Top tips for dealing with common errors in your classes

errorIn a previous post, we pointed out 5 common errors Spanish speakers make in English. We also stated that errors could be ignored if they are not impeding communication. However, there are times when error correction exercises are needed for the students to make progress in the language. Here are five top tips for dealing with common errors that will help your students to 1) become aware of their own mistakes and 2) make them responsible for their own learning.

calendarPoint them out. All students will have an “error calendar” in their notebooks. What errors do the learners remember you mentioned that day in class? For each lesson, make a few students responsible for noting down the mistakes you have pointed out that day and get them to dictate them to the rest class. At the end of the lesson, each student will write the errors down on their calendars and correct them. Later in the term, are there any errors repeated throughout the calendar? That should give you and your students an idea of which errors are more common / need more attention. You can also test your students with a quiz or a game at the end of each unit / every two units to check that they can all correct those mistakes.

confusion boxBecome the teacher for a day. After you’ve finished one unit, students write down what they are not yet sure about on a slip of paper (the more the better). Then, they put them in the “confusion box”. In teams / pairs, they draw a few slips of paper and provide a solution to their peers’ problems. After that, they present their answers to the class. Why not bring this to SchoolTube?  Create a SchoolTube channel and get your students to upload videos explaining how to deal with those errors. I am sure that other students around the world will also benefit from those explanations!

sticky notesError exchange. Collect the mistakes from your students’ writings and write sentences containing one or two errors on sticky notes. Distribute the notes with different errors among the students. Give them a few minutes to correct them (without writing). Then, students stand up, find someone to talk to and read their incorrect and correct sentences to them. If that new person understands why there was a mistake / agrees with the correction, they exchange notes. Then, with the new note they have just received from their former classmate, they find a new pair and follow the same procedure: read the mistake, explain the solution, exchange papers. Tip: this activity works better with big classes.                  

PadletClassify the errors. If your students are allowed to use mobile devices in the classroom, you can create a Padlet similar to this, with different categories referring to the most common mistakes generally made by your students (add examples if necessary). Ask your students to write an essay, collect them and post them on the walls around the classroom (their names can be deleted). Students work in teams to find examples in the writings for all or some of those categories (make sure they write the examples with a sufficient context but they should not correct the error). Finally, display the Padlet on the screen and discuss the errors with your students. How can they be improved? Alternative: categories and examples can be written on the board.

ReconstructCan they remember? The teacher takes a text that the students have previously read in class and writes an incorrect version of it (i.e., with grammar, vocabulary, spelling, punctuation mistakes). Then, the teacher displays the incorrect text on the screen and, in pairs / teams, students try to reconstruct the lines based on their knowledge and memory. After that, they compare the original text with their version. Did they spot all the mistakes? Which ones were easier / harder to detect? Why?         

I hope the previous activities can help your learners to make progress in English. We can’t forget mistakes are part of the learning process and should be used as an opportunity for improving (Corder, 1974). Are there any other effective error correction activities that you use in your classes?

References:

Corder (1974). Error Analysis. In Allen, J.L.P. and Corder, S.P., Techniques in Applied Linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Speakout Elementary, 2nd Edition. Pearson. Frances Eales and Steve Oakes, 2015.

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5 common errors Spanish speakers make in English

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About Elena Merino

Teacher Trainer for Pearson. I lived 1 year in Ireland and 3 years in the USA, where I fell in love with the English language. I've worked as a teacher for twelve years in different contexts and with different age groups. PhD in Communication and Multilingual Education, I'm concerned about meaningful real-world tasks that get students to communicate, in other words, how can teachers facilitate learning and engage students in the English classroom?

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