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Correction TechniquesPart of helping students improve their language skills involves correcting the students in their speech. This, however, requires the teacher to take many different factors about the student and the situation into consideration all at once and make a quick decision about how and when the mistake should be corrected. This is a big task, but if done in an encouraging way, it can help the students tremendously.
Thinking through a few factors first will help in knowing how and when corrections should be made. One factor is the age and personality of each individual student. For example, the louder, more talkative students are more likely to take correction in front of the class better than a quieter student. However, whether the student is more outgoing or less, the correction needs to be done in an encouraging way. A second factor to keep in mind is the stage of the lesson or the type of activity that is being done. Correction is usually done more during accuracy stages/activities than during fluency ones. A third factor is the culture in which the teacher is teaching. Each culture has its own ways or ideas for how correction should be done or what is appropriate to do, which should be followed if possible. These main factors will help in making corrections.
When it comes to actually correcting students, there are three ways for how this can be done. The first way is to have the student use self-correction. This means that the student must think through their mistake in order to correct it, which allows them to learn from the process. One way to get students to do this is by repeating back what the student said and asking whether it sounds correct. This is definitely a helpful way of pointing out a mistake while still be encouraging. A second way correction can be done is to use students to correct other students. The students are all learning the language together so it is a little less intimidating than actually being corrected by the native speaker. This method should be used carefully though when it is done in front of the whole class. Pulling the student aside after class or during individual work could be a better time for the student to be able to focus and think through the mistake than having the class or the teacher correct them in front of the class. It is good for the students to be encouraged and motivated to learn the language, not deterred from it. The third way correction can be done is by the teacher. This should be a last resort though, since the student is less likely to remember the correction and will repeat what the teacher says without really thinking about it. The three ways for correcting should be tried in that order as much as possible to allow the students the opportunity to really learn from their mistakes and grow in their language skills.
When to correct a student also has a few deciding factors so that mistakes are not overly highlighted and the students discouraged. Jeremy Harmer states, “It is just as important – perhaps more so – to praise students for their success as it is to correct them when they fail” (p. 63). The stage of the lesson or the type of activity being done will help determine when correction is made. In an ESA type lesson, for example, there is usually no correction done in the Engage and Activate stages. It is usually all done in the Study stage. Narrowing down to what would be helpful to correct will also help determine when to correct. Mistakes repeated over and over by the class or individuals, mistakes pertaining to what was taught in the lesson, or mistakes that impede understanding should be corrected. However, breaking the flow of student’s speech is never the time to correct. All this is very helpful information and can prevent overcorrecting and discouraging the students.
Knowing how and when to correct students is a skill gained from experience, but knowing these techniques can help the inexperienced and experienced alike and leave the students encouraged to keep learning.
Harmer, J. (1998). How to Teach english
. Malaysia: Adam, Wesley, Longman Limited.