes. In this manner, the teacher is using silence as an educational tool and getting out of the way so the students can work on the problem. Examples of specific techniques that can aid students in monitoring their own speech: - Silent-Way Finger/Hand techniques for self-correction: fingers representing words, twisting two fingers, indicating that the words order must be inverted; and scissoring gesture. - Silent-Way Self-Correction techniques for written work: mark homework, group correction ? before the students arrive, rewrite some of the incorrect sentences on the board and have them analyze each sentence, trying to find the mistake. - Silent-Way Oral Technique for Self-Correction: the grunt ? the teacher repeats what the student just said but replaces the word(s) that need correction with a grunt or hum; humming to indicate stress. Criteria for dealing with spoken errors: In ?Correction? by M. Bartram and R. Walton, these questions are presented as a guide to decide whether to let an error go or not: 1. Does the mistake affect communication? 2. Are we concentrating on accuracy at the moment? 3. Is it really wrong? Or it is my imagination? 4. Why did the student make the mistake? 5. Is it the first time the student spoken for a long time? 6. Could the student react
badly to my correction? 7. Have the students met this language point in the current lesson? 8. Is it something the student already met? 9. Is it a mistake that several students are making? 10. Would the mistake irritate someone? While speaking correction techniques: 1. On-the-spot correction techniques, or dealing with the errors as they occur: - Using fingers - Gestures - Mouthing - Reformulation 2. Delay correction techniques: - After communication activity - Recording: during a speaking task to make them aware of errors that affect communication. 3. Correction drill: choose one student who will not mind having mistakes corrected. Explain that you are going to correct him/her as he/she speaks, and the purpose of the activity is to help. The student has to speak, e.g. tell a story. The teacher repeats each sentence. If there is a mistake, the teacher repeats the sentence correctly and the whole class repeats it after him/her. It is good because students can hear the correct sentence and all students are involved. 4. Teacher?s shadow: Set up the students in groups for conversation. The teacher chooses one student to shadow him/her while walking around, monitoring. When the teacher hear a mistake, corrects it and replaces the student who made it with the shadow student, so he/she
has new shadow. Continue until a number of students have been shadows. Shadows can help the teacher listen for mistakes, too. This technique gives the students a teacher?s view of the class, and makes them aware of mistakes. 5. One post-speaking correction technique is the speaking graph. Here two students talk while the teacher creates the speaking graph ? a line on a graph which represents the students? level of speaking quality. When mistakes are made the line goes down. When they are speaking well, the line goes up. The teacher also makes a note of the positive things as well as the mistakes. 6. students look at their own mistakes: while two students speak, a third makes notes of anything he/she thinks may be wrong. Afterwards the three students can discuss it. 7. Paraphrasing ? say the same things in other words. This approach works with higher level students. It gives teacher opportunity to teach or remind of alternative ways of expressing something while encouraging the student to keep talking. 8. Recasting ? repeat what was said as a question but in a correct way. It is a gentle way to offer corrections during conversations. Practical technique and ideas for correcting writing 1. Correcting written works by using codes in the margin or the body of the writing. This makes
the correction less threatening, gives students chance to correct their own work, and makes correction neater. Typical code include: S ?spelling; wo ? wrong words order; t ? wrong tense; s/p ? wrong usage of singular/plural form; ^ something is missing; [ ] ? something is not necessarily; m ? meaning is not clear; na ? usage is not appropriate; p ? punctuation. 2. Using different colors pens from that used by the student. Rolf Donald suggests to use one color to underline the correct language and different color for the inappropriate language. The teacher leaves the student to find out what exactly is wrong. If the student cannot find why it is an error, the teacher can point it out. This gives the students responsibility for their English. 3. Training students to edit their own work. Even though they have invested time in doing writing task students often don?t check their writing. The following activities help students to develop editing skills in a fun way and enable the teacher to focus on key errors. - Grammar auctions: students receive a number of sentences taken from their written work. Some are correct, some wrong. students in groups have to try to buy the correct ones in auction. The team with the most correct sentences wins. - Mistake mazes: students have a list of sentences.
To get out of the maze they have to choose the correct sentences which determine the right way. Some Do?s and Don?ts while correcting: Do?s Don?ts Tell students what they got right as well as what was wrong. Praise is very important for motivation and developing self-confidence. Judge students by the errors they make. Errors are inevitable and integral part of learning, so there are no point in deciding that learners are ?good? or ?bad? Encourage students to correct themselves. Correct all mistakes during a fluency activity If you do this you will interrupt the flow of activity. Only correct them if the error causes miscommunication. Create a classroom atmosphere where students feel free to ask for help. Discourage students from correcting each other. students can learn a lot from each other. They are often able to explain things to each other in a way they understand better then when the teacher explains. See errors as useful. Teachers can learn about their students through the errors they make. Errors can provide feedback on the teachers? work, and may help them to plan or adjust activities in future lessons Correct all learners in the same way. students may be at different levels, have different learning styles and work at different paces. The teacher needs to consider
when students would benefit from correction and when not. Anticipate the errors that might occur when planning a lesson. A good teacher will try to predict the types of errors a particular activity may throw up and then work out strategies for dealing with them. (e.g. pre-teaching the vocabulary) Never jump into a student?s speech to correct. Wait until the student has finished or until the end of the activity. As far as possible correct mistakes anonymously. Is isn?t important who made the mistake but can the student correct it. Praising the students is as important as correcting them. Often when a learner produces accurate language, he/she isn?t sure that it's right. The teacher might assume that it's a sign that the student "knows" that piece of language, when actually the student was just experimenting or trying to get the message across the best he/she could. By highlighting good language use, we're also confirming that that language use was actually correct - and thereby letting the students know that they can comfortably use it the same way again in the future.