Why I Don’t Do No So Much Corrections?

teacherblackboard1.jpgTeachers have different views on correcting students’ mistakes, and many won’t agree with me…but I hate breaking into someone else’s speech and correcting them. I minimize how much I do this and make sure that correction happens some other way. I also try to give my students enough practice learning something correctly the first time around.

Perhaps surprisingly, students often ask to be corrected when speaking; there are times when I do this, especially as I get to know them more, but I still do it less than some students expect. So I tell them how I feel about this and why:

1) it makes carrying on a normal conversation (usually one of the aims of a communicative lesson) difficult or impossible – and, even though students say they want to be corrected, it does shake people’s confidence to be bluntly told they are wrong.

2) it is often impractical with more complicated mistakes – for example, it would take some time to correct the title of this entry (if it was spoken and not just written), and the mistakes in it are not even particularly complex.

3) it does not seem particularly effective – they may repeat after me in that case, but whether they will remember the same point in a different context next week is questionable, and meanwhile the conversation has been de-railed. In the real world, students will need to communicate; there will be no one standing behind them providing past perfect continuous because they used past simple.

All this said, if a grammar or pronunciation mistake impairs communication, it is worth taking the time to clarify it on the spot in a communicative class. But there are plenty other ways to make corrections productively, such as these.