THE TABLE OF CONTENTS
II. Managing oral mistakes in the English classroom:
A. Theoretical issues:
1. Modem methodological attitude towards mistakes and correction
2. Encouraging mistakes
3. Teacher’s reactions to an oral mistake
4. Effects of correction on children
5. Factors causing mistakes
6. Correction, fluency and accuracy:
7. Forms of correction
8. Best time to correct mistakes
9. What to correct B. Practical Application of correction techniques:
1. Techniques of correction/how to correct
2. Techniques for indicating a mistake
3. Techniques for indicating a place of the mistake
4. Techniques for indicating the kind of mistake:
a. Traditional techniques
b. Non-traditional techniques
5. Delayed correction
What is a mistake?
As is to be expected different methodologists slightly differently discuss a mistake. However, all of them agree that making mistakes is a part of learning and, therefore, it is natural. “Mistakes are an inescapable fact of language learning. The fact that babies do it (…) indicates that mistakes are natural.”(I 11). Thus, all learners of a language whether it is their first language or a foreign one have one thing in common: they all make mistakes. Therefore, the conclusion that mistakes are inevitable in language learning is drawn in every methodological book on mistakes.
What is a mistake? Bartram and Walton (1991:20) classify mistakes according to their causes. The word “mistake” appears to be only one in a range of words to denote various kinds of errors. These two methodologists distinguish mistakes, errors* and slips. They define mistakes as “caused by the learner not putting into practice something they have learned” (I 20) and errors as “caused by the learner trying out something completely new, and getting it wrong” (I 20). However, this distinction is only a theoretical one as in practice it is really impossible to distinguish between these two. The third type of mistakes is a slip, i.e. “wrong language caused by tiredness, carelessness, nerves etc.” (I 20) which could be produced by anybody including native speakers.
The other classification of mistakes proposed by Bartram and Walton (1991:23) is based on the effect of mistakes. In other words, if the produced language violates the rules of the language system, but the intended meaning is clear and the grammatical mistake(s) does/do not impede communication such language is considered to be wrong only from the grammatical point of view, and functioning well as a piece of communication. Therefore, grammar might be less important than non-native language teachers tend to think (“non-native teachers are the severest ones on mistakes” (124)).
Edge (1991:7) calls this kind of errors mistakes of form. Generally, when teachers talk about mistakes, they usually mean mistakes of linguistic form. Edge (1990:9) a little bit differently
*Words mistake and error can be used synonymically as it is done by the majority of other methodologists.
from Bartram and Walton, divides them into slips, errors and attempts. According to Edge, slips are defined as careless tiny mistakes of linguistic form that could be self-corrected. Errors are the mistakes that cannot be self-corrected, but the class knows the correct form. The third type of mistakes – attempts – are defined as the wrong language used to express a thought having no necessary knowledge or through hypothesis-forming, as Bartram & Walton phrase it (I 12).
Edge (1990:2) also distinguishes mistakes of meaning which are considered to be the most important mistakes as they affect the meaning causing a breakdown in communication. Correct linguistic forms are of no use if they do not mean what is intended. In addition to this, Edge attaches the problem of politeness to the mistakes of meaning. Being polite with people is more important than being linguistically correct.
Somewhere in the middle between these two groups of mistakes distinguished by Edge, Bartram and Walton place covert mistakes – these occur when the student says something what they really do not mean, but what is linguistically correct. Consider the following examples:
1. If the company will guarantee delivery, we will order large quantities.
Normally will would not be used in the if-clause, though in this case it is
Possible in the sense of if the company is willing to… In another case, the same
student would produce something like ‘If the weather will get better, we can
play tennis’. In this case, there is no misunderstanding, but it is grammatically
2. How long are you in Vilnius?
This example is opposite to the first one. What the student really means is How long have you been staying in Vilnius? Therefore, they are talking about the past, but the person addressed will assume they are talking about the future. This example sentence causes a misunderstanding while being grammatically wrong.
Bartram and Walton treat this kind of mistakes in the same way as all other mistakes: if they hinder communication, only then they matter and should be rectified, first of all by the means of self-correction – the on-going conversation/dialogue can help the student to correct it himself.
Moreover, Bartram and Walton (1991:12) suggest that many mistakes should not be corrected at all, but should be encouraged.
In general, modem language teaching methodologists claim that a mistake should not be treated as something negative which requires some punishment. On the contrary mistake is evidence of learning. Moreover, the idea that mistakes are a natural and, in fact, essential part of learning must be transmitted to the students. “The person who never made a mistake, never made anything” (119).
The problem of this research paper is to establish theoretical and practical sides of managing oral mistakes in the English classroom involving a teacher’s possible reactions to a mistake, the suggested ways of the reaction, and when and how to manage oral mistakes.
1. to define a mistake (how it is understood and classified);
2. to discuss the possible teacher’s reactions to an oral mistake of a student;
3. to introduce the suggested ways of the reactions to the mistake;
4. to consider the possible factors or making oral mistakes;
5. to establish the effects of correction on children;
6. to present when to correct and when not;
7. to consider what mistakes to correct;
8. to exhibit ways of indicating spoken mistakes;
9. to exemplify what techniques should be employed for correction.
Materials and methods of this research paper will be discussed in the second half of it as they are closely connected with the issue itself.
The theoretical and practical value of the research paper To start with the theoretical part of the issue, every language, first of all, is spoken. Therefore, the command of the spoken language is one of the most important aspects of language learning. One can study a language (for example, Greek or Latin) without the real usage of it. Yet, most people aim to use a language for a number of different reasons which may be personal or cultural, educational, political or other. Indeed, the communicative language teaching approach (one of the latest ones) views language as a system for communication.
The aim set by this approach is the learner’s ability to communicate in the target language. Then, one’s language must be comprehensible – not necessarily perfect*, but to a great degree appropriate and, certainly, correct. The question is in what ways the correctness should be achieved? The answer to this question is the basic issue of this research paper. It includes the teacher’s attitudes towards oral mistakes and reactions to it, possible factors under the influence of which an oral mistake occurs as well as aspects of correction and the ways of it.
*It is important to note that anybody’s knowledge of a language is partial if “even the dictionaries disagree about some things” (16).
II. A. THEORETICAL ISSUES
The general tendency of the language methodologists is to view making mistakes as a part of learning, and correction as a part of teaching. In addition to this, the teaching exists to serve the learning. Students depend on the teacher as the teacher decides whether to correct or not, when and what to correct and what techniques to construe.
It is a general tendency for teachers to be worried by mistakes (especially non-native ones, according to Bartram and Walton: “non-native teachers tend to be severest of all on mistakes” (I 24). Nevertheless, these two methodologists suggest that “good English” does not mean “free of mistakes”. In real life the importance of a mistake depends on the situation it occurs. However, very often a teacher’s reaction to an oral mistake is to immediately correct it. It is not always bad. Yet, there is a number of points for a teacher to consider before leaping on the mistakes. Thus, correction should not mean insisting on everything being absolutely correct. On the contrary, it is a means of helping students to improve their accuracy in the use of language.
In contrast to correction, Bartram and Walton (1991:12) enlist three reasons why mistakes should be encouraged:
1. Forming hypothesis on what one already knows about the language. For example, if a learner knows that the past tense form of the verb is built by the means of-ed and knows such forms as arrived, liked, passed, talked, walked it is highly probable for him to experiment with buyed, goed, spended, drinked etc.
The importance of hypothesis forming rests on the fact that it indicates the learner’s moving forward in the language learning process. Mistakes occur due to the learner’s guesses, experiment with new forms of the language and they should be encouraged not hindered by immediate correction.
2. Hypothesis-forming based on the learner’s mother tongue. The target language is not always distinct from the mother tongue. Thus, the first language (LI) provides a chance for a learner to experiment in the new language: if a particular form exists in their mother
tongue, it is probable that it is exists in the second language (L2), too. For example, a German or a Lithuanian speaker with a cigarette and no lighter may ask; Have you fire? Bartram and Walton (1991:16) emphasize that teachers, in fact, tend to be severest on this kind of mistake though they should not be. When a student wants to say something in the target language, but is prevented, he/she starts worrying about the possibility of making a mistake and chooses not to say anything at all, i.e. no practice (which is essential in the foreign language learning process) is taking place.
3. The third reason of encouraging mistakes is promotion of learner autonomy. “An independent learner is the one who takes responsibility for his own learning” (V 295). Though it is a primary and the simplest definition, it implicates that the learning process is essential. Yet, there would be no learning process without real practice.
Similarly, Edge (1990:15) discusses the harm of discouraging the learning referred to as learning steps. Edge’s view coincides with the view of Bartram and Walton and other modern methodologists that it is very dangerous for a teacher to be a heavy corrector. When a student knows that the teacher will always correct them they will take care to say only what they are sure is correct. Consequently, the students have too little opportunity to practice the language by experimenting within it.
Teacher’s reactions to an oral mistake
First a fall, the way the teacher reacts to a mistake is significant. Not only what a teacher says, but also the way they look, or move, the tone of their voice are important. If students are criticized for trying, they will stop it.
Bartram and Walton (1991:26) divide teachers into two major groups due to the extent of their correction:
1. the heavy corrector,
2. the non-correctors.
Both variants are extremes. On the one hand, the heavy corrector creates a tense teacher-focused atmosphere which restrains the students’ creativity by paying more attention to accuracy rather than fluency, imagination, independent thinking. Students tend to be cautious all the time and learn to come up with fixed phrases. This results in their inability to make new interesting sentences.
Tension which prevails in the classroom of the heavy corrector also hinders students from free thinking and efficient learning. As stated by Edge (1990:16) the over-correction results in two outcomes: no mistakes and, consequently, no learning steps are taken. Moreover, students who are corrected all the time soon get bored with it, especially if they are trying to express themselves. Therefore, the heavy correcting teacher causes student problems. Yet, the internal struggle on the part of the teacher is often present as well: often teachers do not want to overcorrect, but they feel that is their duty. The most striking point is that “teachers end up correcting right to right, or even right to wrong.” (126).
On the other hand, the non-corrector creates problems centred on the teacher himself/herself. Firstly, such a teacher may feel guilty as not doing what must be done – i.e. correction. In addition to this, the non-correcting teacher often receives a number of complaints from school authorities, parents, and students themselves. School authorities and parents are especially dissatisfied when the teacher is preparing the students for an examination, because examinations are generally accuracy-based. Students themselves want to know their mistakes and improve. As Bartram and Walton emphasize students rarely complain openly about being corrected too much. On the contrary, Staefania’s (2002) observation is that the majority of students expect and want to be corrected as they consider it to be helpful as well as useful. Moreover, “it is the traditional view of what a language teacher does” (I 29). One more problem of a non-corrector is their deteriorating image as students tend to think of such teachers as lazy, irresponsible or incompetent. Finally, according to Knierim (2002) the students “leam” mistakes from each other if they are not corrected and, consequently, do not make progress as they do not know what is right and what is wrong.
None of these two types of correction is better. Bartram and Walton suggest to the teachers to find the mean between the heavy correction and the non-correction by rectifying mistakes at specific points of a lesson, using different or/and better techniques for that and being prepared to compromise sometimes.
The effects of correction on children
There is an enormous variety of types of student. However, Bartram and Walton (1991:29) distinguish two groups of the learners on the basis of their attitude towards corrections:
1. Those who want to be corrected because they believe it is a positive thing
2. Those who are frustrated by the correction when they are really trying to communicate.
Staefania’s (2002) observations confirm this division. Therefore, possible psychological effects of correction are quite different for various students.
On the one hand, the learners may experience the effects of satisfaction (e.g. “My teacher is increasing my accuracy”, “I Know I can try things out, and check with my teacher if they are right or not” (I 30), or confidence (e.g. “This teacher seems o know what she is doing” (I 30). However, the ways of gaining confidence may differ: some students become confident being allowed to express themselves freely, the others – knowing precisely the limits of right and wrong.
On the other hand, some students can be affected by frustration (e.g. “My teacher is not listening to me but my language”, or “My teacher interrupts me when I really want to say something” or “My teacher never corrects me” (130), or discouragement (e.g. “This language is too hard for me”, “I cannot make any progress because no-one tells me what is right and what is wrong” (I 30), or fear (e.g. “I must not speak unless I know what I am going to say is right” (I 30).
Factors causing mistakes
Ur (1997:162) enumerates factors underlying language learning of everyone: objectives in learning the language, motivation, age, nationality, culture, background, environment outside the classroom (whether it is target-language or mother-tongue) and the level of learners (beginner, intermediate, advanced) play a large part. In addition to these. Edge (1990:8) distinguishes more concrete factors which cause mistakes:
1. The influence of the speaker’s first language. For example, on pronunciation: Spanish speakers have difficulty with words which start st- thus, instead of star, stop, stand they tend to produce e-star, e-stop, e-stand. At the same time Russian speakers tend not to distinguish between short and long vowel sounds in English as such a distinction of vowels does not exist in their own language: therefore, ship [i] tends to be pronounced as sheep [i:], or pot [o] as port [o:],or cut [^] as cart [a:].
2. Ignorance of exceptions to the rule. For example, building of the past tense form of -ed, but lacking the knowledge about irregular verb forms like ate, blew, drank, sang etc.
3. Using wrong language intentionally as the best chance of getting the intended message through. Edge refers to this cause as an “intelligent use of knowledge about English in order to communicate in English” (III 8).
4. Edge groups such causes as being in a hurry, tiredness, thinking about something else into the fourth large group. These causes produce slips of the tongue. Apart from this, Bartram and Walton (1991:33) expand Edge’s fourth group of causes by addition of the factors of tiredness, forgetfalness, emotional state, imagination and creativity.
On the whole, it is important for a teacher to bear in mind these factors as mistakes are only the results of these. It helps to make a decision when and what to correct. Bartram and Walton (1991:36) indicate that, for instance, if a student makes a complicated mistake while experimenting within the language or while hypothesis-forming, correction may not be appropriate. Otherwise, they may lose the positive attitude towards the language learning.
Correction, fluency, accuracy or when to correct
The essential question recurring over and over again is: to correct or not to correct? “Still checking for errors is a crucial stage and should not be omitted.” (VII 376).
Edge proclaims that the teacher’s duty is not to correct all the non-standard English produced by learners, but to help them to improve their English. Sometimes this is achieved by not correcting.
Correcting mistakes is one of the most difficult points for a foreign language teacher. There is no golden rule if and how different mistakes have to be rectified. A model for deciding a teacher’s priority when it comes to reacting to a student’s oral mistake is based upon the distinction between accuracy and fluency. For instance, Knierim (2002) suggests the term “Message Before Accuracy” to better remember that comprehensibility, not perfection is the aim of a foreign language learning. The final goal of learning any language is to use the language freely to express own ideas. For this, both accuracy and fluency are essential. Therefore, they are tightly connected with each other.
According to Underwood (1991:38) it is useful to establish at the planning stage the parts of the lesson when the teacher will insist on accuracy. “Even with young learners, it is worth explaining the meaning of fluency and accuracy and the value of each in the overall learning of language.” (VI 38).
Learning a language is more than learning linguistic forms. As proclaimed by Bartram and Walton (1991:55) learning a language is the process of “trying – learning – forgetting -remeeting – understanding better – forgetting a bit – revising – forming a new hypothesis -trying again” (I 55). The only way to learn a fluent command of the language is to communicate in that language, when the teacher chooses to pay as little attention to correctness as possible. Otherwise, in the case of constant correction, the students (especially the weaker and reticent will cease using the language to express themselves and actually learning a language. Thus, according to Edge (1990:19) the teacher should encourage adventurous language of the learners showing their interest in what the students have to say, and getting them interested in the topic. In addition to this, Heaton (1990:68) recommends that if a grammatical error in the speech does not cause a breakdown in communication, then it should be ignored.
Fluency as defined by Knierim (2002) is that part of the lesson where students work on their own capacity to communicate within the target language. This period, generally, is free of correction.
Nevertheless, the teacher cannot all the time ignore the students’ incorrectness in the target language. A certain level of accuracy is necessary for efficient communication. Moreover, examinations are to a great extent accuracy-based. Thus, “the teacher’s task is to help students progress through fluency to accuracy” (III 20),
Knierim (2002) defines accuracy work as the part of the lesson for students to be encouraged to make their utterances as near to the native speaker’s as possible. This, generally, needs more intense correction. For example. Edge (1990:23) generalizes that spoken accuracy is the
most important when the learners are practicing a new point in a language (for instance, a new word, a new verb tense or a new sentence structure etc.).
It is worth noting that, first of all, the students should be encouraged, motivated by the teacher. Only in such a case the teacher will be able to rectify their mistakes
Forms of correction
As far as the forms of correction are concerned, all the methodologists (Bartram and Walton, Celce-Murcia, Edge, Knierim, Perez, Ur et al) distinguish three of them: firstly, self-correction, secondly, peer-correction, and, finally, teacher correction.
Firstly, self-correction is especially important as it gives a chance for the speaker who made a slip or a covert mistake to self-correct themselves. The methodologists recommend to allow the learner to try again, first of all. At this point the teacher makes use of a certain technique to indicate the mistake. “Self-correction is the most valuable since it encourages the student to be autonomous” (II 147). However, the learner should be allotted only a little time for self-correction. If they are unable to self-correct, peer-correction is employed.
Secondly, peer-correction is especially efficient for what Edge defines as errors. When the student who made a mistake fails to self-correct it, the teacher is recommended to ask another student to help. The advantages of students doing the correction are obvious:
1. Students are more involved into language activities. The more they are involved, the more they have to think about the language used in the classroom.
2. The teacher collects a lot of information about the students’ comprehensive abilities and knowledge.
3. It encourages cooperation among the students.
4. Peer-correction increases student talking time (STT).
5. The students are developing learner autonomy and are learning to help each other during pair or group work.
Despite the number of advantages of peer-correction. Edge (1990:26) and Ur (1997:254) briefly analyse several problems it might cause:
1. It is not appropriate if the same students always do the peer-correction. In such cases, they replace the teacher rather than develop a feeling of cooperation within the class.
2. Peer-correction may be against the culture or nature of the class. If so, the learner will feel tense, criticising or being criticised, and Edge concludes that in this sort of a class the use of peer-correction can be even damaging.
In addition to peer-correction, Rivolucri (2002) draws a parallel between peer-correction and sibling correction as well as a parallel between teacher-correction and parental correction emphasizing that peer-correction as the one carried out by siblings is more acceptable then being corrected by someone senior.
Finally, if neither the students who made the mistake, nor any other student can help, the teacher is to give the correct version himself/herself
It is important to note that after the correction either by peers or by the teacher, he/she returns to the student who made the mistake to get them say the same thing correctly. As Mohamed (2001) expresses “so that he/she ends on a successful note” (IV).
Therefore, fluency work, without correction, must be balanced with accuracy work, where the use of correction is a positive one.
When is the best time to correct mistakes?
All the methodologists agree about the best time for managing oral mistakes. Firstly, if an error occurs during oral grammar or vocabulary practice during the lesson it is best to correct it immediately. On the spot correction is necessary in order to avoid confusing the other students. Secondly, if mistakes occur during free-speaking, the teacher can either note errors on a sheet of paper for later correction during a feedback session/correction slot after the activity, or use silent correction techniques for immediate correction. It is recommended not to interrupt the speaker.
What to correct?
Celce-Murcia (1991:147) suggest to consider such points while selecting which errors of any language skills to correct:
1. Does the error cause a breakdown in communication?
2. Is this a recurring pattern or an isolated mistake?
3. Does this error stigmatise the student?
4. Can it be corrected easily? (II 147)
As stated by Celce-Murcia “it is better to focus on a single pattern or error than overload the learner with excessive correction” (II 147). Every teacher, certainly, has their own list of short-term considerations whether to correct and how much. Bartram and Walton (1991:34) add more points for a teacher to be considered expanding Celce-Murcia’s list:
1. Does the mistake affect communication? – this first point coincides with the first point of Celce-Murcia and Knierim’s lists.
2. Is the teacher concentrating on the accuracy or on the fluency at the moment?
3. Why did the student react badly to the correction?
4. Is it really wrong or is it the teacher’s imagination?
5. Could the student react badly to the correction?
6. Is it a new language point or a familiar one?
7. Is this a mistake of several students?
8. Would the mistake irritate somebody? And even such points as:
9. What time is it?
10. What day is it?
11. What is the weather like? And so forth.
When the teacher focuses on accuracy it is suggested to focus on a single mistake rather than overload the learner with an excessive correction. This may be a specific difficulty of the student (e.g. stress, blending, the ending -s of the third person singular verbs etc.), or the feature currently being dealt within the class.
B. THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION OF CORRECTION TECHNIQUES Techniques of correction / how to correct
After deciding what to correct, the natural question is how to correct – what techniques to use? Techniques bring together all the types of learners. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that “bad mistake-management is worse than none at all. But good mistake-management helps everybody” (131).
The newest books on English teaching methodology proffer a variety of techniques for managing oral mistakes. In fact, it is for the teacher to decide which of them could be adapted efficiently and which not. Yet, each teacher has a reservoir to choose from.
How to show the students they have made a mistake?
A number of the so-called silent correction techniques may be construed for this purpose. Bartram and Walton suggest employing:
1. Gestures: a. to hold an open hand with a palm down and rotate the wrist from side to side;
b. to wave a finger.
2. Facial expressions: a. shaking the head;
c. doubtful expression.
3. Non-verbal sounds such as “Mmmmh…” with doubtful intonation, “Errrr…”, or whatever comes naturally.
4. Simple phrases like “Nearly…”, “Not quite…”, “Good, but…”.
How to show the students where the mistake is?
The teacher can make use of the following techniques:
1. Finger technique. The teacher holds up the fingers of one hand each representing a word from the sentence or syllables of the word, or sound in the word. The index finger of the other hand is used to point/pat/hold the “incorrect” or “missing” word/syllable/sound. Edge (1990:28) recommends counting the fingers from right to lefr, because this looks like left to right for the students facing the teacher.
2. Celce-Murcia (1991:148) advises to make use of signs or symbols posted in the classroom. The teacher can draw the students’ attention by pointing the kind of the error, but without pinpointing the error itself.
3. Simple phrases can be used to indicate verbally which word or syllable is wrong. The teacher may either make use of “Not… but…” with rising intonation followed by a pause, or repeat the student’s utterance up to that mistake, and then let the student continue, like in the following example:
1) Not “go ” but… (rising intonation, a pause);
2) S Have you been in USA? T Have you been… (pause) S to USA. T Right.
4. The teacher can repeat the sentence including the mistake, showing by the face and voice where it is, and then ask for correction. If all the other possibilities fail, the teacher gives the correct version at first and then repeats the whole sentence correctly.
It is important to note that the teacher should avoid overstressing while correcting a mistake. Natural stress and pronunciation should be sustained. Otherwise, the students are taught mistakes of form rather than are corrected. Consider the wrong example:
e.g. InvenTED. The motorcycle was invenTED in 1885.
5. If neither the student who made the mistake, nor peers are able to locate the error, the teacher may write the student’s utterance on the board making the mistake more obvious and easier to be corrected.
How to indicate the kind of mistake?
The wide range of kinds of mistakes in the English language conditions the number of techniques for managing them. First of all, Bartram and Walton (1991:47) itemize Traditional Techniques:
1. Most used gestures are:
a. To indicate incorrect past time. Consider the example:
e.g. Do you watch IV yesterday?
The teacher can use over-the-shoulder movement with the hand or thumb to show the
past time in comparison to the present time.
b. Future time. Take into consideration the example:
e.g. Tomorrow I go to the cinema.
In this case, the teacher can point into the distance in front of them, or roll the hand
forwards in the air to indicate the future time rather than the present time.
c. Contractions. Allow for the following examples:
e.g. 1)7 do not want to go there.
2) The Mount Everest was first clime/bed in 1953. The linking of the index finger in front of, or bringing thumb and index finger together shows that the form should be contracted.
d. Word order. Take into account the example:
e.g. / love very much my cat.
The teacher crosses the arms in front of them to indicate that word order in the
sentence must be changed.
e. Pronunciation. Bartram and Walton (1991:49) recommend cupping the hand behind the ear, as if the teacher has not heard properly.
f. Intonation mistakes are equally important as any other kind of mistakes. Edge (1990:30) proclaims that when he teacher can sweep the hand horizontally in front of them, using the movement of the hand to direct attention to some intonation problem.
The teachers may also employ other types of techniques for intonation mistakes. For instance, writing on the board and underlining the word with the loudest stress, and showing with a line whether the voice ascends or descends.
2. Pretending to misunderstand. As stated by Bartram and Walton (1991:49) this technique has two advantages of resembling real life and involving no criticism on the part of the teacher. Consider the following examples:
e.g. 1) S She went to Paris with your husband.
T My husband?????
S No, sorry, her husband.
2) S We went to the island on a big sheep. T That must have been uncomfortable. S (sighs) ship, ship, ship, ship…
3. Repeating in the context. Correcting any mistake in the classroom often changes the original utterance. Thus, Bartram and Walton (1991:50) suggest making use of the stress alone which makes correction much true to life. Consider the example:
e.g. S His telephone number is 657689.
T 65689, you mean. This sentence has an artificial stress. Take into account the second example:
e.g. S I have been in Spain.
T I have been to Spain.
The word to would be pronounces with its full strength [tu:] while correcting, though normally it would be pronounced [tD].
4. Echoing. Take the following example into account:
e.g. S I am go to school.
T I am go to school?
Bartram and Walton (1991:51) criticise the technique of echoing by presenting its minuses:
• It gives an impression as if the teacher ridicules the student.
• It is hard for the student to understand whether the form is wrong or the content is doubtful.
• The teacher does not provide any guidance about the reasons of why it might be wrong.
Non-traditional correction techniques
These are the techniques for more covert correction rather than overt correction.
1. Reformulation. “Reformulation attempts to imitate the way in which real-life correction happens” (I 52). It means that speaker’s words are paraphrased in a correct form. Sometimes it is done even without realizing that the mistake has occurred. Allow for the example:
e.g. S I have seen her yesterday.
T Oh, so you saw her yesterday.
Bartram and Walton assure that this skill is very important for teachers to develop. This technique is based on the two principles:1. Learning is gradual, taking place all the time.2. Students must be engaged in what they are taught; otherwise, they will find learning harder.
Although reformulation should not be applied for all kinds of activities in the classroom*, this technique is more valuable in comparison with direct/overt correction. If the teacher responds naturally reformulating, students are exposed immediately to language which they will understand, and which is on the edge of their own current repertoire. The satisfaction of successful communication will relax the student and ‘open’ the student to real, long-term learning. This may be more effective than formal correction, the effectiveness of which is reduced because of the anxiety it may induce, and which ‘closes’ the student for real, long-term learning. (I 53)
2. Automatic Correction. It is the other important correction technique to develop. It is based on the principle that if mistakes impede communication and, thus, are noticed automatically, they must be corrected. Otherwise, the mistake is not worth correcting. The technique of automatic correction enhances student-student interaction continuation without constant calling on the teacher for help. The technique is simple: if one student cannot grasp the meaning of the other’s utterance, he/she keeps asking his partner questions about it until the meaning becomes clear and the form can be corrected, if necessary. Although it requires more time and patience, it may become more efficient for a long-term learning.
3. Increased Input and Hidden Input As expressed by Bartram and Walton (1991:56) often overt correction is not efficient enough as the corrected students keep making the same mistakes despite the correction. In such a case, it is highly probable that more
*Reformulation assumes a basic teacher-student interaction and would thwart the opportunities of student-student interaction
correct input (listening and reading) could help. Nevertheless, usually both teachers and students find it boring to revisit the mistakes. Moreover, teachers find it hard to allot time in overcrowded syllabuses and to prepare special material for revision. Therefore, Bartram and Walton recommend making use of hidden input: although this technique seems to have only one purpose, it also has secondary purpose of revising material. A number of engaging activities can be construed for this aim:
1) Jazz Chants
What’s your name and where are you from?
What’s your name and where are you from?
My name is Mei and I’m from Taiwan.
My name is Mei and I’m from Taiwan. Been here long? Been here long?
Not too long, just a few months.
Not too long, just a few months.
etc. (II 141)
Where are you going? I’m going to Paris. Why are you going? I’m going to shop. When are you leaving? I’m leaving tomorrow. Etc. (I 38)
2) Alphabet Game the principle of which is: each student repeats the base phrase, adding one more item with the next letter of the alphabet:
51 I’m going to London to buy an apple.
52 I’m going to London to buy an apple and a bike.
53 I’m going to London to buy an apple and a bike, and a coat. etc. (I 58)
3) Chain Drills:
My/His/Her name is Mei and I/he/she like(s) to jog etc. (II 141).
These are the correction techniques used during the accuracy-based activities. However, mistakes occur during freer of fluency-based activities as well. It is recommended not to interrupt free-speaking activities in order to correct. “Even the most mistake-obsessed students find this frustrating and annoying” (I 59). The only exception, however, might be if a mistake is everybody’s mistake which makes the activity impossible. Otherwise, students should be encouraged rather than corrected. Methodologists present other techniques for teachers to use during freer activities in the classroom.
While students are doing pair or group work teacher can go round monitoring what the students are saying to each other and noting their mistakes. This can be done in various ways: in a notebook, on cards, by tape- or video-recorder. The names of the students should be noted as well to provide the possibility of self-correction later. Bartram and Walton (1991:60) exemplify five short-term techniques.
1. Hot Cards.
During the course of fluency activity the teacher notes down important or recurring mistakes of each student separately on pieces of paper or cards. These cards are distributed to students at the end of the activity both as a chance for immediate self-correction and a reference for the future.
2. Invoice Books
This technique is based on the same principle as Hot Cards, only the teacher also keeps a copy of student’s mistakes for themselves.
3. Recall and Correct
This is a way of self-correction: an individual student is asked to recall points during the activity at which the mistake oc^urr^d, and to say it in a different way.
After the fluency-based activity the teacher plays back the recording to the students asking for reformulation or corrections.
5. Open ‘Remedial’ Sessions
This technique is also suggested by Edge (1990:41) and it is especially useful when all the mistakes are made by the same person. In such a case, the teacher can put the mistakes on the board or on overhead projector asking for reformulation and explanation.
One more correction technique recommended by Edge (1990:43) can be employed during group activities. For example, while the students work in groups of four, one of them is turned into the observer who listens and notes down some mistakes produced by his group students. After the activity the group discusses what is correct and what is wrong. Any uncertainties can be directed to the teacher.
Therefore, delayed correction effectively involves all kinds of corrections: self-correction, peer-correction as well as teacher correction which guarantee the most productive learning. Still, no teaching techniques are as important as the learner’s feeling that the teacher is trying to help them learn. Techniques alone cannot give this feeling.
1. First of all, mistakes are inevitable in language learning process and, therefore, they are to be encouraged rather than severely corrected.
2. A certain amount of correction is essential for developing comprehensible language of students as language is, first of all, spoken.
3. Correction must be managed skilfully as it affects children’s personalities.
4. The teacher must take into consideration a number of aspects before turning to correction: factors causing oral mistakes, possible children’s reaction to the correction, type of current activity (whether it is accuracy – or fluency – based).
5. To begin with the opportunity for self-correction, peer correction can efficiently involve the learners into language learning process. Teacher correction is the last one to be applied if the first two appear to be impossible.
6. The time of correction depends on the nature of activity (whether fluency or accuracy is in focus).
7. Teachers are recommended, first of all, to focus on the most serious mistakes which cause a breakdown in communication and on a single mistake at a time.
8. Finally, a variety of correction techniques provides the opportunity to select the best ones to be productively applied in different classes.
I. Bartram, M. & Walton, R. 1991. Correction: A Positive Approach to Language Mistakes. London: Commercial Colour Press.
II. Celce-Murcia, M. 1991. Teaching English as a second or Foreign Language. Boston: Heinie & Heinie Publishers.
III. Edge, J. 1990. Mistakes and Correction. New York: Longman Inc.
IV. Mohamed, J.2001. TEFL Classroom Clinic: Classroom Techniques and Activities. Available from: http://clinicmain.homestead.com/techniques.html: Internet.
V. Tomlinson, B. (ed.). 1998. Materials Development in Language Teaching. CUP.
VI. Underwood, M. 1991. Effective Class Management. New York: Longman Inc.
VII. Weir, C. & Roberts, J. 1994. Evaluation in ELT. Oxford UK & Cambridge USA:
GLOSSARY OF TERMS
Mistake – is an incorrect sound, syllable, word, phrase or sentence which occurs in speech or writing.
Oral mistake – is a speech mistake.
Error – is a mistake caused by the learner trying out something completely new, and getting
Slip – is wrong language caused by tiredness, carelessness, nerves or other factors which
could be produced by anybody including native speakers.
Attempt – is defined as the wrong language used to express a thought having no necessary
knowledge or through hypothesis – forming.
Mistakes of form – are mistakes of linguistic form.
Mistakes of meaning – are considered to be the most important mistakes as they affect the
meaning causing a breakdown in communication.
Covert mistakes – these occur when the student says something what they really do not mean,
but what is linguistically correct.
Fluency – is that part of the lesson where students work on their own capacity to
communicate within the target language. This period, generally, is free of correction.
Accuracy – is the part of the lesson for students to be encouraged to make their utterances as
near to the native speaker’s as possible. This, generally, needs more intense correction. Correction techniques – are special skills or ways of correction
1. Bartram, M. & Walton, R. 1991. Correction: A Positive Approach to Language Mistakes. London: Commercial Colour Press.
2. Celce-Murcia, M. 1991. Teaching English as a second or Foreign Language. Boston:
Heime & Heinie Publishers.
3. Edge, J. 1990. Mistakes and Correction. New York: Longman Inc.
4. Heaton, J.B. 1990. Classroom Testing. New York: Longman Inc.
5. Knierim, M.A. 2002. Feedback and Assessment in the EFL Classroom. Available from: http://www.markusknierim.de/teflintro/handouts/assessment-fleischer.pdf ;
6. Mohamed, J.2001. TEFL Classroom Clinic: Classroom Techniques and Activities. Available from: http: //clinicmain. homestead. corn/techniques. htmh Internet.
7. Perez, A. A. 2001. Learning English Culture in the ESP Class. Available from:
http: //www. unav. es/espsig/anton 14. him: Internet.
8. Rinvolucri, M. 2002. The Language Teacher: Neurological Frontiers. Available from:
9. Staefania, S. 2002. Classroom Research: Speaking in the Classroom: Investigating Learner’s Attitude. Available from: http: //digilander. libero. it/allrightmate/Staefania-class%20research%20rep. 1 .doc; Internet.
10. Tomlinson, B. (ed.). 1998. Materials Development in Language Teaching. CUP.
11. Underwood, M. 1991. Effective Class Management. New York: Longman Inc.
12. Ur, P. 1997. A Course in Language Teaching Practice and Theory. CUP.
13. Weir, C. & Roberts, J. 1994. Evaluation in ELT. Oxford UK & Cambridge USA: