Error Correction in Language Oral Practice and Ways to Do It Right

by Rachel Bartee

In language learning, mistakes are expected and they are all innocent. Teachers have to find a way to make subtle adjustments without making the students feel insecure.

The first and most important rule to keep in mind is that all students are different. Some of them will prefer being corrected as soon as they make a mistake, but others would like you to let them speak up and correct their mistakes later on.

That being said, the way is just as important as the timing. We’ll share valuable tips on how to make language corrections properly throughout the oral practice of your students.

1. Keep Interruptions and Corrections Balanced

Each interruption will cause some level of stress for the students. It’s not wise to interrupt them every single time they make a mistake. Do that only if it’s a bad mistake that you cannot allow them to make.

You can make an entrance once the student finishes the sentence, the thought, or the entire answer. Then, you’ll have space to make corrections without causing them to forget what they were trying to say.

2. You Don’t Have to Voice Their Mistakes Every Time

Instead of your voice, you can use facial expressions, mimics, gestures, objects, or cards that your students will recognize as signs that they need to improve something in their speech. This is a nice strategy because it helps them to recognize own mistakes.

3. Focus on Correcting One Type of Mistake at a Time

If you just went through a lesson on past simple verb forms, focus on correcting those mistakes. You may say that they made another mistake, too, but you’ll focus on this particular aspect of their speech for today.

Gordon Spacey, language tutor from Superior Papers, shares an important tip: “If you start correcting every single mistake your students make, you’ll just confuse them. That’s why it’s important to focus on correcting relevant mistakes, so you’ll keep their focus on the current lesson.”

4. Categorize the Mistake

When your students make mistakes as they speak, you may write them down and group them in different categories. They will make mistakes in vocabulary, syntax, grammar, and pronunciation. When you have a well-organized list of repetitive or new mistakes, you’ll be able to address them through practices later on.

5. Collect Mistakes for Further Practice

Some students are great at writing, but they lack self-confidence in their speaking practices. For these individuals, a written list of common mistakes is very helpful. You may give them the list, so they will realize what mistake they made.

Then, you may ask them to write a homework assignment with several sentences to correct that mistake.

6. Use Shadow Corrections

With shadow corrections, the student will not perceive your correction as something scary. They will feel like it’s a simple conversation.

Here’s an example:

You basically repeat what your student said, but you do it in the correct way.

7. Record Their Speech and Ask Them to Look for Their Own Mistakes

Since the students don’t have a lot of time to think while they speak, they will make more mistakes than they usually make on tests. Record their speech and then ask if they can identify their own mistakes.

With this exercise, you give them some time to think.

8. Rely on Peer Corrections

Corrections from fellow students are far less scary than corrections from the teacher.

You can have an exercise where everyone will speak. Before speaking, the student will correct the previous student’s mistakes.

9. Make a Poster with Frequent Mistakes

Some mistakes become habitual. If you highlight them and put them in a place where everyone can see them, you’ll make your students more aware of those errors.

10. Always Stay Positive

Instead of focusing on the mistake, you should focus on your student getting it right. When you correct them and they say the sentence in the right way, praise them for the effort.

To sum it up, you have to be mindful about the way you correct the speech of your students. The last thing you want to do is make them uncomfortable to speak up. The above-listed tips will help you make the corrections a natural part of the learning process.

About a writer

Rachel Bartee is an educator, writer and editor who finds her passion in blogging. She is constantly looking for the ways to improve her skills and expertise. Her life principle is “Always do more than you can”. Talk to her on @rachel5bartee.

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