Methods for Correcting Students


Methods for Correcting StudentsCorrecting 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 confidence.

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 well.

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 themselves.

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.

For example:

"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.

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