Teaching English as a Foreign Language: How to correct student mistakes

Knowing how and when to correct student mistakes, whether verbally, with gestures or in writing is a really useful skill to learn and will really help your students when teaching English as a foreign language.

When to correct student mistakes when teaching English as a foreign language

When and how often to correct student mistakes can be a challenge when teaching English as a foreign language, and not something that has a coverall answer, as every student feels differently about being corrected. When you are getting to know your class in the first lesson, it can be a good idea to ask them how they like to be corrected so that you can make the class as useful as possible to them. There are also some accepted times as to when and how to correct or not when teaching English as a foreign language.

The question when deciding whether or not to correct students is whether you are focusing on their fluency or their accuracy in the class.

In many cases, especially when focussed on conversation, it is much better to be focused on fluency. To do this, mark down errors as they come up and bring them to the student´s attention at the end of the paragraph, rather than correcting as they go and breaking up their thought process. Another successful method can to be save up the errors by writing them down over a period of time, and then writing them up on the board. We can then give the class the chance to correct the errors and give explanations. This is a good method to spread the corrections amongst the group, so that no one in the class feels that you have picked on them more than others.

Using Body Language to Correct Mistakes when Teaching English as a Foreign Language

When deciding that correcting students at the time of error is necessary, it can be useful to have some stock gestures which point out to the student that they have made an error. A much better way than butting in while they are talking can be to use you hands or face to point out the sort of mistake they have made using gestures and then give them a chance to try to correct it themselves. You can use your hand to show them which tense they should have used or move your mouth to show it was a problem with pronunciation.

Don´t allow students to be disheartened by the number of mistakes they make – remember to point out that it can show they are pushing themselves to use more complicated language or grammar. As long as the correcting with gestures is done in a positive way, students will be happy to get the feedback. When students are put in the position to reflect on and correct their own errors, they more often than not will be able to, helping make your teaching of English as a foreign language all the more successful.