Number one for English language teachers

Teenagers: Writing: Correction

Type: Reference material

A composition returned to a student covered in red ink is very demotivating so here are some ways to make correction more positive.

Motivate, don’t discourage

  • Peer correction – in pairs students read through each others’ compositions and correct orally and discuss what might be a better version = helps students notice errors and analyze them, but this activity depends on mutual trust between students
  • Do not mark anything incorrect on the students’ compositions – just praise everything good – a nice piece of vocabulary, appropriate grammatical structure, imaginative idea, etc.
  • Use different colours – not just red!
  • Correct only one type of error per composition and tell students that you will be doing so before they write. For example, just correct the tenses or articles.

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Readers' comments (4)

  • What fantastic tips! I think correction symbols are a great alternative and a good way to provide extra motivation to students.
    Many thanks to everyone for their advice and comments.
    Best wishes,
    The onestopenglish team

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  • I have to disagree with the notion of not marking mistakes. I have a system that works well, involving traditional--but adjusted for levels--correction symbols. I hand the symbols sheets to the class on the first day, and explain each with examples.

    I write the symbols on the students' composition, hand back the work, and have the class re-write the composition using their correction symbols sheets to guide them. I am there to help, so any confusion is easily handled.

    This is both practical and motivating, because students can see how they impove at the re-writing stage. They are given two scores, and always improve on the re-write, so I think that solves the problem of negative feelings.

    I do use green ink for my corrections, which is something I picked up at university--one or two of my professors did this, so as to avoid red ink, which is daunting, as we all know.

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  • I think China has changed in the last couple of years because I have the hardest time trying to get students to work on their own. They always want to help each other! These are great ideas.

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  • In China, it would be a little difficult to do because students feel shy to read others' composition even if it is just give some more ideas. They usually work individually because they see competition in almost everything.
    But in other countries where they really feel excited to give opinions and others to listen to it is a good idea to use it like this.

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