Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Focused Error Correction

When thinking about error correction, consider the following: How can I help learners self-correct?

A good rule to follow is: Don’t do the corrections for your students!

Help learners notice the error. Once the learner notices, he or she may self-correct if the form is the focus of the lesson and the learner is ready for the correction. Remember that heavy correction is premature when you are just introducing new language. During activities that focus on accuracy, correction is helpful.

Example A: During an oral practice activity with the irregular past tense:

Student speaking: Yesterday I go to the store.

Teacher/tutor: Yesterday I…? (uses a nonverbal cue, like a questioning look, or a gesture to signify past tense).

S: Yesterday I no go to the store?

T: Try again. Yesterday I _____ to the store. (T emphasizes “yesterday” and hums where the word should be).
Note: If the learner continues to struggle, ask others if they can help. If someone knows the correct form, model it, ask the original learner to produce it. Then let them know they have it right. Ask them to produce it one more time. If a learner isn’t able to make the correction, then he or she probably isn’t ready for it. Let it go, but make a note that this is an area that needs more work for that student.

Example B: For recurrent errors, like the “S” in third person, hold up a big “S” or make a sign for the wall that you can point to. All you need to do is point to the sign or hold it up as a reminder. Repeat up to the point where the learner made the error and let them “fill in the blank.”

Example C: Write the student’s incorrect sentence on the board with a blank in place of the error. Give them a questioning look or ask them what’s missing. Or, if there are examples on the board, point to the correct form.

Example D: You are moving around the room, helping students individually as they complete a worksheet. Fadumo has finished, but 2 of her answers are wrong.

T: Fadumo, you did a great job. 10 of your answers are correct! Now look at numbers 7 and 12 again.

Note: Sometimes you can give a hint. “There are 2 words missing” or “Think about the tense. It says ‘yesterday’. Is that past tense or present tense?” You can also help by pointing out other key words that give clues.

Did you try these suggestions? Were they effective? Please share by making a comment below.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Rules of the Road

Purpose: To talk about rules using “can’t” and “have to” and to discuss cultural issues in driving laws

Preparation Time: None

Materials: Board and markers; pencils and paper

1. Ask students if they drive. Ask students “What are some of the laws you must follow if you drive in Minnesota/the United States?”
2. Write students’ ideas on the board using “can’t” and “have to”. Examples: You have to wear a seat belt. You can’t pass in a no-passing zone.
3. Put students in small groups. Ask them to compare the driving laws between here and the country they came from. They should speak and work together to find 2 differences.
4. Groups share the differences they found with the rest of the class.
Did you try this activity? Do you have an idea for a variation on the activity? Please share by making a comment below.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Getting to Know Your Dictionary

Purpose: To familiarize learners (low intermediate and above) with parts of a dictionary entry. This activity would work especially well if a weekly spelling/vocabulary list is part of your instruction.

Note: Dictionaries are a great resource for tutors as well as for learners. For example, the Longman Dictionary of American English defines words in simple language that students can understand. It also uses each word in a sentence to aid comprehension. Not sure how to explain a word to your students? Check the learner dictionary!

Prep time: 10 minutes

Materials: word list, class set of learners’ dictionaries

Prep: Prepare several dictionary entries to use as examples. Decide which features you’d like students to become familiar with. It would be ideal to project the examples on the white board or use a transparency for easy viewing.


I do it (Tutor):
Explain the purpose of the activity.
Have actual learners’ dictionaries on hand as visual aids.
Ask learners: When and why do you use a dictionary?
What information can be found in a learner’s dictionary?

definitions/meanings of words
grammar information
(other features may be discovered in next steps)

Put an example of an entry on the overhead projector. Initially, you might restrict yourself to 3-4 features. Underline, circle and label the features.
For example:
example of the word used in a sentence
grammar/part of speech

We do it (Tutor/learners together):
Do another example, this time asking learners to come up and label the different parts. Hand out the dictionaries and look together at the section in the front that explains abbreviations, short forms and codes. Highlight a few of these.

You do it (Learners working independently or in pairs):
Provide students with a list of vocabulary words or refer them to your word wall. Working with dictionaries, students look up each word, noting the definition, the grammar information, and one other piece of information about the word.