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TEFL Masterclass – Correcting Written Error

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Susie Bridges – CELTA Trainer Former Academic Manager @British Council.

With two decades of dedicated service in Education & Training, Susie boasts a rich professional background encompassing renowned TEFL franchises such as IH & EF, intimate private language schools, esteemed UK and International Universities, The British Council, and an FE College. Functioning as a versatile freelance Teacher Trainer, she revels in the diverse roles she assumes.

What you will learn

This is the second of two workshops dealing with error. Making mistakes is a natural part of the process when learning something new, but if left unchecked, errors can continually reoccur and may eventually fossilize.

If students don’t even know they are making mistakes, they aren’t really being offered enough opportunities to learn, improve and fully develop their language abilities or their written communication skills. Therefore, it’s really important that teachers pay proper attention to error: both oral and written.

This is the second error correction workshop in which we will help you think about the best ways to correct mistakes made in students’ writing. We’ll talk about the common correction codes you need to teach your learners, some writing criteria / marking schemes and how best to identify which mistakes to pick up on and which to ignore.

Workshop Summary

Introduction to Correction Codes

Susie Bridges introduces a masterclass on correcting written errors, having previously tackled oral errors. She highlights the global use of correction codes by language teachers. These codes, introduced early in students’ studies, help pinpoint usual mistakes, understand their origins, and enhance marking clarity.

The Importance of Writing Skills

Many English as a Second Language (ESOL) students have an uneven skill set, excelling in areas like listening if learned informally but struggling with writing. Addressing this imbalance is vital; not reading, listening, speaking, or writing restricts the student’s language assimilation. The objective is to enable students to self-correct and even recognise errors in peers’ work.

Real-world Application of Writing

Writing is indispensable in everyday life, such as for job applications and higher education pursuits. However, it’s inadvisable to correct every student error, as it can be overwhelming. Instead, crucial mistakes should be highlighted. Integrating writing tasks into lessons can be simple and innovative, ensuring it remains engaging. Resources, including webinars, can aid in lesson structuring.

Effective Error Marking Techniques

Clarity in marking is essential. Error codes such as ‘t’ for tense and ‘w’ for the wrong word can succinctly highlight mistakes. For broader vocabulary issues, providing the correct word can be beneficial. While students should understand differences between English and their native language, using correction codes encourages self-correction. Feedback specificity is crucial, and revisiting previous errors helps solidify understanding.

Understanding Student Errors

Errors may be grammatical or lexical. Many errors might stem from interference of a student’s native language structure with English. Some mistakes, repeated over time, become ‘fossilised’, making them hard to address. The Common European Framework can guide teachers on which errors to prioritise based on student competency levels.

A Holistic Approach to Written Work

Understanding marking criteria is crucial for both teachers and students. Apart from error correction, teachers should also acknowledge the content. Comments that resonate with the content make feedback feel personalised. A combination of error codes and clear explanations is effective. Teachers should employ various tools, such as setting mini-goals, regular writing exercises, and providing marking schemes. The ultimate aim is to ensure students don’t carry mistakes outside the classroom.

Conclusion and Reflection

Writing is a pivotal aspect of language learning. Although correction codes are helpful, personalised feedback remains invaluable. Marking schemes aid teachers in grading, and involving students in understanding this criterion can lead to enhanced learning outcomes.

Reflective Questions

Have a quick think about the reflective questions below in order to get the most out of the workshop:

  1. Do I develop ALL my students’ skills equally in class?
  2. How often do I set my students’ writing tasks?
  3. How do I avoid demotivating my learners when I correct their written work?
  4. If my learners aren’t taking exams, do they really need to do writing?

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