easy-to-follow advice for fun, effective lessons

Available for Immediate Download

Add to Cart

Main Menu

Home
ESL Activities
ESL Articles
Mini-Course
······································································
About Chris and the ebook
Testimonials
I don't think any words can reward your great ideas, strategies, tactics, techniques.
- Bosbos
All Mistakes Aren't Equal
User Rating: / 33
PoorBest 

All of the mistakes that students make aren't equally created. In fact, there are a number of mistakes that shouldn't receive correction at all. The teacher should completely ignore them.

What? Ignore mistakes? But isn't it the teacher's job to make sure students correctly use the language?

Yes... and no.

In short, too much correction can demoralize students. Too much correction can confuse students because they don't know where to place their focus during the practice activities. Too much correction limits the amount of time students use the new material because the teacher must repeatedly stop and correct, stop and correct, stop and correct.

Of course, the teacher should address mistakes with the target language. The same holds true if the material has been previously studied, as this lies within the language production of the students. However, the teacher should ignore material not yet studied, unfamiliar cultural points, or areas above the ability of the student.

Consider the following terminology for clarity:

Mistakes: These are language points that should be corrected. The students know the material, or just about know it, but have made small slips of the tongue.

Errors: These are language points the teacher should ignore. Perhaps the students have taken a rule from their native language and applied it to English. Or maybe they have taken some well-known language point and applied it to a new situation where it doesn't fit. Or maybe the students watched a TV program or listened to some music the night before and are trying to use words or phrases fromreq there.

With the above explanation or mistakes and errors, it may seem like a mistake is always corrected and an error is never corrected. However, this simply isn't true, even if all mistakes aren't equal.

Consider the early portions of the lesson as a time for the students to become familiar with new vocabulary and/or grammar structures. Students need to spend a lot of energy and focus on the new material, so the teacher should limit correction to the target language. Other mistakes and errors can more or less be ignored.

As the lesson progresses, additional room for correction of other mistakes exists. The more frequent ones may be addressed, especially if they have been recently studied and/or should be well known. The teacher can also address any errors that don't require much of a detour. For example, if students don't know how to pronounce an English name from the dialogue/activity, or even if they can't distinguish between the name of a male or female character, the teacher can quickly raise both points. This becomes a much-needed and apt teachable moment that adds clarity and richness to the activity.

Finally, towards the end of the lesson, the teacher sets up free activities like role plays, discussions, and presentations. This allows the class to experiment with the day's target language and previously learned material. They mix the language to suit their interests and needs. Unfortunately, this also makes it very, very difficult for the teacher to interrupt and correct. It's a bit unrealistic and unfair to expect students to get deeply involved in a conversation, then get interrupted, and then be expected to smoothly continue the flow of the conversation and idea.

The teacher can thus reserve the final few minutes of the class to any mistakes and errors deemed worthy of mention. And any frequent mistake/error may indicate a weakness that should receive the full attention of a future lesson.