Error Correction in Foreign Language Teaching: Techniques and Exercises


What’s Error Correction?

One of the biggest dilemmas  for teachers is  to know when and if to correct students and how to do it. Over-correcting students might result in students losing motivation and the destruction  of the flow of the class.

When To Correct?

I think that the most appropiate thing to do is to talk to your students about error correction and discuss when they like to be corrected.

How to Correct Students

There are different techniques that can be used to correct errors, the following is a list of the most common:

1. A recast is a technique used in language teaching to correct learners’ errors in such a way that communication is not obstructed. To recast an error, an interlocutor will repeat the error back to the learner in a corrected form.

A typical recast might be:

  • Student: “I want eat.”
  • Teacher: “What do you want to eat?”

2. Peer Correction is a good technique  because most of the time students can corret to each other and this creates a positive and collaborative atmosphere and students will realize that you are not the only source of correction.

3. Correction Time is a period of time that you can set during your classes to deal with problems and issues that arose during practice and production stage. To make the most out of this time, you can write some phrases in the whiteboard with the errors they made and ask the class to spot and correct the errors.

4. Instant Correction refers to correcting the errors as soons as they are made however you have to take into account that you don’t want to destroy the flow of the class by constantly correcting errors made by your students.

  • Using fingers: Highlight an incorrect form or to indicate a word order mistake.
  • Gestures:  Use hand gestures to indicate the use of the wrong tense.

5. Grammar Auctions: Students receive a number of sentences taken from their written work. Some are correct, some wrong. Students in groups have to try to buy the correct ones in the auction. They have a limited amount of money. The team with the most correct sentences wins.

6. Correction Code: When checking a piece of writing, the appropiate thing to do is to indicate the type of errors that students made using a correction code.

7. Recording: Ask students to record dialogues and conversations so you can analyze their performance later.


Questions you Should Ask Yourself

correcting-1351629_640 - Pixabay
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1. Are students making new errors?

if they are, it means that they are exploring and experimenting with the language.

2. What type of error are the students making? 

You have to know what the source of the problem is, most error can be categorized into one of these five type of errors:

  • A lexical error – vocabulary
  • A phonological error – pronunciation
  • A syntactic error- grammar
  • An interpretive error – misunderstanding of a speaker’s intention or meaning
  • A pragmatic error – failure to apply the rules of conversation

3. What measures are you taking to prevent old errors from happening again?

We already established that new errors are a result of students experimenting with new vocabulary or language structures so we shouldn’t stress out too much, on the other hand when we are dealing with the same mistakes in several ocassions, we should provide tackle the issue and provide more practice to ensure those error aren’t made again.

4. Are you promoting the critical thinking of your students?

Since you are a teacher, you can easily spot and correct mistakes but why don’t you help student correct their own mistakes, You can do that easily by giving students a piece of writing and instructing to spot and correct the errors.

5. Are errors caused by  complex structures?

Don’t expect beginners to know how to use the passive voice so try to errors for which the learner is developmentally ready.


Error Correction Exercises

  1. Reading and Writing Error Correction
  2. Error Correction Worksheets

Additional Resources

English Grammar Reference Book: Grammar and Error Correction Guide and Phrasal Verb Book

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