Conversation lessons and error correction

Last week I took part in my first BrELT Chat, the topic of which was conversation lessons. At the very end of the chat participants were asked to contribute a final thought and I said ‘aula de conversação também tem correção’ which translates to ‘there should be correction in conversation lessons’.

In a lot of ways, I think the same techniques can be used for error correction in both a conversation lesson and a ‘regular’ lesson. You can see some examples in my previous post on the same topic. What may change, however, is what I choose to correct, rather than how I correct it.

Take the screenshot below as an example. It shows the boardwork used with a group of adult students (from B2 to C1). They were taking a semester long conversation course based around the topic of travelling.

Error Correction

There is still a clear focus on pronunciation, as this may often lead to misunderstandings in speaking. On the left side there are two common examples of mistakes Brazilian students make (culture, country, coffee). What can be done first is point out the mistake and ask students for the correct pronunciation. Drilling can also help, especially when you can contrast the pronunciation of two words, such as coffee and cough. After that you could provide students with a sentence stem in order to give them an opportunity to pronounce the word correctly in context. For example:

  • I’m interested in ___ culture.
  • A country I’d like to visit is ___.

This should help make the sounds more memorable for students and also give you an opportunity to correct students on the spot if they keep making the same mistake.

A similar idea is to ask a question using the word you want students to practice:

  • Do you suffer from anxiety issues when you travel by plane?

In this case, before getting students to discuss the questions in pairs, remind them to try to use the word ‘anxiety’ in their answers.

Besides pronunciation, there is also a focus on collocations, particularly ones that may suffer from L1 interference. In Portuguese the words ‘information’ and ‘advice’ can be used in the plural. Once again, delayed feedback (reminding students that these words are uncountable and that they can be used with ‘a piece of’ or ‘some’) followed by the chance to use the words again has proved effective in my lessons. I don’t mean to say the mistakes will disappear, but the next time a student makes the same mistake, he or she is more likely to remember the correction.

Here are some more examples of questions that can be used to work with the words from this lesson:

  • What piece of advice would you give someone who is travelling abroad for the first time?
  • Have you ever missed a flight? What happened?

You can either just ask the question (e.g. can you tell your partner if you have ever missed a flight?) or write it on the board. If you have a strong group you can probably get by with just asking the questions, but more often than not I choose to write them on the board. If you are correcting collocations, you could also get students to copy the questions, so they have a written record of the language.

Thanks for reading.


2 thoughts on “Conversation lessons and error correction

  1. Pingback: Error correction in one-to-one lessons | ricardo barros elt

  2. Pingback: So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish | ricardo barros elt

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