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Providing Effective Error Correction

Providing Effective Error Correction

Over the past six years, I’ve learned a lot from observing online lessons and reading feedback from learners. What has caught my attention is that some teachers find it challenging to balance the extent to which they should correct a learner’s errors in lessons, no matter in a private or group-lesson setting. Correcting every mistake of a learner’s language output could terribly affect their confidence, demotivate them, and impact their engagement during the lesson. However, missing that part will result in repeated wrong usage or pronunciation of the target language of learners. Sometimes even a less desirable evaluation score or comment could be the reason that learners believe their language abilities don’t get developed in the lesson.

Here are some basic ideas I’d like to share with you after 6 years of teaching students, supporting teachers, and assuring academic quality:


Think about the connection of what you do in lessons and what behaviors or attitudes of learners are observed as a consequence. The goal of error correction is that learners understand and grasp the target language of a lesson, develop their language skills, and build up their confidence and interest in language learning through our efforts.


1. There are two main areas of errors you could focus on in the language classroom: Errors that are related to the topic and the target language to achieve in the lesson

2. Errors that will affect communication and understanding. It could be an expression of which the meaning is far away from the original meaning or a pronunciation error that may embarrass the learners later if not being corrected.

General process

If time permits, an ideal way would be to highlight the errors and elicit the correct language from the learners themselves or their peers. This gives us a chance to identify learners’ pre-existing knowledge of the target language and decide how much effort is required to correct the error. It can also help to develop learners’ ability of self-correction and promote

interactions between learners in a group lesson.

Once the error is confirmed, it’s good to provide the correct language to learners clearly with a brief verbal explanation. A written record of the correction can help learners know what to work on after an online lesson.

Correction strategies

Some correction strategies that you can try in your class to help with learners’ progress:

1. Clearly communicate with learners about their mistakes instead of repeating the correction . This will help to raise learners’ awareness of the mistake and give them the opportunity to self-correct.

So, imagine the learner says, ‘I want to a receipt’ when answering the question ‘Would you like a receipt?’ in a role play of the topic ‘Shopping’ or ‘Checking out of a hotel’. You could correct the learner as such: “You said, ‘I want to a receipt’, which should be ‘I want a receipt’ or ‘I’d like a receipt’ because ‘want to’ is followed by a verb, such as ‘want to do something’ while ‘receipt’ is a noun”.

A common correction pattern that doesn’t help to develop learners’ awareness is to say something like, ‘Right, you want a receipt’. Even though the mistake is identified, the learners may still use the wrong structure next time as they are not properly corrected.

2. Give both verbal correction to learners and written support when necessary. Learners may not fully understand the correction if we only correct them verbally when the language is above their level or forget what has been corrected when they leave the classroom. Written correction is especially important when the errors are related to target language or when new words, expressions, and phrases are used by us.

Imagine when we are learning a second language ourselves, how we would feel when we want to work on our accuracy but can’t remember what to focus on.

3. Try to give learners sufficient time or as many chances as needed to practice the correct language. This practice is essential if the errors are related to the target language of the lesson. If it’s a pronunciation error, you just need to ask learners to repeat the correct pronunciation. To practice the correct structure, grammar, or word choice after giving corrections, here are 2 practical strategies that you could apply:

  • Checking for understanding. “We just talked about why we should use ‘I got up late this morning’ not ‘I got up later this morning’. Which one of the below is correct: ‘I will see you late’, ‘I will clean my room later this week’, and ‘Don’t be later again’?”
  • Asking for another example. “So now we know ‘I’m not good at solving problems I have’ instead of ‘I’m not good at solve problems I have’. Could you give us another example of this structure?”

There are more correction strategies that work well in our daily teaching practice. As long as they help learners engage in effective learning of the target language, they are doing what’s expected. So, what strategies do you find successful to do error correction?


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