When thinking about error correction, consider the following: How can I help learners self-correct?
A good rule to follow is: Don’t do the corrections for your students!
Help learners notice the error. Once the learner notices, he or she may self-correct if the form is the focus of the lesson and the learner is ready for the correction. Remember that heavy correction is premature when you are just introducing new language. During activities that focus on accuracy, correction is helpful.
Example A: During an oral practice activity with the irregular past tense:
Student speaking: Yesterday I go to the store.
Teacher/tutor: Yesterday I…? (uses a nonverbal cue, like a questioning look, or a gesture to signify past tense).
S: Yesterday I no go to the store?
T: Try again. Yesterday I _____ to the store. (T emphasizes “yesterday” and hums where the word should be).
Note: If the learner continues to struggle, ask others if they can help. If someone knows the correct form, model it, ask the original learner to produce it. Then let them know they have it right. Ask them to produce it one more time. If a learner isn’t able to make the correction, then he or she probably isn’t ready for it. Let it go, but make a note that this is an area that needs more work for that student.
Example B: For recurrent errors, like the “S” in third person, hold up a big “S” or make a sign for the wall that you can point to. All you need to do is point to the sign or hold it up as a reminder. Repeat up to the point where the learner made the error and let them “fill in the blank.”
Example C: Write the student’s incorrect sentence on the board with a blank in place of the error. Give them a questioning look or ask them what’s missing. Or, if there are examples on the board, point to the correct form.
Example D: You are moving around the room, helping students individually as they complete a worksheet. Fadumo has finished, but two of her answers are wrong.
T: Fadumo, you did a great job. Ten of your answers are correct! Now look at numbers seven and 12 again.
Note: Sometimes you can give a hint. “There are two words missing” or “Think about the tense. It says ‘yesterday’. Is that past tense or present tense?” You can also help by pointing out other key words that give clues.