Methods for Correcting Students
students when they are speaking
is a difficult thing to get right.
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If you do it in an insensitive manner, you can destroy their
If you do it too often you can harm their fluency
And if you don't do it enough, they may become used to saying things
incorrectly, and the mistakes will be harder to get rid of.
It isn't easy to get the balance right, but here are some tips to help
you correct your students in a sensitive and appropriate way.
Top five tips
1. Do you need to correct them?
If the students are taking part in a fluency speaking exercise then
don't stop them when they are speaking.
Likewise if they are performing a role play, it isn't usually
appropriate to correct them during the exercise.
If you are doing spoken grammar exercises then yes, it is a good idea
to stop the student and use some form of correction technique.
Also, remember you don't need to correct everything.
If a student is attempting language that is above their level, and that
they haven’t studied, it isn't usually appropriate to correct every
mistake they make while attempting it.
2. Try using a 'correction time'
Allocating time after an activity for correction generally works very
There are different ways you can do this.
Firstly, you can make a note of mistakes you hear and write them on the
board after the exercise.
You don't have to say who made the mistakes (but usually the student
who made the error will recognize their mistakes).
The group as a whole then correct the mistakes in the sentence. This
way, the students are not directly embarrassed by being corrected in
front of their classmates.
Secondly, you can write the mistakes and get students to correct them
in pairs. This has the added advantage of creating more English
speaking time for the students.
Thirdly, you can also use the 'correction time' to give praise for good
language you heard during the exercise.
3. Accuracy vs fluency
If your students are working on activities related to accuracy rather
than fluency then it is appropriate to stop and correct them.
One way to do this is to stop the student after a mistake with the
target language and repeat back to them what they said.
Hopefully they will realize what the mistake was and correct it
If not, then it is OK to try and lead them to the correct version, or
kindly tell them the answer if they still can't get it right.
4. Be aware of cultural issues
Many nationalities, particularly from the Far East, feel very ashamed
when they are corrected, so be aware of this and try to be kind and
sensitive when you are dealing with these students.
5. Give a 'praise sandwich'
This makes criticism seem less harsh but also focuses students on what
they need to do to improve. A 'praise sandwich' is simply a criticism
or correction, sandwiched between two pieces of praise.
"Max, your pronunciation was much better today, well done. Now, why do
you think "Yesterday I go to the cinema" was wrong? (wait for student
to reply). Yes, that's great. Well done, it's really good that you are
starting to correct your own mistakes."
You can see that here, the teacher has actually made Max think about
his mistake, he has corrected it, and he will probably leave feeling
positive about his progress.
Correction is an important teaching tool, which can be most helpful to
students when done properly. Implement these methods for correcting
students to get the best results.