Error correction in speaking- dos and don’ts

If you have ever taught a foreign language, you have probably heard students talk about them being scared to speak and make errors/mistakes. Personally, I see errors/mistakes as a part of a learning process in everything we do- it’s certainly not a bad thing! The fear, very often, comes from a bad given feedback- and that is exactly what we are talking about in this post. Here are 3 dos and don’ts:

What you can do:

#1 Write down errors/mistakes you hear

If you have a great memory, remembering errors/mistakes can work well for you but if you are like me, a piece of paper is probably your best friend. Write down important errors/mistakes and get back to them after speaking or by the end of the lesson.

#2 Facial expressions and body language

If you are practising a certain grammar tense or form through speaking and you need to correct students while they speak, sometimes a simple facial expression or your body language can be enough. Students will probably understand what you mean by your raised eyebrow and correct the mistake by themselves.

#3 Use your hands

Very similar to point n.2- Let’s say you are practising the present continuous tense. Use your hands or fingers to show what element is missing in student’s sentence, for example:

  • Your thumb represents the subject
  • Your index finger represents am/is/are
  • Your middle finger represents the verb
  • Your ring finger represents the ing ending

What you shouldn’t do:

#1 Interrupt students’ speech

Interrupting students’ speech in a aggresive manner isn’t really a good idea and can be a start of a negative attitude to languages (trust me- I know what I am talking about).

#2 Correct every single error/mistake

I understand you need to give a feedback on student’s speech but please- don’t overcorrect them! Decide what errors/mistakes are essential and important to correct & the rest just simply leave out.

#3 Have a negative attitude to making errors/mistakes

Making errors/mistakes is important and it is a part of the learning process! Take it as a way of improvement, not an enemy. We all make mistakes and we all learn from them.


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