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Correction Writing For English Essay Paper

How can teachers encourage learners to correct their own writing? Second-time winner of TeachingEnglish blog award, Cristina Cabal, offers a few tried and tested error-correction activities.

Does every single writing error need to be corrected? In the learning of a second language, this is a question that stirs up great controversy. While it is true that most spelling errors will disappear as learner proficiency increases, there are some persistent errors – mainly grammatical – which remain despite repeated efforts to correct them.

In the following collection of error-correction activities for writing, the main aim is to get students to identify and correct writing errors taken from their own essays.

The activities are fun and highly motivating, and because they are fast-paced, I would suggest going through the errors with the whole class a second time at the end to reinforce learning.

Use 'grass skirts'

This activity is a lot of fun. Ask students to work in threes. Prepare the activity by collecting errors from your students' essays – around ten that will be useful for your students to analyse and correct. Now write these sentences onto sheets of different-coloured paper (as many sheets as there are groups) and cut the sheets into strips so that there's a sentence on each strip – see this template to get the idea. Make sure you don't cut all the way but just enough so that each strip is easy to tear away from the others on the sheet. It should look a bit like a grass skirt, which is how this activity gets its name.

Now stick the grass skirts on the walls of the class and assign a colour to each group. Tell students that the aim of the game is to correct errors from their essays. Explain that only one student from each team can run up to their assigned skirt and tear off a sentence, and only one sentence at a time. Then they have to run back to their group and try to correct the error together. Once they have corrected the error, they need to show their correction to the teacher. If you put a tick, it means it is correct and they can tear off sentence number two. Otherwise, they will have to go back to their group and try again. The team that finishes first is the winner.

Use sticky notes

This is a great activity to get students out of their seats and interacting with other classmates to discuss errors.

On the walls of the class, put up some sentences containing errors from their essays. Ask students to work in pairs and give each pair a number and as many sticky notes as sentences you are going to display on the walls.

Ask students to walk around the classroom, read the sentences containing the errors, and discuss how to correct them. Students will need to write the correct version on the sticky note together with their number, and stick it next to the sentence.

When the students have corrected all the sentences, they sit down. Now, take sentence number one and ask the class as a whole to discuss the error. Check the sticky notes and give a point to each pair who corrected the error. The winner is the pair who gets more points at the end.

Use slips of paper

Write sentences containing errors from students' essays on slips of paper. Ask students to work in threes. Ask each group to choose a different-coloured pen or pencil to write with. Give each group a slip of paper containing a sentence with a grammatical mistake and ask them to spot the error and correct it, writing their corrected version on the back using their assigned coloured pen/pencil. Once they have finished, they will have to pass the slip of paper to the group sitting next to them. Repeat the procedure until all the groups have had a chance to correct all the sentences. Gather all the slips of paper. Write the first sentence on the white board. Correct and explain the grammatical mistake and award one point to the pairs who guessed correctly.

Correct or incorrect?

This is an error-correction activity that encourages discussion and stimulates learning. For this exercise, you’ll need to put students into pairs. As before, select sentences with errors from their essays and prepare two worksheets, A and B, containing a mixture of correct and incorrect sentences. Explain that, on both worksheets, the sentences are the same, but if a sentence on sheet A is correct, the same sentence on sheet B will have an error, and vice versa. Now give sheet A to one student in the pair and sheet B to the other. On their own, they work through the sentences, ticking good sentences or correcting the errors. Allow 10 minutes for this part. You could pair students with sheet A together at this stage to confer. Now, pair students A and B to discuss and compare their sentences, and decide which one is correct. Go over the answers with the whole class.

Tic-tac-toe

Also known as noughts and crosses, tic-tac-toe is a versatile game that can be easily used to correct writing errors. Since a tic-tac-toe grid has nine squares, it makes sense to prepare nine sentences with errors, although you can easily adapt the grid to analyse more errors if you wish.

Now divide the class into two groups of noughts and crosses. Draw or display the grid on the board large enough to write sentences in each square. You could also give each square a number to make them easier to identify. In the squares of the grid, write sentences with the errors you need to clarify. Teams take turns choosing a square and correcting the error, getting a nought or cross for each successful attempt. The team that succeeds in placing three of their marks in a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal row wins the game.

Matching game

This game needs a bit more preparation, but it is highly effective. It has two phases. In phase one, you’ll need to create and print one set of cards containing sentences with errors and another set of matching cards with the explanation of the errors. You'll need to create these sets of cards for each pair of students in the class. The aim of the game is for students, working in pairs, to match the errors with the explanations.

Phase two. As a follow-up, and hopefully to reinforce learning, take back the cards and then read out one of the sentences containing an error. In pairs or groups, students now try to remember the explanation of the error and write it down. After each sentence, check answers with the whole class before moving on to another example.

Read Cristina's winning blog post, Six Amazing Websites that Make Your Writing Stronger.

Visit our TeachingEnglish website for more lesson plans and activities, and find out how you can become a TeachingEnglish blogger.

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English writing can be difficult if the writer does not make use of the many English language writing resources that are available to help them. Writers can use dictionaries, style guides, spell checks, show the writing to friends, fellow students and of course their English language teachers.

How to correct English writing Errors?

The most obvious answer is teacher correction. But is teacher-correction effective? There is some research that shows English language students do not make effective use of teacher-corrections.

Every English writing teacher would like to imagine that their student takes their corrected paper home, pulls out a dictionary and grammar book and carefully goes over each correction. Unfortunately, most students only check to see how much “red” is on the paper and then file it away – never to be looked at again.

Most of the teacher’s careful written corrections are actually wasted.

Error correcting takes lots of teacher time and energy and many students just do not want to see their writing compositions after teacher corrections.

Beware of the student who forgot the homework and just before the homework is due dashes off a quick paper. He makes a lot of mistakes all made in haste. The problem is that the student wants his paper to be corrected and correcting it takes four times the effort to read the “mess with multiple errors”. Your policy should be: if the student does not have time to try to write it well, then you do not have time to try to correct it.

John Truscott and later Krashen have presented research indicating that grammar correction does not really help students at all.

Personally, I have seen that my students do learn from some corrections.

Except for typos and simple errors, self-correction is very difficult for English students because if they understood what was wrong they would not have written it in the first place.

One to One peer correction is not fun and it is difficult for many students to fully trust their partner’s language experience or writing ability.

How can the student add to his English writing skills in a way that interacts with his previous English grammar knowledge and vocabulary?

One of many new methods is called Group writing.

Group writing

Group writing helps students to benefit from several peers, helps students to learn not only from their mistakes but from the mistakes of others and makes economical and efficient use of the students’ and the teacher’s time.

The group writing tasks are everything from writing a paragraph to writing an essay.

Each group can get a different topic to work on or sometimes it can be the same topic and they compete with the other groups.

You can use the whiteboard, the large paper paper pads on an easel or overhead projector as long as there is one per group. One student writes while the rest of the team from one to three others offers suggestions and corrections during the writing process.

Group writing gets the students to benefit from group assistance as a peer-learning experience with more resource value than one to one peer sharing.

With the entire class looking on we examine each finished writing sample and I ask the class to offer corrections. The class really focuses on every group finished writing to see if it is correct or not. Especially if there is challenge or competition at stake.

Group writing seems to be an effective method of correcting English writing errors. Immediate feedback is quick within the groups and again when corrections are suggested in front of the entire class.

Written by Ross McBride – Career Teacher and Coach

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