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Dealing with error correction in online speaking lessons

Some techniques for immediate and delayed error correction when teaching online.
Lindsey, let’s talk about error correction with speaking activities. So we talk about immediate feedback and delayed feedback. Let’s start with immediate feedback, how is it different? Well I think that you would do immediate and delayed in the same way. Immediate would be more with, obviously, a focus on accuracy, and then delayed with a focus on fluency. Yeah, so if you’re doing a bit of language work prior to the actual speaking activity, you might use immediate feedback. Exactly. Now when students are speaking in class, and if the focus is on accuracy, you would pull a face when you want them to correct. You might repeat half of what they said up to the point where they made the error.
And hope that they then correct. Exactly, something like that. Now when you are listening to students speaking online, especially if your face is a little video– They’re never going to pick that up. They’re never going to pick up a funny face or a hesitation or a little noise. Exactly. Or if you repeat the sentence, you’re probably going to interrupt them. The lag might make it awkward and so that becomes problematic. OK, so solution? Well, I think online teachers tend to do less immediate correction. It’s not fully delayed to the end of the activity, but once that student has finished their turn. Then you might actually say, you said this, can you correct it?
Or you might, for example, agree with them that you’re going to hold up a big card, or with young learners, a puppet or something like that, and agree with them before they speak– That they need to stop when you hold it up. Exactly. Yeah. So I think those are some things to think about with immediate correction. Fine. And so let’s talk about delayed correction. So we’re talking here, they’ve done the speaking activity and now you want to give them a bit of feedback on that and pick up some errors and maybe some examples of good language. Yeah, absolutely. We can use the chat box, can’t we, for that?
So you’re listening, they’re chatting, and you’re typing in the chat box which involves some dexterity and multitasking. Yeah, I do think that if you’re not a fast typist it is something you probably need to practise. Yeah, because you know you can’t just write it and then write it on the board. You do need to be sort of typing as you listen. I must admit, I tend to use a Word document, because then I can just have a quick check before I send it to them rather than using the chat box. That’s a good idea. But actually, the chat box can also be used when you’re actually doing the feedback. Would you like to explain that?
Well as you say, we can use a chat box or a Word document or the whiteboard to share the errors. And then I think what is great compared to a face to face lesson, actually, is that you can get the students to all correct the errors at the same time. So you put the errors on the whiteboard, for example, and then you say to students, can you correct them in the chat box? And you can be seeing them correcting them and to see which ones they can’t correct, which you then spend more time explaining. And the ones that they know– And that’s definitely an advantage to online teaching than the face to face.
Because in the face to face classroom, only one or two will shout out the correct answer and everybody else just sits and watches. But this way you involve all the learners. I think that’s fantastic feedback for you as a teacher, and it gets all the students thinking which is really important.

Feedback is an essential part of the learning process and learners in an online environment need to know where they are now in their learning, where they need to go and how they can get there just as much as a learner in a face-to-face context. One element of feedback is error correction. Error correction online is likely to be dealt with slightly differently than in face-to-face lessons.


Watch Lindsay and Marie Therese talking about some error correction techniques you can use in your online lessons. Which statements refer to immediate correction and which refer to delayed correction.

  1. We should include examples of good language used.

  2. It needs practice.

  3. It’s hard for students to recognise when it’s needed.

  4. Less of this is done in online lessons.

  5. We can use Word, the whiteboard or the chat box to elicit it.

  6. It’s possible to personalise it with the chat box.

  7. You could prompt it with a card or puppet.

  8. All learners can get involved via the chat box.

Check your answers here.

Reflect and share

How do you usually correct errors in face-to-face lessons? How might you need to adapt this for an online environment? If you already teach online, what changes have you had to make to the way you elicit corrections to errors? Share your ideas in the comments.

This article is from the free online

Teaching English Online

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