Sesión 4

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The Teachers' Room

Top tips for error correction

Dan and Sian discuss different techniques for highlighting and correcting student errors - but why does Dan keep slapping himself?

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Correcting Errors

There are lots of things to take into consideration when correcting errors. It's important to think about the purpose of the activity. Are the students focussing on accuracy or fluency?

Don't give the answer
Try to avoid just giving students the answer; instead, highlight the error and encourage them to work out the answer themselves. In this way students process the error, making them realise that a mistake was made and, hopefully, reducing the chance they will make it again. Every mistake is a learning opportunity. 

On-the-spot correction
On-the-spot correction is a great idea when focusing on accuracy. Help students recognise that they have made an error using visual clues in your body language - for example, you can use your fingers, hand movements and gestures to indicate where an error has occurred.

Make a joke!
Don't be afraid to make a joke out of a mistake! Humour is essential to a good classroom atmosphere. If a student has said something amusing, make them laugh about it. If you know your students well, you know who they are and how far you can go with them.

Peer correction
Encourage peer correction where you can. Provided it's done in the right way, it can make the class more likely to support each other and help out a student who is not sure what their mistake was. It also ensures that the other students are paying attention, since you might ask them to help at any time!

Delayed correction
In some cases, such as fluency practice, on-the-spot correction would break up the flow of the class. Better to make note of errors as they occur and use them in an activity after the fluency practice has finished. You could do a grammar auction, a 'spot the mistake' activity or give the sentences out for homework and ask the students to correct them for the next day. This is great for testing their vocabulary and grammar together.

Praise them!
Don't forget to praise your students for good language examples! Otherwise, they may become demotivated and stop trying.

To do

Try our quiz to see if you've picked up our tips.

The Teachers' Room Quiz

5 Questions

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Get involved

Well, those were just a few ideas that we here at BBC Learning English had, but we know that you teachers out there have lots of fantastic ideas too, and we'd like you to share them with us and everybody else.

If you have a great tip or technique for teaching word stress, or anything else, please email us at learningenglish@bbc.co.uk. We’ll publish our favourites here on our website or on our other social media platforms - and we may even mention them on the show. While we can’t respond to each email individually, we do read every one you send.

We are also looking for your video tips to include in the programme. If you would like to send us your favourite teaching tip via an online video call please include a line in your email saying that you're interested in this.

We’d really love to hear from you all.

Your Emails

Renata, Poland
I am a novice teacher from Poland. Your tips are great. I personally find them very helpful in developing as a teacher. Thank you a lot!
There is one piece of advice I would like to share with you.
Students usually forget to add "s" to a verb in the 3rd singular form in Present Simple tense. I don't want to interrupt in order to correct mistakes while they are speaking because they usually find it frustrating and it lowers their confidence as of users of a foreign language. Therefore, I usually implement "silent" error correction: when I hear the mistake, I show them a green card with a big letter "S". Then, students usually correct themselves building the sentence again with a correct verb form. 
After some time, when I hear my students making this mistake, I show them a green card again, but without "S" on it. Students recognise the colour and the message behind and correct themselves. After some time the problem with "S" just disappears :)

That's an excellent idea, Renata. It's a gentle reminder of a recurring mistake - and it's something that be done quickly and unintrusively. Great idea.

Jelana
I am constantly agonizing over the error correction, and these were some great tips. I think i will try everything but the slapping (actually, I will replace it with some lighter gesture, like pulling yourself by the nose or something similar :)). What I also do is correcting through the echo, e.g. if a student says: "I like it a lot, but he don't", I will repeat: "I like it a lot, but he?" and give them a chance to correct themselves.

We like the modification, Jelana! Of course we are not suggesting that anyone should hit anyone. But you clearly have the right idea. A gentle reminder of 'oh come on, you know better than that'. Also well done on using echos to indicate errors. As you said, it makes the student correct themselves. Great stuff.

Smiley, Vietnam

I'm teaching primary students at home. My students are from 7 to 10 years old. They are very energetic and dynamic.
About errors, I find that some of students are afraid of making mistakes. Sometimes they do not dare to raise their hands to answer my questions. In these cases, I think teachers' reation are very important. I usually encourage them give it a try. Right or wrong is not the most important because they can express themselves. 
About speaking, the most common mistake is pronouncing final sounds like /s/ /z/ /iz/ /t/ /d/ /id/. I usually ask them to write these symbols (by pencils) under examples.If they pronounce wrongly, I will make them pay attention by raising my voice or humming, such as [is]: i........... and students say /iz/.
However, there is one of thing I need to improve myself is breaking up the flow of the class. Sometimes I correct errors immediately when they occur. Thank you for your reminder about this during this session. 

And thank you again, Smiley for a second useful tip. You are on a roll! We agree that sometimes the most important thing is not whether the student is right or wrong, but that they try. It is important that they remember that making mistakes is normal and perfectly ok! 

Francesca, Italy

To teach English I videotape my students and let them watch and comment on their on performance!I also let them record long sentences using whatsup so that they can listen to themselves and improve. It is amazing how this way they can detect mistakes and improve  their fluency.

This is a very modern approach to teaching, Francesca. We are sure that there are teachers out there reading this even now saying "No mobile phones in class!" We think this is a great idea especially since social media aloows them to share their speech with a group of people who can also share their own versions. That way, every one learns and helps each other. Very nice.

End of Session 4

Next up is Learners' Questions, our brand new series, where we choose one question sent in by an English language learner, and provide an answer. What will this week's question be? Join us in Session 5 to find out.

Sesión de vocabulario

  • Correcting Errors

    • Guide students to the answer
    • Peer correction is a great idea
    • Keep in mind the activity – accuracy or fluency?
    • Use body language for on-the-spot correction
    • Delayed correction is better in a fluency activity
    • Don't forget to praise too!