How teachers can use learners’ errors to develop their accuracy with language through a classroom activity

Blog
18 November 2015 by ATL
In the second of the blogs, we’ll be looking at how teachers can use learners’ errors to develop their accuracy with language through a classroom activity.

As part of ATL's Union Learning Fund project, ATL Midlands have organized their first English and maths week. This week we'll feature three blogs from Joanne Miles about embedding English.

It is hugely encouraging to see that embedding English in lessons does not have to be dry, dull or disengaging. There are many ways to develop the skills and knowledge of the learners, while encouraging some enthusiastic collaboration or competition at the same time. Here is an activity for developing accuracy that I have tried myself and seen in action in different settings across the sectors.

The Correction Game

This is a game-style activity for correcting errors collected from learners’ written work or speaking activities. It can help learners become more aware of accuracy within language use and more confident with proofreading tasks.

Procedure

  • The teacher selects some examples of language from different learners’ writing or a recent speaking task to create a list of five or six sentences for the students to review in teams/groups. The sentences could be correct or incorrect and should be presented anonymously.
  • Each group or team is allocated 20 points, which they must divide between the sentences, depending on how confident they are about whether the sentences are correct or incorrect. Some points should be allocated to every sentence on the sheet.
  • For every sentence that they get right (it’s correct or they can correct it appropriately), they double their points. At the end of the marking stage, the group or team with the most points wins.
  • At the marking stage, groups swap sheets and mark another group’s answers in a different coloured pen. The teacher elicits answers and corrects any misconceptions.
  • If learners keep a “common mistakes checklist” in their files or notebooks, key sentences can be added with errors highlighted and corrected.

Tips for the Teacher

  • Mixed ability teams work well in this activity.
  • The first time you play this game, you can start off with the easier version in which they know there is an error in every sentence.
  • They have to be confident they can correct it to put points on it.
  • You can use this as an energizing starter activity or a lively lesson closer.
  • You can focus on different kinds of errors depending on the needs and level of the group, e.g. one day it can be spelling errors; another it could be punctuation or grammar.
  • You could make this a regular item in your lessons, with the learners in fixed teams and scores logged on a grid, if you find that competitive team tasks work well with your learners.
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