Some ideas about correcting pupils’ speaking mistakes

Making mistakes is actually a very natural and necessary part of the learning process.

Pupils may make mistakes when:

  • They are tired,
  • They haven’t understood a part of the lesson,
  • They think in their native language,
  • They have some kind of confusion especially with vocabulary.

Making mistakes is a positive sign as it:

  • provides information about what progress the pupil and the class are making. If many of the pupils are making the same mistakes, You may decide to review part of a lesson.
  • shows learning. It is natural for language learners to overgeneralise rules. It is like an experimental process. We try something to see if it works. If it doesn’t work we try something else until we get it right. Mistakes can be a part of the experimentation.

You don’t need to correct each mistake:

  • More correction does NOT lead to fewer mistakes.
  • If the aim of the lesson is on accuracy, focus some attention on correcting mistakes.
  • If the aim of the lesson is on fluency, focus more attention on successful communication and less on the mistakes that occur.
  • If you correct too much, it could affect negatively the pupils’ willingness and motivation to participate in class.
  • Too much stress on mistakes correction may lead pupils to silence.

Some ways to correct your pupils’ speaking mistakes:

  • You can show that a mistake has been made by giving a surprised look.
  • Sometimes simply shaking your head is enough to indicate a mistake.
  • Hand gestures are also an effective way to point out mistakes.
  • You can note mistakes and write them on the board at the end of the class and ask pupils to correct them.
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