Friday, April 15, 2011

Keeping students on the right track

People who are undertaking the impressive task of learning to communicate in a language that is not their own are going to make mistakes and it is important that they do.  A lot of language acquisition is simple application of what you think may be the correct way to say it based on what you know of the target language and what you transfer from your own.  But this needs to be refined through feedback about whether or not the assumptions that we have made are correct.
So, correction is important.
It is up to the teacher to apply correction given the type of activity, the personality of the student etc.  But a general understanding of correction is important.
Point One: Try to focus correction on the current material to avoid overcorrection.  But do not consistently ignore a recurring error as the student will build a habit that will be difficult to break later.  There is a balance to be struck here.
There are two kinds of correction.
1)      Correcting material that has already been taught. 
Here, you are assuming that the material is familiar to the student and that they have the ability to make the correct utterance if they put more thought into the sentence. The purpose of correction here is to simply highlight the error so that the student can self-correct.  It should not be necessary to give the correct form.
2)      New material
If the error that has been made is because the student has not learnt the correct form, it is probably best not to dwell on this one.  Here is an opportunity to input new language that could help the student but if you are working from a set curriculum, this language is probably better off coming up in due course.
Point Two: Correction is best done during the practice stage (Presentation, Practice and Production).  So that when you get to the production stage, the student can use it with confidence.  If not, go back to practice and build that confidence again before moving back to production.
When we correct:
Intrusive Correction: Correction that interrupts the production of language.  This kind of correction should be as close to the error as possible.  If you are going to interrupt the conversation to correct, best not to let them get 3 more thoughts down the road before you stop them. 
Reflective Correction: This is correction that looks back on language that was produced.  For this kind of correction, we need to remind the student of what they said before correcting it.  Sometimes, simply asking them to produce it again will bring the correct result.
Points Three and Four: They will remember what was said last so always make sure that the last thing that is said is the correct one.  Never fall into the trap of using inauthentic English or repeating incorrect language because when this comes from the teacher, the student takes it as confirmation.

For correction of written work see here.

No comments:

Post a Comment