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TEFL Masterclass – Correcting Oral 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

Making mistakes is a natural part of the process when learning something new, but if left unchecked, errors can continually reoccur and may eventually fossilized.

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 & communication skills. Therefore, it’s really important that teachers pay proper attention to error, both oral and written. 

This is the first of two workshops dealing with error. In this one, we will help you think about where, when and why to correct learners’ oral errors. We’ll talk about how to identify which mistakes to pick up on and which to ignore and also offer tips and techniques for doing both delayed and immediate oral correction.

Workshop Summary

Introduction to the Masterclass

In Susie Bridges’ Gallery Teachers Masterclass, the focus lies on correcting oral errors in language learning. The masterclass aims to examine attitudes towards error correction, identify common learner mistakes, and explore different methods of immediate oral error correction.

Teacher and Student Perspectives on Errors

A prevalent concern among teachers, particularly newcomers, is the potentially demotivating impact of correcting learners’ mistakes. However, Susie posits that mistakes are essential in the learning process. She also acknowledges the disappointment felt by teachers when learners repeat mistakes despite prior corrections. Furthermore, she highlights the importance of evaluating the seriousness of an error, as it influences the decision to correct. 

Balancing Correction and Confidence in Language Learning

Students exhibit varying attitudes towards error correction. While some anticipate immediate correction, others prefer delayed feedback, fearing demotivation. There is also a group of students who fear mistakes and another group who are undeterred by them. Striking a balance between allowing room for errors and ensuring their correction is crucial. 

Factors Influencing Error Correction

The timing and manner of error correction warrant careful deliberation, as factors such as the lesson’s purpose, the nature of the mistake, the learner’s level, and the error’s impact on communication are crucial. Susie encourages participants to share their top considerations when deciding whether to correct an error.

Identifying and Understanding Common Errors

The masterclass delves into typical types of errors, covering areas like grammar, tense, pronunciation, subject-verb agreement, and appropriateness. Understanding the variety and nature of these errors aids in devising suitable correction strategies. Moreover, it’s crucial to consider the societal connotations of words and be sensitive about cultural and social appropriateness when dealing with language use.

Reasons Behind Learner Mistakes

Errors could stem from various reasons, including overgeneralization of grammar rules, interference from the learner’s first language, incorrect teaching or mishearing, incomplete understanding of grammar rules, overgeneralization of certain patterns, or simply lack of knowledge. Understanding why learners make mistakes helps in tailoring teaching approaches.

Effective Error Correction Techniques

Various methods exist for correcting spoken errors. Techniques range from prompting self-correction, visually indicating the error location, reformulating the student’s utterance correctly, to delayed error correction. Teachers could also use peer correction or maintain a conversation flow while subtly indicating the error. Despite these various methods, the decision to highlight an error should be beneficial to the student’s learning process. 

Conclusion: Preventing Fossilisation of Errors

It’s important to prevent learners’ mistakes from becoming ingrained and impeding communication outside the learning environment. Thus, regular practice of both immediate and delayed error correction is beneficial. In conclusion, the masterclass covers attitudes to errors, types of errors, reasons for mistakes, and error correction techniques.

Reflective Questions

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

  1. Do you find it easy or difficult to correct students when they are speaking?
  2. How often do you have time for decent delayed error correction at the end of a class?
  3. What’s your own attitude to error: a necessary part of the process or something to be wiped out?

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