Monday, February 22, 2010

Corrective feedback

I’m currently preparing for an ELT conference in Vienna where I’m going to talk about error correction and feedback. To cut a long story short - I need your help to prove that what I’m planning to say is not sheer theory. 

Here are some basic, immediate ways of correcting students’ utterances. You may or may not like them but the truth is we all use them, from time to time and sometimes automatically, during out classes.

My request is for you to spend a few minutes and let me know which technique(s) you use most often to correct your students. Are there some you never use? Can you think of other ways that I, in my ignorance, haven’t mentioned?

I’ll be extremely grateful for your replies J

  1. Explicit Correction – Teacher provides the correct form and clearly indicates that what the student had said was wrong.
S ‘Yesterday I go to the cinema’
T ‘Yesterday I went to the cinema’. went is the past form of go. If you talk about yesterday you have to use went not go.

  1. Recasts – Teacher reformulates all or part of the student’s utterance.
S1 ‘Are you agree with me?’
T ‘Do you agree with me?’
S2 ‘Yes, I agree.

  1. Clarification requests – indicate to students that what they said has been misunderstood by the teacher or that the utterance is incorrect in some way. Repetition or reformulation is required from the student and the teacher may use phrases such as: ‘Pardon?’ ‘Excuse me?’
T. ‘What did you do yesterday?’
S ‘I play football’
T ‘Excuse me?’
S ‘I played football’

  1. Metalinguistic feedback – contains comments and information about the student’s utterance without providing the correct form. Metalinguistic comments indicate that there is an error somewhere but they are also an attempt to elicit the information from the student. Teacher may use grammatical terminology or a word definition.
S. She like bananas.
T. What’s the ending of the 3rd person singular when we use Present Simple?

  1. Repetition - Teacher repeats student’s erroneous utterance typically by adjusting the intonation to highlight the error. 
S. I watch TV in Monday.
T. IN Monday? (rising intonation)

Please, don’t be a lurker and drop me a line :) If you have more time you can also mention the level and age of your students. 

Thanks a million!


  1. Dear Miss Bossy,
    (Hooray - I'm the first commenter!)

    Don't know if this counts as recasting, but CLL and Dogme teachers sometimes let the student finish their whole turn, then say it again in their own words, and then ask the student to say it again.

    (Seems to work IMHO)

  2. Hey Alan!

    Yes, you're the first so feel free to claim your prize! :)

    Thanks for the comment!

  3. I probably do no.5 most often but also no.3 sometimes. I also sometimes use facial expressions as well such as feigning confusion for clarification requests. If neither of them work I would often then use no.2 or no.4.

    I probably wouldn't use no.4 with very low levels or children though.

  4. I'd be most likely to use recasts/reformulation and repetition with changes in intonation, facial expressions and hand gestures.

  5. I use a lot of different types of error correction depending on the student and activity and whatnot.

    The most common ones that I use during activities are, in order, visual cues, clarification requests, repetitions.

    I also almost always do a class correction of some kind with board work during feedback.

    I generally only use explicit correction if I don't expect the student to know their mistake.

    I also avoid metalinguistic. The closest I'll get is, for example, "Are you speaking generally or about right now?" or something along those lines if I wanted a student to distinguish between why they should choose present simple vs. continuous.

  6. Hi,

    I mainly teach YLs and teens, so I agree with Peter as I tend not to use metalinguistic prompts. I like to explicitly correct, like no.1, it's clear and obvious. No.5 also, as well as recasts and raising my hand to indicate an error has been made.

    I think the clarification requests in no.3 can lead to misunderstanding, so I'm not too keen on that one.

    Sometimes during fluency activities I write a student's error on a post-it and stick it to their table, then they can correct the sentence afterwards. (I must thank my Delta tutor Mike Carter at IH Seville for that one!)


  7. Hi

    This is a great topic and it's interesting to read how different teachers deal with this.

    I like peer correction best of all especially when a class is comfortable with each other. I very rarely correct a student myself. I use a variety of techniques, including facial expression to indicate something could be rephrased. I sometimes write things up on the board,as I hear them, a sentence with the correct tense/word and a sentence/ example with the incorrect one and get students to quickly tell me which version is ok and why.

    Grammar auction of persistent grammar mistakes is usually great fun!!

    A/B sheets for peer correction are also useful. In pairs, students have to discuss which one of the grammatical sentences is correct and why. (Either Student A's sentence is correct or Student B's). This is excellent for grammar points review.

    The important rule of course, when correcting, is never to make a student feel singled out in any way.

  8. Thanks Janet!

    I love grammar auction as well :)

  9. Hi Anita,
    Concerning this topic, I'd say that in my context (since I teach university students) I use recasts, but I try to be as indirect as I can when correcting students that way, as well as repetition. However, sometimes if the error that the student has made is so big (grammar-wise), I ask the other students whether the first student said everything grammatically correct, and if not then they should correct the sentence and tell me why and where the precise mistake was. I even do this to correct sentences, asking the other whether is was correct or if there was any mistake. When I ask that, they usually think for a moment and say there is a mistake but can't find it! So they automatically think that if I ask if there was a mistake, then there must be one!
    So this is a good way of keeping them on their toes for the duration of the whole lesson....and they also have to listen to their classmates!

    Best, Aneta Naumoska

  10. Thanks Aneta!

    Great to see you here! :)

  11. Hi Anita and colleagues,

    Great stuff from everyone, and I have to say I love grammar auction too, though I've mainly used it for feedback to written work and not when students have made errors while speaking. *Note to self, try this out with speaking activities.

    Usually, like others, I write any errors (and good usage) I hear on the board and as the class to correct any mistakes.

    I also read somewhere about a sort of indirect recast method for error correction, which I have to say I haven't used extensively but on occasion it has proved quite effective -

    Child: We goed to grandma's house last weekend. (smiles)
    Mum: Yes, we went to her house and it was lovely.