TEFL Temple Terrace Florida



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Errors, according to Corder (1967) are significant in three ways: 1, to the teacher, they show a student's progress; 2, to the researcher, they show how a language is acquired and what strategies the learner uses; 3, to the learner, he can learn from these errors. Where making errors, while learning a language, is seen as directly related to a student's approach to learning that language correcting them is an issue that has to deal with the approach a teacher takes on teaching that language. Students' errors characterize normal language development. They imply that students are attempting to figure out the patterns of the language. Some students are risk-takers, while others will only say something if they are sure it is correct. While being a risk-taker is generally positive as it leads to greater fluency, some students only seem to be concerned with fluency at the expense of accuracy. The popular use of the communicative language teaching approach in esl contexts and the understanding of "interlanguage", has changed the role of error correction. Errors are considered natural products in language learning and are seen to reflect the patterns of students' developing interlanguage system. It's a "healthy" problem though because with errors comes corrections. And with correction comes learning (J. D. Brown, 1988). Thus what actually looks like a basic error in the students' language is now looked upon as a sign of progress and learning. So when and how should teachers correct their students' errors? There is, unfortunately, no conclusive evidence/research about these issues. Over-correction will result in students losing confidence and then always speaking hesitantly, often “stuttering” and always looking to the teacher for confirmation. Under-correction will result in students developing bad habits and not learning proper grammar, forms, usage; eventually decreasing communicative ability. There is a fine balance required to maintain lesson flow and develop student's confidence and language independence. To answer this question, teachers need to look at their objective. Are they focusing on accuracy or fluency? teachers should have a clear end in mind and to do that the first step is to distinguish between errors and mistakes. In language teaching, mistake is a common, accidental problem, which can occur when we speak too fast, think too quickly, or are nervous or tired. On the other hand, an error is a systematically produced problem, which is usually the result of ingrained patterns of language that we are not aware of. Corder (1967) introduced the distinction between systematic and non-systematic errors. Unsystematic errors occur in one's native language; Corder calls these "mistakes" and states that they are not significant to the process of language learning. He keeps the term "errors" for the systematic ones, which occur in a second language. Making this distinction the teacher can then proceed to the next step: correcting the errors. It is really important for teachers to have "good timing" and use "appropriate" correction strategies when giving error correction (Regan, 2003). Once an error has been identified, you need to consider the type of error and how best to deal with it. • 1. Decide what kind of error has been made (grammatical? pronunciation? etc.). • 2. Decide whether to deal with it (is it useful to correct it?). • 3. Decide when to deal with it (now? end of the activity? later?). • 4. Decide who will correct (teacher? student self-correction? other students?). • 5. Decide on an appropriate technique to indicate that an error has occurred or to enable correction. Jim Scrivener (1994) A lot depends on what you are teaching, and the aims of your lesson, for example if your lesson aim is new vocabulary then you might ignore tense errors while reading and only check pronunciation errors. Therefore the objective of the lesson planned outlines the criteria of error correction. This in turn dictates when the correction should be done: the timing of correction depends on the purpose of the classroom activities. There are two ways to correct errors: On the spot correction and Delayed response. The Spot (Selective) on the spot can be dangerous to your students' confidence. Thus it should be done with caution, and an appropriate technique should be chosen that doesn't slow down the pace too much. Delayed Error Correction (After) should be done at an appropriate stop in the lesson. A good place to do this is at the end of a section, practice, or activity (error correction makes a nice transition between parts of the lesson). teachers should not only know when to treat errors but also how to do error correction. On a humanistic consideration, it is essential to convey the message to the students that making errors are not unforgivable or shameful. This means that a teacher does not always has to be the one to correct, even though at time it seem ( and might be) the most accurate and effective means. Depending on one's class dynamics and lesson objectives a teacher can decide on three different error correction styles: teacher correction: Error correction is often done by the teacher providing corrections for mistakes made by students. It saves time but increase student dependency. Self Correction: As much as possible try to encourage self-correction. If students can fix their own mistake, it shows that they understand and allows them to feel more confident in their knowledge. Peer Correction: Peer correction increases student talk time and also increases student interaction. This is particularly easy to do with homework and written work. As mentioned above making and correcting errors is a process of learning and developing language. Therefore it requires technique. There are a number of methods that a teacher can use to not only correct errors but also to use this as a skill to enhance student awareness, accuracy and fluency of the language. Some these methods are: • Echo the Error: Quick and easy, be an echo to your student's error. • Ask for Repetition: Just say “please repeat” or “please say that again”. • Echo up to the error: Let it hang for students to finish... • Ask a Question: Highlight student's error by asking a question that will expose the error. • Provide Options: Without stopping the flow of the lesson, write options on the board. • Gestures: Especially useful with phrasal verb and preposition mistakes. • Write on the Whiteboard, Underline: The standard whiteboard technique. Highlight the error with an underline • Repetition of the Correct Answer: Once the error has been corrected, have students repeat the correct answer. This technique works best with low level students or when the error seems to have become a bad habit. • Provide Options: Write the error on the board and provide several options. Have students choose the option they think is best. • Use a Visual Aid: Draw a timeline, pie chart, picture or other visual aide on the board to help students to understand the error. Have them self-correct. • Write on the Whiteboard, Underline: The standard whiteboard technique. Highlight the error with an underline. By using these methods students are provided with more opportunities to achieve their tasks and obtain not only a sense of achievement but also confidence that does not falter if an error is made making learning a friendlier experience. Citation: Brown, J. D.1988: Understanding Research in Second Language Learning: A teacher's guide to statistics and Research Design. Heinemann, london. Corder, S. P. 1967. "The significance of learners' errors”. International Review of Applied Linguistics 5: 161-9. Regan, L . 2003. esl teacher Training: Teaching Tip 11: Error Correction | tefl.net www.tefl.net/teacher-training/teaching-tip_11.htm Scrivener, J. 1994. Learning Teaching. Macmillan english, Oxford.