Error Correction in Speaking Activities

Error Correction in Speaking Activities

Everyone makes mistakes even while using their own L1. In the second language learning making mistakes is a natural part of the learning process. The correction of the mistakes is a very important element of the teaching/learning process, therefore, teachers need to make informed decisions about what, when and how to correct their students to improve their speaking for fluency skills and not discourage them from the speaking. In this article, we will present a number of useful techniques which will smoothen the correction slot pressure. 

Basically, error correction can de be divided into two categories: Immediate correction (on-the-spot correction, when students get an immediate, individual correction in the context) and Delayed Correction (correction doesn’t interrupt the flow of the fluency-based task). 

Delayed correction

  • This technique is one of the most effective ones since the teacher doesn’t interfere in the speaking flow and lets the students finish up their mind. The ideas is that the teacher monitors the learning during a speaking activity and collects the errors(grammar, lexical, pronunciation) by noting them in a notebook. The teacher needs to be selective and jot down those mistakes which are closely connected with the lesson topic, impede communication or are repeated mistakes. Mistakes referring to the topics which haven’t been studied or minor mistakes which don’t obscure the meaning shouldn’t be given notice of.

After the activity is over the teacher boards the sentences which contained mistakes, divides the learners into pairs and asks to correct each sentence. They write their versions on pieces of papers, give them to the teacher who jumps through the answers of all pairs and decided the winning pair. Afterwards, the corrects answers are discussed open class. In this way, the students will not feel very stressed about being corrected and actually, the error correction slot will turn into a competition. Moreover, students enjoy analysing the errors and working out the right answers with their peers

Moreover, you can write down on the board not only sentences with mistakes but also ones with good grammar or vocabulary usage. In this case, a teacher asks students to find and correct incorrect sentences.

  • An alternative to delayed correction is when the teacher boards sentences which contain mistakes and asks the students to divide them into two columns where in the first column they must include the mistakes which lead to misunderstanding and in the second column those mistakes which are slight and don’t give rise to any misunderstanding in the communication. In this way, the teacher shows to the students that making mistakes is quite a natural part of the language learning process and not all mistakes must be corrected. 
  • You can use grammatical terminology to make students identify the mistake. Use this technique with more high-level students who know grammatical terms. 

“You used the wrong tense”, 

“You need an adverb, not an adjective” 

 “Can change that into the passive? 

“Say the same sentence, but with the comparative form”

Facial Expression and Body Language

In many cases when the teacher wants to point to the mistake on the spot he/she may use facial expressions or body language. 

  • tilt your head to one side or frown slightly to make the students understand that not everything is ok with their response/speech. In this way, you give them the chance to self-correct 
  • point the thumb backwards showing that the sentence must be used in the past tense form or that there is a mistake in the usage of the past tense. 
  • point to the posters or any other visual in the classroom which contains the right answer. I had a number of great posters with idioms, use of prepositions, functional language use and so on. In case, when I was spotting a mistake related to those language items I was pointing to one of those posters for students to self-correct and students were able to notice their mistake quite successfully.

    Echoing – Repeat what they have said

    This can mean repeating the whole sentence or one section of it including the wrong part with an increasing intonation.
    Student:  “The man GOED to the shop. ”
    Teacher: “The man GOED to the shop?”
    Student: “Went to the shop”.

    You can also repeat the sentence up to the wrong part or the sentence with the wrong part missed out (with maybe a humming noise to show the gap that should be filled). In this way, the teacher illustrates that there is an error and gives some hint as to which bit is wrong by using a questioning tone. However, this method mustn’t be overused not to seem to patronising.

Recast or Sadow correction 

A recast is a corrected answer given by the teacher to a student who has made an error. The teacher effectively repeats what the student has said but in a corrected form. Thi technique is a quick and encouraging way to highlight mistakes.

Teacher: “What did you do yesterday?”

Student:  “I GOED to the shop. ”

Teacher: “Oh, you WENT to the shop yesterday”. 


Sometimes, students don’t need much help at all but just a chance to do it again. In such cases, when you spot a mistake you can just ask them to repeat the sentence again. A lot of students enjoy self-correction and if they finally come up with the right version of the sentence/language item they have a feeling of accomplishment and get better at language awareness.

“One more time (but think about the grammar more this time”

“Give it another go”. 

Error correction is necessary to prevent fossilization, over-correction could be demotivating. This means that teachers need to be selective. For this reason, they can even agree with the students on what type of mistakes they need to be corrected for.  

Which method of error correction will you prefer as a teacher? Why?

Лиза Мардоян

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