Burnt out teacher looking for help with error correction

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Burnt out teacher looking for help with error correction

Unread postby Kimbo » 22 May 2006, 18:20



Dear Lucy,

I have been a teacher now for 6 years in Germany, so I am experienced and have my TESOL certificate. The problem I have now is I had a group of Intermediate students actually suggest I make corrections EVERY time they make a mistake. Of course, this is not really possible at their level and if you have your teaching certificate you realize this is also self-defeating. But, when is enough correction, enough? and when is too little, too little?
I also had another student tell me he feels he has not improved after a year. For this student, we have been over the grammar points again and again, but I think he has made those mistakes for 15+ years and most of the time for his job he is either speaking German, Russian or Polish.
Maybe I am just getting burnt-out??
Any ideas...and what are your thought on using one book for the whole course possibly supplemented by the grammar book. I have seen normally my students don't like the course books and well, to be honest I have not been impressed with much that is out there. I have used the Berlitz materials as well as the Market Leader books.
I appreciate your feedback......

Kim
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Getting the balance in error correction

Unread postby Lucy » 26 May 2006, 14:28

Dear Kim,

You seem to have a lot of questions, so I will answer you in two separate posts.

I understand how it is sometimes with students at intermediate level. They feel that they are not making any progress. At beginner, elementary and pre-intermediate level, they learnt a lot of new things and progress was visible. They tend to plateau out at intermediate level. At this level, progress is not so rapid but knowledge is consolidated. A lot of the language studied at earlier levels becomes automatic, whereas they had to think about it previously. At intermediate level, there is usually more progress in skills work than in language work. Progress in skills work is less visible to students. You could point this out to your students and explain it to them. You could also do a skills activity or language exercise from the beginning of their intermediate course or from the end of their pre-intermediate course. By going back and repeating an exercise and comparing success now with earlier success, they will be able to see how much progress they have actually made.

As for error correction, I agree with you; it is pointless to correct every error. You can explain to students the difference between accuracy and fluency work in speaking activities. You can explain the goals of both types of activities and explain that you correct all (or almost all) errors when focussing on accuracy; when focussing on fluency, you just correct the most serious errors.

The next time you do a speaking activity, you could give three coloured counters (red, amber, green) to each student. Red signifies “do not correct anything”, green means “correct everything” and amber means “correct the most serious errors or the errors that hinder understanding”. Each student chooses a counter and places it in front of them. Make sure that you correct every single error made by the students who place a green counter in front of them. This will probably prevent them from producing a sentence without interruption. By correcting every error, they will realise that they don’t get the opportunity to say very much. Students usually end up by changing their green counters for an amber one. If somebody chooses a red one, they usually realise that they don’t learn much without teacher correction. These students often change to amber too. In any case, by using the counters, you are allowing students to make the choice. They usually appreciate the fact that they make the decisions.

I will write again soon with answers to your other questions.

Best wishes,

Lucy
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Feeling burnt out

Unread postby Lucy » 30 May 2006, 19:29

Dear Kim,

I understand how you feel. It is quite common for teachers to feel burnt-out when they’ve been teaching for as long as you have. Teaching can sometimes feel repetitive and it’s demotivating to teach the same thing repeatedly.

There are a number of things you could try. Is it possible to teach a different group of students? Can you change from general English to business English? Could you teach a level you are not familiar with? Are there chances to teach young learners or exam classes? You might like to speak to somebody at your school who organises these things. Sometimes a change is as good as a rest.

Another approach is to read an article or book on some aspect of teaching that you are not familiar with. By reading the article and trying out some new ideas, you can rekindle your initial enthusiasm. This works well if you read and share your new knowledge with other teachers; your colleagues could read other articles and share what they have read.

Is there anyway for you to follow another course or attend a conference? Your school might accept to fund this for you. Try to present attendance at a conference or on a course as a positive point for both you and the school – a better trained teacher is an asset to a school.

Regarding course books, I tend to favour those that treat the 4 skills in balance with language work. I think the series English File is very good for this. The teachers’ book also contains some fun and interesting activities. In any case, whatever you choose as a course book, I think you need to supplement.

Best wishes,

Lucy
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