Help with ideas re: context and error correction

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Help with ideas re: context and error correction

Unread post by ljkp88 » 04 Feb 2016, 14:20

Hello all.

Soon I will be doing short in-house sessions for my colleagues on setting context and error correction. I have been teaching for a few years but this is the first time that I have done anything like this, so I thought that it might be an idea to canvass a bit of opinion on the internet, rather than relating back to my own experience and referencing academic texts.

If anybody could offer some opinions in response to the following questions, or relate things that they have learned from their own experiences it would be greatly appreciated.

- How much of an influence does context have on what students learn during the rest of the class?

- What makes a good context? Could you give any examples of contexts that work/don't work in textbooks?

- If you are working through a textbook and come across a context that is particularly dry, or that you think won't work with your class, what do you do?

- How much error correction should be done throughout the lesson, and how much should be left to the end?

- What methods and activities do you use in error correction? Why do they work?

Any ideas would be much appreciated!

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Joined: 12 Feb 2013, 12:06
Status: Teacher

Re: Help with ideas re: context and error correction

Unread post by footballmad » 05 Feb 2016, 19:42

Here’s my tuppence worth...

In my quite a few years, I can never remember hearing any of my SS say that they had an interesting lesson because of the ‘context’ topic. I have never heard any S say that it was really interesting to read about / listen to a text about shoes, or gold, or China etc. My business English SS have often remarked to me that the lesson was useful ( mostly because the context material used was related to their jobs, company or industry). It’s worth taking into consideration that SS invariably want to get to the target language or receptive skill practice very quickly, in order for them to improve their communication in English and get the biggest payback on the time/money they have invested in lessons. Thus the best context material is that which exposes the TL, or helps them to ‘open doors’, is best. There’s absolutely no need to stick to text book contexts – the internet is crammed full, and even if it isn’t for some reason, then create your own. Avoid ‘dry’ materials, although I have had to plough through some in my time, as they have been the SS own (job-related) materials – eg legal stuff. Then it’s just take a deep breath and...

Error / mistake correction. If you do too little, some smart alec observer will challenge you. If you do too much you will get the same treatment ! First, clear the air with the SS – ask them if they want corrections – and mention the benefits of in-class corrections. Normally they are well up for it. My rule is that if communication is impeded by errors / mistakes, then action by teacher is required (I know what you are trying to say, but can you think of a better word than….?/ sorry I didn’t catch that word, can you repeat it? / are you talking about now or something in the past? etc etc ). You just have to judge the best time to do the corrections, and whether the SS can help each other, or whether they are embarrassed (avoid!) by being ‘challenged’. Knowledge of your audience is seriously useful.

But error / mistake correction itself is not enough. SS must be encouraged to make notes so they can revise or do some exercises for homework. At the beginning of the very next lesson (eg next day) I give a test on the previous day’s corrections as well as other stuff. There are so many different ways; write on the board with gaps/incorrect language (OMG), use handwritten cards and SS have to produce correct examples from prompts, write up words in phonemic symbols only and ask them to read the words etc etc. You ask “why do they work?”. Well they don’t always. Sometimes much repetition is necessary before the ingrained error gets kicked out. But what helps is getting the SS to participate in the ‘tests’ even just by writing on the board while I sit down. And once they & you see positive change from one of your methods, get into a routine and keep doing it so the SS pick up better learning skills – which is what the CELTA and delta hitherto fail to highlight. Have fun !

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