Error correction techniques in teaching



Error Correction Techniques

HOT or COLD?

As English teachers, we know that making mistakes is the proof of learning, but the question is how we can handle these mistakes. We need to sharpen our error correction skills in order not to demotivate our students.

There are two kinds of error correction techniques:

  1. Hot correction: As soon as we notice a student making an error while we are presenting the language or practicing activities, we can ask CCQs (concept checking questions) that focus on meaning and form.We should encourage self correction first and then peer correction if needed.

Also within hot correction, we can use Quick fire Drills, these are:

  • Repetition drills: In this type,teacher first models the target language then students at first drill chorally, then individually.
  • Backchaining: For longer utterences this is a useful type. In it the language is in chunks and it is drilled from the end backwards.

e.g. If I see him, I’ll tell him.

t: tell him

Ss: tell him

t: I’ll tell him

Ss: I’ll tell him

t: see him I’ll tell him

Ss: see him I’ll tell him

t: If I see him I’ll tell him

Ss: If I see him I’ll tell him

  • Transformation drills: to manipulate a grammatical structure, this type is a good one.

t: I’ve got some apples. Negative?

S1: I haven’t got any apples.

t: He has got some peers. Negative?

S2: He hasn’t got any pears.

  • Chain drill: This type focuses more on sts. and it’s a bit more complicated.

S1: I like swimming.

t: So do I.

S2: I like riding a bike.

t: So do I.

Students then do the drill:

S1: I like swimming.

S2: So do I. I like reading.

S3: So do I. I like playing golf. etc.

2. Cold correction: In order not to interrupt the learner during a speaking activity- as we are focusing more on oral fluency- , we need to monitor and record the language of the learner to focus on the errors when the activity is complete.

Besides speaking activities, we can use cold correction with writing activities as well. We can have them write a text in class or at home and after checking the texts, we can choose one sentence from each student’s text that has an error in it. After that we can use these sentences in the class to give whole class feedback without addressing the students.

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Published by aysungüneş

I have been teaching English for over 12 years legally, but before that I worked at many private courses and gave private lessons in Ankara during my college years. I’m passionate about my job and open to novelties about my area of interest which is the integration of technology in ELT. I’m holding a BA degree in American Literature, which taught me to read between lines and also I’m still an MA student in Distance Learning at Anadolu University. After I got CELTA certificate, I saw that the most important thing for teachers is to keep learning and refreshing themselves with bright new ideas and practices. CPD plays an important role for me and with the social media I’m enlarging my PLN to know more professionals from all around the world. View all posts by aysungüneş

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Is there any relationship between the classroom procedures of the audio lingual method and Quick fire Drills?

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The Dos & Don’ts of Error Correction When Teaching English

If you’ve taught or tutored English (or any language), you’ve probably asked yourself on more than one occasion when, how, and even if, you should correct your students’ mistakes. While error correction in teaching English mainly depends on whether your lesson objective is fluency or accuracy (more on this below), in any case, there are certain key things to know when it comes to effectively – and sensitively – correcting your students’ mistakes in class.

If you’re new to teaching, you’ll want to get initial training and qualification with a TEFL certificate. You can explore our online TEFL courses to get started!

What is the difference between an error and a mistake?

You might be surprised to learn there’s a difference! Yet in teaching English, a distinction is made.

Mistakes

A mistake is an accident or a lapse, something that your EFL/ESL students actually know and that they can most likely self-correct if given the chance. This can be a typo, using the wrong word, or a small grammatical mistake.

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Errors

An error, on the other hand, is something that your students don’t know because they haven’t learned it yet or they’ve forgotten it. This is where your students need you the most, in order to effectively correct their errors and help them develop their language skills.

What kind of errors do EFL/ESL students make in class?

Students make many mistakes during the long endeavor of learning a new language. This is a natural and necessary part of the learning process! As a teacher, it helps to identify the type of error in order to correct it effectively and smoothly.

Productive skills errors

Errors in spoken or written skills include vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammatical errors, as well as errors in producing intelligible language that can be understood globally.

Receptive skills errors

Errors in listening and reading skills include misinterpretation of content, misunderstanding of words, or simply the inability to comprehend someone’s speech in total.

You’ll learn more about other types of errors students make, such as global and local, in the Micro-credential course: Error Correction in the EFL Classroom.

When should I correct my students?

The timing of correcting students’ errors in teaching English is crucial to your lesson being a success or a fail. Error correction in EFL/ESL has a big impact on your students’ learning process and the right timing will help them retain new information effectively.

When to correct errors in fluency-based lessons

If you’re teaching a class or activity where fluency is the goal, try to monitor your students and take notes of major or repeating mistakes. Don’t interrupt your students’ speech. This might discourage them or make them lose the motivation to speak freely. Save the error correction for the end of the class.

At that time, you can give individual feedback or discuss the most important errors with the whole class if your students are okay with that. You could also prepare a quiz for the next lesson, touching on the major errors that you noted down while monitoring your students.

When to correct errors in accuracy-based lessons

If you’re teaching a class or activity that aims for accuracy, for example applying a new grammar rule during a conversation, you can correct immediately after the mistake has been made, assuming that it is a mistake about said rule. Since you just taught the content, you can encourage your students to self-correct their error first, or you can ask other classmates to help. Sometimes a gesture is enough to indicate the type of error. You don’t need to focus too much on mistakes students make that aren’t related to the current lesson, since this can again disrupt their efforts to use the newly learned grammar.

If you notice during the activity that your students are making the same errors over and over again, you might want to stop the activity, review the lesson content and resume the practice after making sure that all your students have understood the new rule.

Dos and Don’ts of error correction

Here are some useful ground rules for error correction in the English classroom, whether you’re teaching online lessons or in a live classroom. For more detailed tips and tricks, check out the Bridge Micro-credential course: Error Correction in the EFL Classroom!

  • Be sensitive to your students’ needs and preferences. Ask your students at the beginning of your course which kind of error correction they prefer. (Many students like being corrected immediately because they can still remember their mistake and learn from it, while others only want to focus on fluency.
  • Be kind and patient in the way you correct. Always encourage your students to keep trying new language they’ve learned and assure them that making mistakes is okay. You want to encourage your students to speak and to experiment with what they’ve learned so far.
  • Give your students a chance to self-correct, or apply peer-correction in your classroom. Some students learn better when they’re corrected by their classmates instead of the teacher.
  • Use visual cues. Sometimes, simply raising your eyebrow can help your students realize that they’ve made a mistake and it gives them a chance to correct themselves. Establish your own gestures for common mistakes in tense, vocabulary, or sentence structure, such as pointing behind you to indicate a student needs to use past tense.

Dont’s

  • Don’t over-correct every single mistake your students make. Keep error correction relevant and make sure that your students benefit and learn from it.
  • Avoid interrupting your students when they’re making an effort to speak fluently. This can be very counter-productive and your students might lose their motivation or become hesitant to use the new language they’ve learned.
  • Never scold your students, become loud, or show your impatience with angry facial expressions. There are no silly mistakes in the EFL/ESL classroom! This is especially important if you’re teaching young learners, who easily pick up on moods and emotions.
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The importance of error correction in the EFL/ESL classroom

We learn by making mistakes. As children, we learn how to walk by falling over hundreds of times. As adults, we learn a new language by making uncountable mistakes in the use of words, grammar, sentence structure, pronunciation, and register. The most important thing for you as an English teacher is to correct your students’ errors effectively and sensitively. Only then can you help them grow and develop their newly acquired language skills at their own pace and in a comfortable and safe environment.

Learn more about correcting students’ errors effectively

If you’re a new teacher and want to level-up your teaching skills as well as learn more about error correction techniques in the classroom, start with the comprehensive Bridge Master Certificate TEFL/TESOL course.

If you’re an experienced teacher, sign up for the Bridge Micro-credential course: Error Correction in the ESL Classroom to develop additional skills, and you’ll have the option to earn a digital badge to show off your credentials on your TEFL resume and social networks!

Micro-credentials are just one of the many resources that can enhance your TEFL/TESOL resume.

Post by Johanna Kawasaki

After backpacking Australia on a Working Holiday visa, Bridge graduate Johanna traveled to Japan for a year to teach English. She then moved to New Zealand for another two years before returning to her chosen home country, Japan, where she currently lives. Now, with more than eight years of professional English teaching experience, Johanna enjoys her expat life in Japan teaching teenagers at a private junior and senior high school, where she recently received tenure after only two years. When she’s not teaching, Johanna continues to travel regionally and explore new places.

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ELT Planning

TEFL tips and ideas from a developing teacher

1000 words on… Correcting spoken errors

This is an interesting topic I’ve been revisiting this week. I wrote about it during my diploma (see here) and I like how relevant and applicable this topic is to my classroom practice.

Lyster and Ranta (1997) suggest that there are six common correction techniques used by teachers. That is, when they are correcting spoken errors. These techniques are:

Technique Description Example
Explicit correction clearly indicating that the learner’s utterance is wrong and correcting them. Student: *He’s a sinGER

Teacher: No, it’s SINGer. He’s a SINGer.

Recast not directly indicating that the learner was incorrect, but reformulating the error to provide correction. Student: *I go to London yesterday

Teacher: Ah, you went to London yesterday

Student: … er, yeah.

Clarification The teacher indicates that the learner’s utterance was incorrect in some way through phrases like ‘sorry?’, ‘What was that?’ etc. This prompts learner to reformulate Student: *I don’t do many mistakes

Student: I don’t do…

Teacher: Huh? What was that?

Student: Make! I don’t make many mistakes

Metalinguistic clues Without providing the correct form, the teacher asks questions or provides comments

related to the formation of the learner’s utterance

Student: *He work in an office most days

Teacher: Is that the correct form of the verb? Do we say ‘He work?’

Elicitation Teacher elicits correct form from learner As with above example, something like…

Teacher: I work, you work, he/she ….?

Student: works

Repetition Teacher repeats the error, using voice/intonation etc to show that an error has been made and prompt reformulation Student: *He not like football

Teacher: He NOT like football?

Student: doesn’t! He doesn’t

Note: some of my descriptions above are from a great overview from Tedick and de Gortari (1998). More on that in a sec…

Some general points

  • I’d say this categorisation is pretty clear, but there’s definitely overlap at times between the techniques. Like, for example, when you are eliciting but doing so using metalinguistic clues – that kind of two techniques in one.
  • It’s interesting to think about your own use of these techniques and recognise patterns. For example, I naturally usemore explicit correction for pronunciation errors, because I’m not sure learners know the correct form. However, Ielicit more when learners make spoken errors related to grammar, if I’m confident that it’s more of a slip and they know the correct form. This might all sound intuitive, but it’s worth thinking about.
  • I like focusing on error correction techniques when I observe other teachers. It’s amazing how teachers vary when it comes to use of these errors. There’s one teacher at my centre who I’ve dubbed ‘Mr Recast’, and another I’ve labelled ‘The Elicitator’. They don’t know I’ve given them these titles.

Which techniques are the most effective?

Effectiveness of the techniques (as reported in research) is based on ‘learner uptake’. This is basically how the learner responds to the teacher’s feedback: do they recognise the feedback as a correction? Do they act on the correction? If so, how? Etc.

This snippet from a table in Lyster and Ranta (1997) shows some of the categories of learner uptake:

It seems there are levels to learner uptake. The target is for learners to ‘repair’ their error – whether that means self-repairing, repeating the correct form, etc.

I find some learner uptake categories are a bit ambiguous. Take ‘acknowledge’ for example and consider the example of a recast I gave earlier:

Student: I go to London yesterday

Teacher: Ah, you went to London yesterday

It could be that the learner is acknowledging a correction. Or, it might be that the learners response actually means ‘Er… yeah. That’s what I said. Why are you kind of echoing me? That’s weird…’. In that case, they’re not actually acknowledging that they made an error.

Anyway, getting a bit sidetracked. Sorry.

Lyster and Ranta findings based on a fairly large data set of student turns/errors:

General findings:

  • Recasts were a commonly used correction technique
  • Recasts were generally an ineffective correction technique (based on this study)
  • Elicitation and metalinguistic feedback yield a high percentage of repairs by students

There has been a lot more research following up on this study. Russell (2009) has a great overview of this research, and focuses quite a bit on the discussion around whether recasts are effective. Here are some of the general points made – see Russell for the references:

  • Context is important. Uptake of recasts varies based on instructional setting. There is evidence to suggests that there is more uptake of recasts in form-focused classrooms (e.g. Oliver and Mackey, 2003)
  • Immediate learner uptake is not a fair way to judge effectiveness. What if using recasts has some longer term benefit? (e.g. Long, 2006)
  • Is the focus on correction or interaction? Maybe recasts facilitate interaction better than other techniques? (e.g. Mackey and Philp, 1998)

And there are some other good points made. My favourite is…

  • What about learners? What do they want? We might think certain techniques are more effective based on research, but what if the learners actually expect certain forms of correction? This may be true in some contexts with regard to explicit correction.

This is a really interesting topic, and it’s pretty easy to find open access articles on it with a quick Google search. I’ve just skim read this one by Ito (2015), some evidence in favour of elicitation techniques over recasts.

Practical implications

The Tedick and de Gortari (1998) article I mentioned earlier has some useful practical points to consider about correcting spoken errors. Have a skim read of this – common sense and useful.

Follow up

If you use Active Inspire, then I’ve written an INSETT on this topic with some practical tasks. Get in contact if you want a copy (I can’t upload in Active Inspire file format here).

  • What are your thoughts on these correction techniques?
  • Do you think you use certain correction techniques more than others?
  • Do you think that these techniques are suitable for all ages and levels? What works in your context?

References

Lyster, R., & Ranta, L. (1997). Corrective feedback and learner uptake: Negotiation of form in communicative classrooms. Studies in second language acquisition, 19(1), 37-66.

Russell, V. (2009). Corrective feedback, over a decade of research since Lyster and Ranta (1997): Where do we stand today. Electronic Journal of Foreign Language Teaching, 6(1), 21-31.

Tedick, D. J., & De Gortari, B. (1998). Research on error correction and implications for classroom teaching. ACIE Newsletter, 1(3), 1-6.

(feature image: Gary Conkling life notes)

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