The best way to correct your students is, naturally, getting them to correct themselves. Moreover – I see it as THE ONLY way to really achieve the results (and it is especially true of getting rid of fossilized errors). There are a few problems here, however (a free material shared below, click “more”):
- the students will only notice a limited number of own errors (mostly those arising from a lack of attention), so –
- the resulting variant of, eg, the essay will still be too far from acceptable with weaker students; in addition –
- they may feel uncomfortable and abandoned by you, hence – discouraged, as in many cultures it’s common to rely on the teacher’s motherly care.
- in any case, self-correction is not as easy as it may seem.
Therefore, it’s wise to use a “transitional” technique, fostering the learner maturity on the one hand, developing their noticing skills, and guiding their thinking, structuring the errors revealed so they are not overwhelming, and helping the learner to take some action eliminating them, on the other.
Here I’m sharing a material based on an effective technique I learned a long time ago and has used it every now and again. I forgot the source already – but it may be familiar to you. I’ve applied it recently to work on my 1-2-1 TOEFL student’s essay (weak but ambitious intermediate), but is surely adaptable for groups (peer correction/help involved), and any other kinds of writting.
The worksheet: essay self-correction_noticing worksheet
Here is the technique and the lesson outline based on it:
- do not mark any errors on the student’s paper, but, instead,
- re-write their essay (letter, story etc) so that retains as much as possible (!) of the original, but is written in a more or less acceptable 🙂 and more natural English. We must take care here not to change the original too drastically as it may be highly discouraging and demotivating for the student. Then,
- get the student to compare the 2 versions. They must try to understand why your wording is better in every case. Then,
- provide any clarifications as needed, and
- classify the corrections into categories, eg, vocabulary, grammar, style, punctuation, confusables… – depending on the range of problems. Finally,
- make some steps towards de-fossilisation and remedial. In this material, I have used the classical gapfill exercise made from the same edited version. I always (!) get my SS to re-read the edited variant aloud and “with emotion” 🙂 so the visual-kinestetic memory works. This polishes things up. Follow that up with a make-your-own-sentences exercise or a similar semi-creative thing, then use the corrected language in a light-hearted discussion, and set them a homework assignment (another essay) in which they are to use some (or all) of the language corrected.
This will provide enough intensive and varied work for a whole lesson and result in quite a few things improved (especially the little odds and ends your coursebook never focused on). To add listening comprehension, I ‘d recommend reading the ‘clean’ version aloud as the student(s) compare it with their work (give the text out afterwards for a more detailed analysis).
As usual, I’ll be really grateful for any feedback – and happy if this material becomes useful to someone (it did help my dear SS).