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Top 5 tips on correcting students written work in ESL/EFL classroom

Written activity is my favorite because you can give it to all of the students at once. Students have more time for thinking, analyzing grammar, organizing their ideas etc. However, there are many disadvantages and one of them is the correction time.

I used to do a writing activity twice a semester with my secondary school students but since I have 600 students every week I had to stop doing any writing activity because correcting their work took me too long time.

So, here are my tips on correcting students’ written work in ESL classroom.

Use correction symbols and encourage your students to self-correct

This sounds a little bit difficult but once the students know their mistakes, they will be able to correct them. Below are the correction symbols I use (different teachers use different symbols probably):

(S) spelling error
(WO) word order mistake
(G) grammar mistake
(VT) Verb Tense mistake
(C) Concord error
(√) I use the math’s radical symbol for missing text
(WW) Wrong word – this is one of the most common mistakes of my students
{} Text between this curly brackets is not necessary
(?) I use the question mark for unclear meaning
(P) Punctuation error

In order for students to benefit from the use of these symbols, they have to be trained. The students have to understand how the correction symbols are used and what they mean.

A good idea is to ask students to write a final draft that will include the corrections

By doing that, students will be able to compare the two pieces of work, visualizing the mistakes better.

The teacher should write comments on content, language, and on what is good and what is bad

Having these comments on students’ written work is absolutely essential because the students have a clear view over their strong and weak points. Learners of English have problem organizing their ideas into suitable paragraphs. The teacher should comment on this aspect too.

If the written test or activity focuses on grammar then correct only grammar

The teacher doesn’t really need to correct everything if that’s not the purpose of the test. In this situation, let students know what aspects of the test are corrected. We don’t want students believe that everything else is correct; it is just uncorrected.
This is very important because usually the written work is taken home by the students and it is checked by their parents.

Ask students to correct each other work

Every student corrects the written work of the student who sits next to him. I just love this activity. They start talking together arguing over the mistakes. They really learn a lot during this activity! After the teacher correction, they always compare their corrections with the teacher corrections.


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