Some thoughts on error correction

This is my first proper video post (although I did record some voice-overs for this post) and it was brought about by an article I read this morning.


The book I quote in the video is Grammar for English Language Teachers, by Martin Parrott. You can find it here.

3 thoughts on “Some thoughts on error correction

  1. But then we must ask ourselves: are students making those mistakes aware of these other possibilities such as “more happy” instead of the more common “happier” and that’s why they do so? And if that’s not the case, should we draw their attention to it and/or correct them? Another question that comes to my mind is: are native speakers “allowed” to make those mistakes just because it’s THEIR language?
    I’ve been reflecting on error correction myself as well for some time now, and I’ve come up with the following approach (which is not a new one, so I’m even trying to take any credit for it): delayed correction when the focus is content/fluency, and correction on the spot when the focus is accuracy. Now, what to correct? Again, if the focus is accuracy, I’d just correct whatever mistakes related to the target language of the lesson the student is making. In tasks where the focus is fluency, maybe choosing one or two language features to give delayed feedback on is a good approach. For instance: during a follow-up slot in a listening lesson, I can focus on giving feedback on the use of prepositions, plus feedback on content. Depending on the group I have, I put some of the mistakes on their Paddlet wall and ask them to correct the mistakes themselves.
    Anyway, I really liked your video. I hope you continue posting more videos about your thoughts on English language teaching!


    • Hi, Letícia. I think you make a lot of good points. I’ll try to answer them in parts.

      1. I don’t think students (particularly at lower levels) are aware that both happy and more happy are possible. The reason you may want not to say anything is that there are likely to be other (more important) mistakes to focus on.
      2. Fairly or not, I do think non-native speakers are held to a higher standard than native speakers. That’s why I like to make sure certain words/structures appear in reference books. I let my students say ‘more happy’ because there’s literature that backs it up. Using ‘I’d rather’ without a verb isn’t OK, though, because I can’t seem to find examples in reference books, despite the fact that an educated native speaker says it all the time.
      3. I think your approach to correction makes a lot of sense, and I do things in a similar way. Besides taking into account fluency/accuracy, some mistakes lend themselves better to on the spot correction while others are more suited for delayed feedback. For example, more advanced students tend to speak faster and produce longer utterances, and that sometimes makes it harder to correct on the spot. So what I tend to do is use delayed feedback and then give students a chance to use the target language again.
      4 I’ve written about error correction before on the blog and my first two posts on the subject might interest you. You can find them here: (scroll all the way down for the first two posts)


  2. Pingback: Thinking of Error Correction – feelfreetotalktomih

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