I recently wrote about the Why’s and When’s of error correction, now let’s look at the How’s. It’s important to note that there are many ways of doing this, so go with whatever method is comfortable and effective you and your class.
Why, What and When
We established before that the corrections should be given selectively. You should particularly be looking for errors using the target language, language previously taught, or common/serious mistakes.
It makes sense that the person to correct the errors should be the teacher. You know the problem and the solution, and can define and put things simply so that the student can understand the mistake. The student should trust what you say, respecting your place as a fluent speaker of English.
Teacher correction also allows you to deal with the error using the best technique, and in a sensitive way (using error correction as a way of embarrassing or berating a student is definitely not the right thing to do).
A second method of error correction is giving the responsibility to other students. Student-to-student correction gets the class involved, keeping them mentally alert. It decreases TTT, and encourages the class to speak up. Some students might take umbrage at this technique, but it has many advantages.
Thirdly, self-correction is an effective method. Students who can correct themselves are probably going to remember both the problem and the solution, and will feel more confidence having recognized their own mistakes. In a real situation, the teacher won’t be there to offer corrections, so self-correction is the real goal for a student.
A mix of all three methods is perhaps the best way to achieve results, so try to vary your methods.
Identify, categorize and replace
The first step in correcting a mistake is identifying the error. Make sure the student knows which part of the sentence is incorrect, and how it is incorrect (word order, tense, preposition etc.). Then help the learner to correct the error.
Error correction is an essential part of TEFL, but it doesn’t have to be awkward or over-bearing. Have fun with it!