Friday, May 2, 2008

Correcting spoken English

By Terence Egan

Being of the "fluency first" school and having students with quite a low level of English (and motivation), I let many errors slip by in my first term at this school. I didn't ignore them completely, but allowed conversations to flow as best the communicator could manage.

At the beginning of second term, I feigned great horror at many of the common errors that students make in conversation. I tried to sell them on the simple notion that, if we practiced one common error as a component of each lesson, by the end of the term their English would have improved significantly and, hopefully, each student would have eradicated several of these problems from their extensive repertoires.

There was another rider to that first speech of the term. Having taught them the correct form or structure, I would not allow that mistake to be made in my class "ever again". This was my Churchillian denouement.

I began with "he" and "she", moved on to things like "I very much like (something)", "much" and "many", etc. In written exams they show that they know the rule, so it's a matter of discipline, concentration and practice.

The interesting result was that these errors, once they were enshrined in "classroom law" (or "lore" maybe) became rare - from the moment they were introduced in a lesson! By the end of the term, the students were correcting each other (without animus, of course).

Chinese students seem to like boundaries and rules. Other rules introduced in Term 2 such as "no sleeping", "no latecomers", "no Chinese" were observed with the same diligence and often policed by each other.

1 comment:

Randi Hewitt said...

From my experience, I've found that correction does help. I like the idea of targeting the correction on certain problem areas.