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Correcting students' spoken errors in your CELTA lessons

Updated: Jan 18

Correcting students' spoken errors in your CELTA lessons
We all make mistakes!

Students all make mistakes, and it's important we respond to these. When students are speaking in class, and a teacher hears a mistake, the first decision they need to make is whether or not to correct the error that they've heard. In a lesson which has high levels of student talking time, there will be lots of mistakes, and there simply isn't time to correct them all. Here are some reasons why you might choose NOT to correct a mistake:

  • the student just made a slip of the tongue and you know that they know the correct answer

  • the student is attempting to express something very complex and any correction would involve teaching something beyond their ability to comprehend

  • the student is very shy/lacking in confidence

  • the mistake is unrelated to the lesson theme or target language and correction would mean going on a tangent and would be a distraction

However, there are times when you'll decide that correction will be useful and/or necessary. In some cases, if it's at an appropriate stage in the lesson and you can do so without embarrassing the student too much, you might do some instant correction. You might do this by repeating the error back to the student, highlighting the wrong word with your intonation or body language or the whiteboard, and encourage the student to self-correct (or failing that, encouraging peer correction).

The most common type of correction you'll see on a CELTA course is delayed correction. This is where the teacher waits until the students have finished speaking, and then puts some anonymised errors that they heard during the speaking task on the board. Then the students will correct them together. This has the advantage of not putting any students on the spot and of allowing all the students in the class to learn from each other's mistakes.

Some new teachers can be too nice, and can avoid correcting any errors at all - this is doing a disservice to students, because they will never progress if they don't get feedback when they go wrong. If you're nervous about doing on-the-spot correction, start with some delayed correction - you'll soon see the benefits!

Dr Connor O'Donoghue hails from Ireland and he started teaching English as a foreign language in Poland in 2003 and he became a CELTA trainer in 2008. He has taught and trained in Ireland, the UK, France, Italy, Slovenia, Macedonia, Poland, Russia, Kazakhstan and Vietnam. Connor also holds a Masters and a PhD in Education from Trinity College in Dublin. He has previously managed large teacher training centres in Vietnam and in London before founding DC Teacher Training.

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