".........the tendency is for teachers to be over-preoccupied with accuracy. This means that the student's work is often covered in red ink and no comment is made about whether the work was interesting or succeeded in its purposes."
'The Practice of English Language Teaching' Harmer
What is your view?
A really important skill for ESL teachers is error correction. There is a fine balance needed to maintain lesson flow and develop student’s confidence. It is easy to tip this balance and the results are disastrous for your students. Over-correction will result in students losing confidence and then always speaking hesitantly, often “stuttering” and always looking to the teacher for confirmation. Under-correction will result in students developing bad habits and not learning proper grammar, forms, usage; eventually decreasing communicative ability.
In addition of my thought I would like to pay attention on red ink in general. Red colour is a symbol of dangerous. Being honest, I prefer using green or black pens. Even using pencils is better, because red ink makes students nervous.
Using my own experience, I would like to notice that I don’t have exactly attitude to this quotation.
Everything depends on student.
Different students are different personalities with different aims. For some of them it’s more than enough to get the student’s work covered in red ink without any comments. Because he has the opportunity and willingness to correct himself. This person understands that one day his teacher will disappear and in real life situation nobody will help or encourage him. That’s why some students prefer to analyze the mistakes themselves.
But it’s worth pointing a few problems here, however: the students will only notice a limited number of own errors (mostly those arising from a lack of attention), so -the resulting variant of, eg, the essay will still be too far from acceptable with weaker students; in addition -they may feel uncomfortable and abandoned by you, hence – discouraged, as in many cultures it’s common to rely on the teacher’s motherly care. In any case, self-correction is not as easy as it may seem.
Therefore, it’s wise to use a “transitional” technique, fostering the learner maturity on the one hand, developing their noticing skills, and guiding their thinking, structuring the errors revealed so they are not overwhelming, and helping the learner to take some action eliminating them, on the other.
Other students prefer to get their works with describing of their mistakes in detail. For them it’s easier to understand their successes and progress. Only teacher’s comments and care help them to improve their English.
Well, in my opinion, the best way to correct your students is, naturally, getting them to correct themselves. Moreover – I see it as the only way to really achieve the results (and it is especially true of getting rid of fossilized errors).
This rule works with Russian students especially successful. Since childhood we used to work under strict control and do everything ourselves. Our life is based on practice, not on theory.
Scrivener, J. (1994). Learning Teaching. Oxford, U.K.: Macmillan Heinemann English Language Teaching.
Thornbury S., Watkins P. (1998). The CELTA course. University of Cambrige.
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Linguists study the structure of language, ie sounds and meanings, and the grammar to which they relate, and they come together with psychologists who investigate how people acquire the structures and functions, and use them in speech and understanding. The work can be used to inform TEFL but also to help people with speech and language difficulties where some important component of communication may not have been acquired.
A knowledge of the difficulties of learning a foreign language is built into some degree courses in ESOL and Applied Linguistics by the syllabus including learning a foreign language from scratch in order to study the process by which we are taught and by which we learn (psycholinguistic study).
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