Methods for correcting mistakes in students' oral communication

How to correct students’ mistakes in speaking

How to correct students’ mistakes in speaking


  • Speaking
  • Pronunciation
  • Activities
  • Tips & Strategies
  • Methodology

Teacher’s feedback is an extremely effective and influential tool. It can significantly improve students’ achievements if given correctly. Feedback helps you realize that you don’t know something, that you know something, where you need to go next and how to improve your skills.

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One of the most difficult tasks for a teacher is to listen to their students when they speak English and to correct the mistakes they make in speaking. We should also not forget that correcting mistakes should be positive and motivate our students. 

When it comes to correcting speech errors, the following issues arise:

  • we do not want to interrupt our students;
  • we do not have much time to analyze errors and work on them;
  • students keep making the same mistakes, even if you've talked about them a hundred times, etc.

In order to help your students and yourself, you need to understand why this happens. Most likely, your students have some gaps in knowledge – then it’s ‘errors’. Or they have a functional problem — these are ‘mistakes’. We often make the latter in our native language, often they are slips.

Delayed error correction technique will be effective in both cases.

Step 1

While your students are on a speaking task, walk around the classroom and write down the mistakes they make. You have to decide for yourself what to record and what not. For example, if only one student makes a mistake, you should not pay much attention to it, but if the whole group – then write it down.

It is possible that students with a higher level of English do not make mistakes, but speak in sentences that are a literal translation from their native language into English. Then write the following sentences in order to suggest a ‘more English’ / upgradable equivalent.

Step 2

Write sentences with examples of errors on the board. Divide the students into teams and ask each team to think about what is wrong with these sentences and to correct them. Students write down their own versions of the sentences and explain what the mistakes are. For each correct sentence — give them 1 point.

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Step 3

Find out the nature of the mistakes. It’s pretty easy to do. If the students easily corrected it and were able to say why it should be so, most likely it was a slip or a mistake. In the future, such mistakes can be corrected immediately, while speaking.

If students have difficulty with certain sentences, it is obvious that there is a gap in their knowledge. Encourage students to make up some examples with this word or grammatical structure. If the error is still there, return to it at the end of the lesson.

Step 4

If students continue to make the same mistake next time, come back to it again and again. And when students know that you have already gone through this, and can explain the nature of the error on their own, then you can transfer it to those errors that need to be corrected immediately.

This technique works best if you use it with the same students over a long period of time. This way, they will regularly remind themselves of this one little error in time, not all the mistakes at once. This will help them to remember it better.

Here are some tips to help you make delayed error correction even more effective:

  1. Write complete sentences to create context. This will help students easily understand and remember the mistake.
  2. Add correct examples from students as well, not just mistakes. This will motivate them and encourage them to learn from each other.
  3. Don’t spend a lot of time writing everything down on the board. To avoid dead silence in the classroom, write down everything while students are on the task, and then share the screen or project everything on the board.
  4. You can try to “erase” the mistake by simply making a gap and asking students to fill it in. Then they will come up with a lot of ideas and they will analyse mistakes themselves.
  5. Listen to what your students do not say, but should say, so that you could then paraphrase and upgrade their statements.
  6. Encourage students to think about how a sentence could be said differently in English.
  7. Plan such “error correction sessions” in your lessons and set time for this.
  8. Don’t forget to provide feedback not only on grammar or vocabulary, but also on pronunciation.
  9. If you do not have enough time to deal with mistakes in class, leave them for the next lesson. This may even be the subject of a lesson, or part of the course, especially if students keep repeating these mistakes.

Finally, it is important to remember that those who do not learn do not make mistakes. Our main task is to build in students the feeling that making a mistake is cool because they are learning something new.

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Article authors & editors
  • Yulia Chorna

    Yulia Chorna


    DELTA Module 1, CELTA certified teacher of General & Business English



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