This article deals with the tips and techniques of correcting mistakes of English learning students’ speaking in the classroom.
Key words: to make mistake, error, learning process, to correct, self-correction, non-verbally, comprehension, to focus on something, fluency.
Техника исправления ошибок в устной речи на занятиях
Фазилдинова Севара Нематовна, ассистент
Джизакский политехнический институт (Узбекистан)
В этой статье предусматривается техника и советы исправления ошибок в устной речи у учащихся английского языка.
Ключевые слова: сделать ошибку, ошибка, учебный процесс, исправлять, самостоятельное исправление, не устно, понимание, сосредоточивать внимание на что-либо, плавность речи.
As learners of the foreign language we often make mistakes as it is not our native language. Especially, in spoken English we sometimes omit articles which aren’t translated, use prepositions incorrectly which are those followed by the particular verbs and adjectives. Students also don’t follow grammar rules and make mistakes when they talk. Mistakes aren’t always bad.
It is an important part of the learning process. If they are not making mistakes then they are not being given difficult enough topics and structures to work with. You have to choose material that is challenging but manageable for your class and correct mistakes in positive ways. Singling out students who make errors will make students feel selfconscious and shy so some tact when correcting mistakes is important.
When our students learn something new they always make mistakes. What is the best way to correct these mistakes? Which mistakes should be corrected? Should all student errors be marked?
If they are mistakes, the instructor should point them out. Again, we should go back here to the purpose of correction. If the purpose is to help students improve production, then correction should be limited to one or two areas for students to focus on which are important to overall comprehensibility: the student’s pattern of run-on sentences, for example, or stress patterns, not a single misspelling or mispronunciation.
A crucial issue for any teacher is when and how to correct students’ English mistakes. Mistakes may be numerous and in various areas (grammar, vocabulary choice, pronunciation of both words and correct stressing in sentences). Of course, there are a number of types of corrections that teachers are expected to make during the course of any given class. Here are the main types of mistakes that need to be corrected:
- Grammatical mistakes(mistakes of verb tenses, preposition use, etc.)
- Vocabulary mistakes (incorrect collocations, idiomatic phrase usage, etc.)
- Pronunciation mistakes (errors in basic pronunciation, errors in word stressing in sentences, errors in rhythm and pitch)
- Written mistakes (grammar, spelling and vocabulary choice mistakes in written work) 
The main issue at hand during oral work is whether or not to correct students as the make mistakes. On the other hand, correction of written work boils down to how much correction should be done. In other words, should teachers correct every single mistake, or should they give a value judgment and correct only major mistakes.
With oral mistakes made during class discussions, there are basically two schools of thought:
1) Correct often and thoroughly;
2) Let students make mistakes;
Sometimes, teachers refine the choice by choosing to let beginners make many mistakes while correcting advanced students often.
However, many teachers are taking a third route these days. This third route might be called “selective correction”. In this case, the teacher decides to correct only certain errors. Which errors will be corrected is usually decided by the objectives of the lesson, or the specific exercise that is being done at that moment.
In other words, if students are focusing on simple past irregular forms, then only mistakes in those forms are corrected (i.e., goed, thinked, etc.). Other mistakes, such as mistakes in a future form, or mistakes of collocations (for example: I made my homework) are ignored.
Finally, many teachers also choose to correct students after the fact. Teachers take notes on common mistakes that students make. During the follow-up correction session the teacher then presents common mistakes made so that all can benefit from an analysis of which mistakes were made and why.
make mistakes in speaking for three reasons: they didn’t pay attention, they need more practice, or they don’t understand grammatical structure or vocabulary. That’s why when they make mistakes, determine the reason for mistake. You can give them more practice or explanation if they need it. They also make mistakes with structures or vocabulary they learned but don’t remember how to use. You can make a note their mistakes and review this material in a later class. Mistakes are good source of topics to review. Although you don’t correct students’ mistakes every time, you shouldn’t forget them.
Correcting mistakes is done to help students speak better English. Therefore, some methods are better than others. Here are some techniques teachers can use to correct mistakes in student’s speech.
- Don’t interrupt. If students make mistakes, let them finish what they are saying. If you stop them every time they make mistake, they will never learn to say a full sentence. They will expect you to help them when they have even a little bit of trouble. It is important for students to remember words or grammar themselves. If they ask you for help, help them. But if not, let them try to talk.
- Have a positive attitude. Your attitude toward mistakes can interest the students in speaking. There shouldn’t be the tone which makes them afraid of. Don’t shout at students who make mistakes. They feel embarrassed and try not to participate once again in activities. Correct them in a gentle way. Try not to embarrass them before other students for not just using articles or prepositions correctly.
- Self-Correction (oral). The best way to correct mistakes is to have students correct themselves. Ideally a student will realize a mistake has been made and fix it automatically but that is not always the case. If a student answers a question incorrectly you can gently prompt them to revisit their answer. One of the ways to do this is to repeat what the student said placing emphasis on the incorrect portion, for instance “I have play baseball.” and saying it in a questioning way. At this point the student has an opportunity to think about and revise his initial response. You may have your own method of prompting students with a facial expression or phrase which they associate with being incorrect but avoid saying words such as wrong, incorrect, or no in response to mistakes. They are negative and will have ill effects on your students’ confidence in the classroom. It is probably more effective for students to correct their own mistakes. In order to do this, students and the teacher should have common shorthand for correcting mistakes.Self-correction should take place quickly, hardly affecting the flow of the conversation. If students correct themselves too much, it can have the opposite effect. It hinders fluency. You also can't always rely on students to catch their own mistakes. These may go uncorrected.
- Self-correction (written). Write down the students’ sentences with the mistake on the blackboard. The student might see the mistake when it is written down and be able to correct it. Try to emphasize the mistake they have done. For elementary levels you may underline the word used incorrectly. After all, the student should repeat the correct sentence orally to practice. We teachers should teach students how to self-correct.
Finally, it’s usually not enough for the instructor to just show where the errors are. The student also must know how to correct them, so the instructor should demonstrate for the student how to do this—how to check that the verbs agree with the subject, for example—rather than just making the correction herself, from which the student learns nothing. It is, of course, ultimately the goal for the student to use English independently, which means monitoring and correcting his own language production.
- Peer-Correction. When a student is unable to self correct, peer correction might be appropriate. If a student raises his hand while you are waiting for a student to self correct, you may want to call on that student for the correct answer or, after waiting a short time for a student to self correct, you could ask the whole class the same question and encourage a choral response. Especially with challenging questions, this is a good method because then it is unknown who in the class has the right answer and who does not. Just repeat and emphasize the correct answer by writing it on the board and explaining why it is correct. This is a good method of correcting mistakes because it shifts focus away from the student that provided the original incorrect answer .
- Group correction: A student doesn't always catch his own mistakes, though, no matter how skilled he may be. Or perhaps you don't want to interrupt an activity. Or maybe you feel as though you have corrected too much during the lesson already, so teacher-to-student correction is out, too. Group correction is an alternative, with peers in small groups pointing out mistakes.
The idea is that groups of students work together to help one another. Because large groups can prove intimidating, five students or fewer together end up as ideal. With role-plays, presentations, interviews, debates, or any other type of group activity, students note mistakes for a feedback session later. Similarly, one student can sit out, observe the conversation, and jot down notes. Other students then rotate out to observe as the activity continues. A correction session follows in which your English learners play the role of the teacher. Always stress that feedback should be positive, and that everyone benefits by pointing out and correcting mistakes together!
Group correction has the potential to foster teamwork, as well as a sense of support in the classroom. Both are important in creating a positive learning environment where students can feel comfortable experiment with the language. It also provides the opportunity for learners to notice language problems without help or interruption by the teacher
- Model the correct sentence. If a student makes a mistake, repeat the sentence for them correctly. Ask the student to repeat the correct version after you for practice.
- Student-to-student correction: This isn't so dissimilar from group correction. It has many of the same advantages and disadvantages. The primary difference, though, comes with students working in pairs rather than groups.
You can use this type of correction in any conversational activity. As with all conversations, the primary objective is to exchange ideas and/or information. Assign a secondary objective of listening for, identifying, and correcting any mistakes. Students could also work in pairs with a worksheet, discussing and correcting sentences with mistakes that you have purposely made. Both encourage high student talk time, and fosters comprehension and teamwork.
On the negative side, students could miss problems with the language, or even correct something that doesn't need correction. In group correction, these problems are less likely, because everyone benefits from more than one person's knowledge of English. Student-to-student correction also has a tendency to eat up a lot of time.
positives: encourages high student talk time, comprehension, and teamwork.
negatives: students might not identify the mistakes, or might try to correct language that isn't wrong; can be time-consuming.
- Correct non-verbally. You don’t always have to tell students when they make mistake. You may use the gesture, nod your head, or move your head to let them know they made mistake. After gesture, they might notice themselves.
- Ignore the mistakes. Sometimes students speak incorrectly because they haven’t learned the right grammar to use. Explaining this kind of mistakes might take up too much time. If your student says something very complicated and you don’t want to explain the mistake, you don’t have to do it. You can ignore it. Also students sometimes make more than one mistake. You might want to focus on one mistake. Instead of correcting all of them. For example, “I father clever”. You could just correct one of his mistakes “My father”.
- Encouraging. And of course, praise them for their ability to admit their mistakes.
To my mind, one of the best ways to deal with mistakes is to prevent them. Leading students to speak step by step will minimize mistakes and make students more comfortable speaking. The first stage of your lesson is presentation. Explain the new grammar structure and vocabulary. Next begin to practice with simple oral drills. Make sure students can repeat the vocabulary or manipulate the grammar. Next do a focused activity. Before you do the activity, model the task for them. Show them what they will do during the activity. Give them example sentences. Write down sample sentences on the board to help them. Make sure they know what to do, how to do it, and how much time they have. Conduct the activity. While they are doing the activity move around the room and check them. Do they understand? Are they doing the activity correctly? After they finish, ask some students to show the class their work. Go over the answers to the task. If they are ready, do a fluency activity. Review the material in the next lesson, the next week, and in future lessons.
Go from easy activity to difficult activities, from controlled to guide to free activities, and from focused speaking activities to fluency activities. Take baby steps. Don’t expect students to speak fluently without a lot of practice.
In addition to considering the seriousness of an error, the instructor should consider the frequency of the error. If the student has a concern with almost always omitting articles (“a,” “an,” and “the”), this is a problem that should be addressed because omitted articles are distracting from the overall message and can affect overall comprehensibility of the writing.
Correcting student error is a sensitive issue that most instructors would probably rather not do. However, through considering such issues as overall comprehensibility and goals of correction, the instructor can turn the potentially negative exercise of giving corrective feedback into a positive learning experience.
Learning a language is a long process during which a learner will inevitably make many, many mistakes. In other words we take a myriad of tiny steps going from not speaking a language to being fluent in the language. In the opinion of many teachers, students who are continually corrected become inhibited and cease to participate. This results in the exact opposite of what the teacher is trying to produce - the use of English to communicate.
In conclusion I can say that, whichever way you go about correcting your students, try to keep the experience positive for the learner. Being corrected constantly can be a really de-motivating, as every language learner knows. As you are listening out for your students’ errors, make sure you also listen out for really good uses of language and highlight these to the group too. In the case of language learning I really do believe the classic saying, ‘you learn from your mistakes’.
- Allen, Virginia French. Techniques in Teaching Vocabulary. Oxford University Press, 1983.
- Doff, Adrian. Teach English: Trainers’ Handbook. Cambridge University Press, 1988
- Russo G.M. Expanding Communication. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983.