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3 LISTENING: Do You Error Correction

Recognize in ESL Writing and
These 5 ESL Speech (Part 2)
Listening Mistakes?
15 ACCURACY: Hitting
4 PRONUNCIATION: the Bulls Eye:
7 Worst Pronunciation 4 Simple Steps to
Mistakes ESL Fostering Accuracy in
Students Make Your Students Letters
Around the World
5 PRONUNCIATION: Teaching in Japan:
Pronunciation 101: 5 Common
7 Things Student Mistakes
Your Students Need
to Hear You Explain 17 MUST READ: 5 Non-
Verbal Ways to Do
6 PRONUNCIATION: Error Correction
7 Little-Known Factors
that Could Affect 18 MUST READ:
Your ESL Students The Upside of Errors:
Pronunciation When and Why
to Avoid Correcting
7 STRESS AND Your Students
ESL Students Make 19 MUST READ: How to
These Stress and Correct Mistakes
Intonation Mistakes?
8 INTONATION: 7 Ways How To Provide
to Correct Your ESL Quality Feedback
Students Intonation In The ESL Classroom
Once and for All
9 TRANSLATION: How 7 Things Your Quiet
to Get Your Students ESL Students
to Stop Translating Are Not Telling You
and Start Thinking
in English 22 MUST READ: 10 Best
Pieces of Advice
10 REVIEW: Reviewing You Could Ever Give
ESL: 8 Mistakes Your ESL Students
Your Students
Must Overcome 23 BONUS: Whoops,
Before the Test I Did It Again: Talking
About Mistakes
SPEECH: Correcting
Student Error in
Writing and Speech:
When, How,
and How Much


SPEECH: Correct Me
if Im Wrong (Please):
Do You Recognize
These 5 ESL Listening Mistakes?
Some students have the nasty habit of
Though it is useful for them to find out the
meaning of a word they dont understand,
this type of behavior wont help them im-
prove overall listening comprehension.
But to speak better, they have to listen translating what you say, in their heads,
better. Speaking and listening compre- What to do: Students must understand
as you speak. This is terribly tiring, it does
hension are like the two sides of the that sometimes its more important for
not help students develop fluency, and in
same communication coin. Students who them to understand the conversation in
fact, it hinders it as they must constantly
lack the proper listening skills will have a general, than the meaning of a single
pause to translate before they can reply.
much harder time communicating in Eng- word. Convey to your students that, in
lish. What to do: Teach students early on fact, its not necessary for them to un-
NO RULES (even if theyre beginners!) about the im- derstand every single word all the time.
One of the hardest things about improv- portance of thinking in English. Translat- Listening comprehension takes time to
ing listening comprehension is that you ing is hard enough as it is: it takes pro- build, and they start by listening and get-
cant give your students a set of rules like fessional interpreters years of practice ting the gist of a conversation. Then, they
the ones you give them for correct gram- to get simultaneous translation just right. are able to listen and pick up more de-
mar and proper speaking. Students sim- Remind them that they are not training to tails. In time, there will be few words they
ply practice listening either they get it or become translators -- they are learning to wont understand.
they dont. speak English. And if they want to speak
Now, there is of course a set of things you
can do, certain ways to approach listen-
it, they gotta think it!
ing exercises to maximize the listening
comprehension potential. Here, Ill fo-
cus on the mistakes ESL students make
Theres nothing better than having
students who are motivated take their
Weve already established that listening
(really listening, not just hearing) takes a
great amount of effort. To really make the
when approaching listening practice.
listening practice into their own hands. most of this effort and not let the listening
Teach them to work on eliminating these,
They buy audio and video CDs, listen to practice become just another tiresome
and theyll be better prepared to meet a
music or podcasts or even watch entire task, students must employ certain lis-
listening challenge.
movies in English. The problem arises tening skills. A lot of students dont know
when they dont recognize their own limi-
5 LISTENING MISTAKES tations. They buy a CD that is not appro-
they exist, least of all know how to use
ESL STUDENTS MAKE priate for their level. They watch an entire
What to do: Familiarize students with

movie where the protagonists are gansta
GIVING IN TO MENTAL BLOCK rappers and then feel absolutely deflated the different types of listening strategies,
because they did not understand a single which include:
When youre not a native speaker, Listening for gist students try to get
listening takes massive amounts of effort the main idea/context
and concentration. Just to picture what What to do: When you catch students bit- Listening for key words students try
your students have to face, try listening ing off more than they can chew in terms to listen for a specific word, idea or
to an interview in a foreign language you of listening practice, youll need to steer thought, for example, a date, histori-
barely speak: its hard, isnt it? What hap- them in the right direction. Recommend cal fact or piece of information
pens after a few minutes? You simply de- films where the actors speak very, clear Listening/checking for comprehen-
cide you dont understand, give up and educated English and instruct them to sion a great strategy is listening to
shut the audio off. What do our students approach the listening in steps. First they what someone has to say, like direc-
do when they dont understand a conver- watch with subtitles in English and then tions to get to a place, and then say-
sation in a real life situation? Of course, they turn off the subtitles. Maybe they ing them back to check for compre-
they cant shut it off, but they might just should watch the movie in parts and not hension
decide its too hard, and simply tune out. all of it in one sitting. Also, tell them that
Give up. a short, but focused listening exercise is YOU CANT GIVE YOUR STUDENTS
What to do: Tell students that in a real
a lot better than a longer listening where RULES FOR LISTENING LIKE YOU DO
life situation, theres nothing wrong with
you have more chances of getting lost. FOR SPEAKING OR WRITING, BUT YOU

asking the native English speaker to slow
down, repeat or rephrase. Native speak- DOING OTHER THINGS TOOLS.
ers are often polite, understanding and AS THEY LISTEN Listening comprehension is not an exact
absolutely willing to help out. Students science, not in any language, and not
Depending on the listening exercise, they even for native speakers (sometimes we
must be taught right from the start to lose might have to take notes as they listen.
the fear of asking for repetition or clarifi- hear what we want to hear, right?) Help
But happens when students write things students set realistic expectations and
cation. down or look up words in the dictionary goals, and provide them with the set of
right in the middle of a conversation? tools that will get them there.
7 Worst Pronunciation Mistakes
Students Make Around the World
Proper English pronunciation can be students and give them plenty of ex- How to fix it: If you have students who
a big problem for some ESL learners amples. Remind them of the fact that have a hard time pronouncing the w
and more difficult for some students English is a stressed, not a syllabic show them how to round their mouths
than for others. A students native lan- language, and that unstressed syl- into an o and then unround them to
guage determines, for the most part, lables or words in English often have produce the right sound, like this (bit.
the degree of difficulty and the types this sound. ly/YmKeNk).
of difficulties students will have. In my
experience, ESL students whose na-
tive language is Chinese or Japanese
have a much harder time than those
whose native language is Spanish, The r and l sounds are the stereo- Some students may have a hard time
Portuguese or French. But despite the typical mistake Japanese students noticing the difference between words
differences between countries, there make they say lice instead of rice. like not and note or bit and bite. They
are certain mistakes that are the most But it is also a difficulty that occurs in may be tempted to split them into syl-
common among ESL students all over other Asian languages. lables: no-te and bi-te.
the world. Here, youll see not only
what they are, but also how to help How to fix it: The problem usually How to fix it: Once again this is a prob-
your students overcome them. lies in the position of the tongue. To lem that can be fixed by practicing
eliminate the confusion first focus on word pairs. Help them notice that note
practicing one sound the r , then is different from not in that it has the
HOW TO PROCEED the l. In both cases, show them and extra e but its still not pronounced.

contrast the position of the tongue and The effect of the magic e is that it
PRONOUNCING THE TH teeth. changes the pronunciation of the word.

4 7
The th is one of the hardest
consonant sounds to pronounce. It can PRONOUNCING PRONOUNCING
be pronounced in three different ways: THE SHORT I SILENT CONSONANTS
as a d (//) as in this, that, these,
those, they or them, as the voiceless The short i or [i] as pronounced in This is one of the problems I have
in three, thing, thought, or as a /t/ words like live, sit, fit, hit usually poses personally encountered the most with
as in Thai or Thames. The pronuncia- a problem as students may be inclined native Spanish speakers. They some-
to pronounce them as leave, seat, times tend to pronounce consonants
tion of the is especially difficult for
feet, or heat. that are silent, like the d in Wednes-
some - students often say tree instead
day or the g in foreign.
of three.
How to fix it: Give them plenty of prac-
tice with these confusing word pairs: How to fix it: In my experience, fixing
How to fix it: Go over the difference
live-leave, sit-seat, fit-feet, hit-heat, this problem is as easy as writing down
between the three types of pronuncia-
etc. First say each and ask them if they the word on the board and crossing
tion. Dont forget to mention that the
can hear the difference. Next, repeat the silent letter out. It is very important
third one is the least common. As for
each set and have your students re- for you to not only verbally correct the
the difficulty in pronouncing the
peat. Be sure to either write the words pronunciation and have them repeat,
, show students how to place their
on the board so they can see the dif- but also write it down. As many times
tongues between their teeth and force
ference in spelling or show them word as you have to.
air out to make the right sound.
cards. The more practice you give

them, the better theyll pronounce
these words.
The schwa ( ) is a sound that is
typical in unstressed syllables, for in-
stance in long words like mem(o)ry,
This is a typical pronunciation problem MAKE OFTEN, IT IS VITAL FOR YOU
choc(o)late or shorter ones like th(e) or in some European nations. Some stu-
t(o). The usual mistake is for students TO ADDRESS THEM AND HELP THEM
dents have a hard time pronouncing WORK TO IMPROVE THEM.
to pronounce the word syllable by syl- the w sound. Water is pronounced as
lable: me-mo-ry. Write it down. Have them repeat. Work
vater, west is pronounced as vest, and with word pairs. Soon enough theyll
so on. be making fewer mistakes.
How to fix it: Introduce the schwa to

Pronunciation 101: 7 Things
Students Need to Hear You Say
Bad pronunciation is bad news for word doesnt sound like fluent, hu- lent, but simply disappear. This is the
ESL students. It negatively affects man speech, does it? It is vital for stu- case with the d in and (often pro-
comprehension and so, negatively dents to understand that making the nounced an) and the t in it or but.
impacts on communication. The prob- effort to pronounce every single word In I went there last night we wouldnt
lem is compounded by the fact that does not lead to good pronunciation. pronounce the final t in went, last
good pronunciation is often a mystery or night.
to ESL students. Why is it that some How many times has a student asked
words with a similar spelling sound
the same but others are completely
different? Why are some words pro-
you how to pronounce an article like
the or a? They need to understand
that articles and other non-stressed
nounced exactly the same in their na- words are not clearly pronounced but Students must understand that quite
tive language but others are not? Mys- rather swallowed. This is why two often the spelling of a word is no indi-
teries are not good. Here are some of separate words like is or on are not cation of how it should be pronounced
the things you need to explain to your pronounced separately in the above (and by the same token the pronun-
ESL students to take the mystery out example, but combined to sound like ciation of a word is no indication of
of English pronunciation. one ison. how it is spelled). The th for example
sounds like a d in then or than, but
Related to the previous point,
completely different in thing, three or
thousand. Students must learn to dis-
tinguish between letters and sounds,
and the fact that pronouncing each i.e., same letters may have different
ABOUT ENGLISH word separately is a bad idea, is that sounds depending on the letters that
PRONUNCIATION: quite often two sounds are linked to follow it or precede it.
sound like one word (sometimes even

The goal of pronunciation prac-
more than two words are linked). This
is often the case with the verb is when
its followed by an article or preposi- 7 UNDERSTANDING THE
tice is to pronounce correctly, not tion that starts with a vowel (an, a, on,
sound like a native English speaker. The schwa sound is one of those lit-
at). Hes an architect sounds like He tle mysteries that ESL students often
Only children who are exposed to a za narchitect. This happens when
second language for extended peri- hear about but never truly grasp. The
a word ending with a consonant is fol- schwa, whose phonemic symbol looks
ods of time are able to eliminate their lowed by a word starting with a vowel.
foreign accent because their brains like an upside down e ( ), is an un-
Something similar happens when we
are still flexible enough to do so. stressed, weak sound that occurs in
ask, What did you do? (sounds like
There is such a thing as accent reduc- many English words. In the phrase a
wha diju do?) In this case, the two
tion, but a foreign accent in an adult story about a girl the three as are
sounds are combined to form a new
will never be completely eliminated. schwa sounds. The same happens
mixed sound.
Furthermore, an accent is a part of with the e in the or the o in to. ESL

who you are, a part of a students cul- students who master the schwa are
SILENT LETTERS well on their way to improved pronun-
tural heritage. Students should accept
this and strive to improve pronuncia- Just like there are words in a ciation.
tion instead. sentence that are not clearly pro-
nounced or stressed, a single word THERE IS NO MYSTERY TO CORRECT


It is tremendously useful for
may have consonants that are not
pronounced, either. ESL students are
often unaware of this. Words they of-
students to understand that English, ten mispronounce are those that end ONCE YOU DO, THEY WILL BE
unlike other languages, is a stressed in a b, like bomb, dumb, or comb. BETTER ARMED TO UNDERSTAND
language. This means that in a sen- Others have trouble with the silent THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THEIR
tence some words are stressed more g in foreign, sign or champagne. Be NATIVE LANGUAGE AND THE ONE
than others. In syllabic languages, like sure to clarify in which cases letters THEY ARE TRYING TO LEARN.
Spanish for example, it makes more are silent.
sense to focus on pronouncing each

word, syllable by syllable. But if we
were to do this in English wed sound
like robots. Try saying, Your book is There are words that have con-
on the table by pronouncing each sonant sounds that are not exactly si-

7 Little-Known Factors that Could
Affect Students Pronunciation
Proper pronunciation is vital to your ESL
students success. Pronunciation plays
a very important role in communication
for your students to communicate ef-
Out of these first three internal
English-speaking schools should have
a better pronunciation than those who
study English only a couple of times a
week. If you have students who dont
factors, motivation is the one that can
fectively, they must speak clearly and really make a difference. Highly moti- have enough exposure to the English
make themselves understood. Some- vated students will in all likelihood have language, encourage them to increase
times simply using the right vocabulary a better pronunciation. What motivates it, either by listening to authentic audio
and structures is not enough. Now, why students to speak better? Most simply or hanging out with English-speaking
is it that some students do better at ac- want to fit in - they dont want to be dis- locals.
quiring the proper pronunciation than criminated against because they have a
others? Here are the factors that could
possibly answer this question.
funny accent. Others, like adult learn-
ers, really need to speak clearly and ef-
fectively for professional business com-
One of the factors that may be af-
munication. If you have students who fecting your students ability to acquire
7 FACTORS THAT seem to lack motivation, use their pas- proper pronunciation is quite simply
MAY AFFECT sions to help them find it. that it is not being explicitly taught in the
YOUR STUDENTS classroom. This is one of the things that
ESL classes often lack and one of the
things that makes a world of difference

As an ESL teacher youve prob-
Students from different nationalities
have varying degrees of difficulty learn-
in the acquisition of pronunciation. Do
you correct their pronunciation mistakes
as they speak, or do you give them spe-
ably already noticed the difference be- ing proper pronunciation. The difficulty cific pronunciation exercises that target
tween teaching young learners and depends on how different their native certain phonemes, word pairs or verb
adults. The younger your students are, language is from English. For example, endings? Be sure to devote some class
the easier it is for them to acquire an ac- English is a stressed language, Span- time specifically to pronunciation prac-
curate pronunciation and it becomes ish is a syllabic language, Chinese is tice.
increasingly difficult as they age as the a tonal language. Phonemes are dif-
brains original plasticity diminishes,
and it becomes more rigid. Now that
said, this does not mean adult students
should give up trying to improve their
ferent in each, as well as the way the
mouth, teeth and tongue are used. Your
students may have difficulty articulat-
ing some sounds because they simply Students pronunciation largely de-
pronunciation. It just means they have do not exist in their native language, pends on the pronunciation they hear
to work harder. If you teach adult ESL sounds like the th. on a daily basis. If they are immersed
learners, be ready to plan and devote in a community where most of the indi-
some of your class time to targeted pro- First, youll need to assess your stu- viduals speak English with a non-native
nunciation practice. dents difficulties and formulate a plan accent, this will surely influence their
to overcome them. Identify the pronun- own pronunciation. Moreover, if the

Research and studies consistently
ciation problems. Is it a problem with
stress? Some phonemes more than
others? With Japanese students you
teacher has a non-native accent, it will
affect students pronunciation as well.

show that ESL students with a positive may have to practice the l and the r. OF COURSE, YOU CAN TEACH ENGLISH
attitude towards learning English learn Whatever their difficulties are be sure IF YOUR ACCENT IS NOT NATIVE
faster. By the same token, students who to tailor your pronunciation exercises to PERFECT. BUT IT IS YOUR RESPONSI-
are genuinely open-minded and inter- help your students overcome them. BILITY TO STRIVE TO IMPROVE YOUR
ested in improving their pronunciation PRONUNCIATION AS MUCH AS YOU

often do improve it. It is truly amazing
what the right attitude can do. ENCOURAGE STUDENTS TO SEEK OUT
It will come as no surprise that NATIVE INPUT, EITHER BY JOINING
On the other hand, students who have ESL students who live in English- ACTIVITIES OR GROUPS WITH ENGLISH
prejudices or a natural dislike for Eng- speaking environment acquire better SPEAKERS OR SPENDING SOME TIME
lish will be less successful than those pronunciation faster because they are IN AN ENGLISH-SPEAKING COUNTRY.
with a positive attitude and open mind. immersed in the language. But not all Students must be proactive in their
If you have students who are openly ESL students are immersed in an Eng- hopes to secure the right English pro-
negative or complain about the English lish-speaking environment. The degree nunciation, but teachers are the coach-
language, try to have a nice long chat to to which they are exposed to English es in this endeavor. These are the two
address these issues. Before you can on a daily basis will determine how fast sides of the pronunciation coin part-
help students overcome their pronun- theyll be able to improve their pronun- ners working together to achieve a com-
ciation barriers, youll need to help them ciation. So, children who go to bilingual, mon goal. One cant achieve it without
overcome these others barriers first. the other.
Do Your Students Make These
Stress and Intonation Mistakes?
Do you have ESL students who do the
robot? No, I dont mean the dance.
I mean speak in a monotone, with no
color, no feeling. It doesnt mean that
spond placing the stress on John. But
if you ask them, What did John get?
they should place the stress on job.
Students often dont use the right
pitch to convey feelings. A single word
they dont feel the language. They prob- like really can express completely dif-
ably just dont know how to use stress HOW YOU CAN HELP ferent feelings: Really said with a fall-
and intonation to convey intention and Draw your students attention to ing intonation expresses disbelief, while
meaning. the matter of stress. Explain that Really? with a rising pitch expresses
Most of the time, students who have English is a stressed language and surprise.
trouble using the right stress and into- that word and/or sentence stress is
nation speak native languages with very important to convey the right mean- HOW YOU CAN HELP
different rules. English is a stressed ing. Use clapping or tapping to indi- Exaggerate. Even though it may not
language, and this means that more at- cate where the stress goes. sound natural, its the best way to
tention should be paid to where you put Go over some basic rules of word get the point across and students
the stress in a word or sentence, rather stress. For example, when the same have a better chance of hearing the
than the number of syllables. Check out word can be both a noun and a verb differences. Make the rising pitch
these very common stress and intona- (rebel, insult, suspect), explain that as high as you can, and the flat
tion mistakes and what you can do to the first syllable is stressed in the intonation sound monotone. Make
help your ESL students kick the robot noun and the second syllable is sure your face also shows the right
to the curb. stressed in the verb. feeling.
Indicate stress visually. You can
mark the stress the way dictionar- Go over patterns, such as:
MOST COMMON ies do , use - Yes/No questions have the rising
MISTAKES: STRESS bigger or smaller circles as seen pitch towards the end.
above (ho-tl) or use Cuisenaire

rods. These are also useful to show
where the stress goes in a sen-
- Questions that begin with wh-words
have a falling intonation.

The student says h-tel instead of ho- Contrast. If its hard for students - Statements have a falling intona-
tl. This type of mistake may lead to to hear the right word stress, say tion.
misunderstandings, and the speakers it different ways put the stress in
meaning or intention may not be at all different syllables so they can hear - Question tags may have either de-
clear. An added complication is that the difference and hear the right pending on the intention of the speaker.
there are plenty of words that have a dif- stress. Questions tags that are comments or
ferent meaning when they are stressed Be sure to contrast the difference observations have a falling intonation
differently. This is case of r-bel and between placing stress on different while questions tags used to check in-
re-bl. Or dsert and dessrt. Finally, if words: I want to learn English vs. formation or express uncertainty have a
there are too many mistakes with word I want to learn English. Can your rising intonation.
stress, the listener may become impa- students tell the difference in mean-
tient or confused, and this is not good ing? Use rising intonation to express
for communication. surprise.
Use falling intonation to express
sarcasm or disbelief.

Just like placing the stress on the wrong

syllable within a word, placing stress on
the wrong word in a sentence may lead
This is the intonation mistake I en-
to confusion or the speakers inability counter most often. Yes/No questions Skip the explanations regarding theory
to convey exactly what he/she means. typically have a rising pitch towards or linguistics. Show them how to place
Lets see an example. A sentence like, the end, and lots of students end their stress to convey meaning. Exaggerate
John got a new job can be stressed in sentences flat so they dont sound like surprise or looks of disbelief so stu-
different ways (stress can be placed on questions at all: Do you like chocolate. dents get the full effect of the intonation.
John, new or job), all of which convey They sound like statements. Students Stick to it and give it time. Soon enough
different meanings. If you ask students, often have more trouble imitating the you wont have any more robots in your
Who got a new job? they should re- rising than the falling intonation. class!

7 Ways to Correct Your ESL Stu-
dents Intonation Once and for All
Intonation is one of those crazy little intention. If a student says Sorry, it
things that can make one speaker sound sounds like an apology. But if they are Say: Dont you like coffee? Ask: Do I
bored and another interested while trying to get someone to repeat what sound certain or surprised?
they use the same exact words. Intona- theyve just said, they should say, Sor-
tion adds a dimension to the English lan- ry? Sometimes you need to exagger-
Finally, say You have to go? And sim-
guage, a richness that goes beyond the ate the rising pitch at the end and have
ply ask your students what youre indi-
mere use of the right words and the right students repeat. Dont worry if it sounds
cating with your intonation (surprise).
grammar structure. Its what helps you exaggerated at first. Itll sound more nat-

say a lot, in perhaps just a few words. ural later as they gain confidence.
ESL students learn intonation by imita- ONE WORD ANSWERS
tion and understand it the more they
listen to native English speakers, but it
takes more than that, more than just lis-
In the beginning, the best way for
Another great way to practice into-
nation is by asking students to reply to a
variety of situations with only one word.
tening. Intonation has to be taught. And students to both hear and repeat a rising
Because they can only use one word,
corrected. And heres how. or falling intonation is through very short
the intonation has to be just right to carry
phrases and sentences.
the right intention. For example:
CORRECTING ESL Say: What do you say to a friend whos
STUDENT INTONATION: just arrived late?
7 WAYS Sorry. Yes.

Student: Late.
Say: Your friend has not arrived yet, but
The very first thing ESL students Then, work your way towards longer youre not sure why. What do you say to
must understand about intonation is the phrases and sentences. your other friend?
difference between rising and falling in-
tonation. The best way to illustrate this
difference is to say the same sentence 4 BUILD TOWARDS LONGER
Student: Late?

with both and discuss the speakers in-

tentions in each case. This is a great strategy to use when stu-
dents are having a particularly difficult
time with longer sentences. If you want
Try this game to keep your stu-
Youre John, arent you? (The speaker dents on their toes. Write out some short
your students to ask, Would you mind phrases on some cards but dont punc-
is certain.)
closing the window? start by saying and tuate them. Give each student a card.
repeating the last word and working your Your student has to read the phrase,
Youre John, arent you? (The speaker is way backwards:
uncertain.) and say it out loud, but first they have to
see what you indicate with your hands.
Window? Sweep your hand up if you want them to
Isnt that funny. (The speaker is making use rising intonation, but sweep it down
a comment.) Closing the window? if you want them to use falling intonation.

Isnt that funny? (The speaker is asking Mind closing the window? You won the lottery. (sweep you hand
a question/seeking confirmation.)
Be sure to illustrate the difference with Would you mind closing the window?
arrows and repeat the correct intonation You won the lottery? (sweep you hand
for each case. Then, have students re-
peat examples in both rising and falling
intonation. They may not get it at first
Just as important as using the right

See how many get it right! And have oth-

both may sound exactly the same. Have intonation is discerning the speakers in- er students say what is being expressed
them repeat till they can clearly express tention based on the intonation he/she (surprise, certainty, comment, etc.)
both the rising and falling intonation. uses. Give students exercises where
they must listen (either you or an audio INTONATION MAY BE A PAIN TO

FOCUS ON THE RISING PITCH track) to different types of intonation, and
ask them what the speakers intention is. YOU OWE IT TO YOUR STUDENTS TO
A lot of students end questions or GIVE THEM ALL OF THE TOOLS THEY
sentences flat no rising pitch at the NEED TO COMMUNICATE ACCURATELY
Say: Isnt it hot. Ask: Am I asking a ques-
end, and sometimes this rising pitch is AND EFFECTIVELY. AND INTONATION
tion or making a comment about the
absolutely necessary to convey the right IS ONE VERY POWERFUL COMMUNI-
Get Students to Stop Translating
and Start Thinking in English
understand the meaning of the phrase
and when its used.


If you teach ESL by only speaking
English in class, then you often supply
definitions or explanations of words in
Like miming, visual aids such as
flashcards, illustrations, posters and
NATIVE LANGUAGE? English. Ask students to use Eng-Eng
How often do you have students who even video are great ways to avoid
dictionaries, and it will contribute to your translation.
translate things in their heads before efforts.

answering you? By contrast, how often
do you have students who provide a
natural-sounding reply, spontaneously
and automatically, without even blink-
Use words they already know in lead in
ing an eye? Chances are most of your When you teach feelings like sad, questions: Are you happy to see your
students still translate in their heads happy, scared, etc. --its a lot simpler friend? Youre glad to see him. Check
at least some of the time. Our goal as to translate them. But its so much more out these other great ways to teach vo-
teachers is to guide students towards fun to act them out for you and your cabulary. No translation needed at all!
increasingly thinking in English and class! The same goes for actions like

drop the crutch of translation. But we all opening closing things, walking, run- TEACH LANGUAGE
know this is precisely one of the hard- ning, etc.
est things to achieve. So how do we do
that? How can we effectively get our
ESL students to think in English? 3 TEACH LANGUAGE
The need for translation will be elimi-
nated if you teach words in groups that
make sense, for example, eat and
WHY ITS SO IMPORTANT FOR ESL A student a writes a word on the board, drink with a list of food items.
STUDENTS TO STOP TRANSLATING points to it and asks what it means.
Consider their main goal. They want
to learn to speak English, not become
Most of the time we have no idea where
they got it, which leads us to ask ques-
tions about the context. After all, there
are plenty of words that have different
translators. Theres no point in them If students try to say things in their own
speaking their native language in their meanings in different contexts. This language, simply say you dont under-
heads while theyre trying to learn an- is precisely why language must be stand. Try to lead them to say what they
other. taught in context. For example, would want to say in English. This is by far my
you teach the Past Simple by present- favorite strategy. If a student speaks
Its counterproductive. The constant ing a list of verbs and their past forms? to me in Spanish, I love to say, Yo no
comparison of one language to another What if there are verbs they dont un- hablar espaol with a thick English ac-
hinders naturally flowing speech. Expe- derstand? Your best course of action is cent (besides being absolutely fluent in
rienced interpreters are real pros at this, to introduce the context first. Tell stu- Spanish, Im also a good actress). Be-
but your students are not. dents what you do every day, and then cause its funny, it predisposes students
tell them what you did yesterday. This better than a reprimand!
Some things are simply too hard to eliminates any need for translation.
translate. This creates a situation where THERE IS STILL MUCH DEBATE AS TO
the student is desperately trying to re-
member how to say the one word they
have in their minds in English, while
they should be trying to recall a recent Has a student ever asked you to trans- LANGUAGE.
lesson instead. late the meaning of Youre welcome? I have personally had excellent results
In most languages a literal translation speaking only English in my classrooms.
Now, that weve established the im- is ridiculous, but providing a similar There have been very few occasions in
portance of getting students to think phrase in the students native language which I had to explain something to a
in English for the duration of the class, is not necessary, either. When stu- student in Spanish, but those were very
lets see ways to help them achieve this dents ask for translation simply say a special cases or students with some
ever-elusive state. set phrase is a set phrase. Make sure type of learning difficulty. When I teach
they understand its a reply to Thank Japanese students, I cant use their na-
HOW TO GET YOUR you. They will probably figure out the tive language at all. I cant speak a sin-
STUDENTS TO STOP equivalent in their language, but with gle word in Japanese, but that doesnt
TRANSLATING AND some expressions an equivalent is hard impact the lesson negatively, in fact, it is
START THINKING IN to come by think of proverbs or idiom- very helpful, as students are not tempt-
ENGLISH atic expressions. The goal is for them to ed to use their native tongue.
8 Mistakes Your Students Must
Overcome Before the Test
will do this, you can be certain of that,
but its something you need to correct
right away, lest they keep doing it.
Some students add an extra the

when they shouldnt (The children
play the Angry Birds.) or omit an arti-
A LITTLE WORK BEFORE THE TEST. This is one of the hardest mis-
cle that should be there (I ate piece of
If you are conducting a review that is takes to correct. There are so many
toast for breakfast). If your students
focused not on the number of units uses for so many different preposi-
make lots of mistakes with articles, be
theyve seen, but on the goals they tions, its hard for students to keep
sure to give them a good review.
have met along the way, youll see track of them all. One of the best ways

that there are some classic mistakes to help out students who perpetually
that students typically make no mat- REPETITIVE USE use the wrong preposition is to orga-
ter what their level is. OF FALSE FRIENDS nize them into contexts, for example
prepositions of place. We say we are
Heres a list of mistakes ESL students Lots of languages, if not all, have
at school, at work, at home, but
often make in class. You can take false friends with the English lan-
in the living room, in the bedroom
this as a checklist to make sure you guage. For example, embarazada
(in a particular room). We may also
are reviewing what you need to re- means pregnant in Spanish not em-
point out the difference between say-
view and ensure that they dont make barrassed (and this confusion can
ing at the bank (in a banking situa-
these again. make for some pretty funny classroom
tion) and in the bank (literally inside
situations). There are examples like
the building as opposed to outside).
8 MISTAKES this one in many other languages. If
you have students who resort to false
MUST CORRECT friends, or even like to make up words
BEFORE THE TEST: (Ive had my share of those, too!), tell
them that no matter how funny it may
Students in all levels will get count-

seem, they should try to use words
PROBLEMS WITH SUBJECT- ables and uncountables mixed up
they are sure are correct because
VERB AGREEMENT theyve learned them. and incorrectly use a little, a few,
many, much, etc. Again, charts

Some of the most painful things us and graphics are very helpful in this
ESL teachers have to hear are she PRONUNCIATION case, to help students see exactly
have, he dont or people doesnt. OF SILENT CONSONANTS what theyre doing wrong. You can
Ouch! This is such a typical mistake use the classic two-column list to con-
we probably hear it on a daily basis If you have students who still pro-
trast (a few cars vs. a little traffic)
even advanced students let one of nounce the silent b in comb or
or any of these strategies.
these slip every now and then. Be- bomb, you need to take a minute to
cause this is something they repeat write these down on the board and
and are used to repeating, they may show them exactly which letters they STUDENTS MAKE MISTAKES, AND
listen to our correction but often need to pronounce. The same goes THEY WILL IN ALL LIKELIHOOD CON-
dont take the time to really let it sink for words like Wednesday (when TINUE MAKING THEM.
in. If you have students who make the the student pronounces the first d) or But the review lesson is a wonder-
same subject-verb agreement mis- muscle (when the student pronounc- ful opportunity to show your students
takes, take the time to stop and really es the c as a k). what their weaknesses are, not to
bring their attention to it. make them feel bad of course, but to


help them focus on what they need to

These mistakes crop up again Everything seems to be going well Some mistakes will turn into bad hab-
and again. If theres one thing stu- in your classroom. Your students are its over the years, things that are so
dents need to focus on as they review very attentive and no one is speak- firmly entrenched in their speaking
for a test is the tenses theyve learned, ing their native language. But then that it becomes increasingly harder to
whether they are simple or advanced. someone says, I have 20 years. If correct. Youll need to correct these as
Help them out by providing plenty of you, like this student, are also a na- soon as possible to give your students
comparative charts graphic organiz- tive Spanish speaker, youll know for the best chance to improve their Eng-
ers or timelines are more helpful than a fact your student just did a literal lish.
long-winded explanations. translation in his/her head. Students

Correcting Errors in Writing and
Speech: When, How, & How Much
Recently my teenaged daughter
1 CONSIDER THE SITUATION. to know where to improve.

was watching as I corrected student Is the language situation an in- FOCUS ON LARGER,
papers. formal situation or formal one? Is the
Mom, she exclaimed. Thats wrong. OR GLOBAL, ERRORS.
student speaking extemporaneously or
Its she goes to school, not she go. writing a first draft, or has she had time Which errors should be corrected?
Yes, I replied. I know that. to plan and reflect? Who are the partici- Should all student errors be marked? If
Well, arent you going to do something pants in the situation other students they are mistakes, the instructor should
about it? or the larger community, for example? point them out, shouldnt she? Again,
What do you think I should do? All of these considerations matter in de- we should go back here to the purpose
Well, mark it, of course! ciding if its appropriate or not to correct of correction. If the purpose is to help
I then showed her where I had indeed student error. Even native speakers, students improve production, then cor-
marked the same error, earlier in the actually, sometimes make mistakes like rection should be limited to one or two
paper, before the five or six other in- subject/verb agreement errors when areas for students to focus on which are
stances. I still think you should mark engaged in spontaneous speech in an important to overall comprehensibility:
the others, Shoshana said. informal situation. Its just that nobody the students pattern of run-on sentenc-
And what good do you think that would really notices their errors. We tend to es, for example, or stress patterns, not
do? Will it make the student learn Eng- be more attuned to the errors students a single misspelling or mispronuncia-
lish faster? and nonnative speakers make as were tion. Isolated issues of misspelling and
Well, no looking for them: we assume native mispronunciation usually do not detract
How will it make the student feel? I speakers know better and wont make from overall comprehensibility (if this
asked. How would it make you feel if a errors. were the case, most native speakers
paper that you wrote in Spanish came of English would on occasion lapse

back covered with red ink?
I cant write anything this long in Span-
FOCUS ON LANGUAGE into incoherence) -- rather, the instruc-
AS COMMUNICATION. tor should look for the global problems
ish, was her reply. problems in verb tense switch, for
But the couple of sentences you do example, usually effect overall compre-
What is the purpose of language: to
write are correct, I guess. At least that hensibility of a message.
show how correct and elegant we can
was true of my experiences in second
be in our production, or is it to commu-

language learning: I have a limited
range of what I could say or write in
nicate a specific message? Unless you FOCUS ON PATTERNS
are a poet, for example, whose busi- OF ERRORS.
French or Russian, but the little I can
ness is the beauty of language, and for
produce is precise due to the meticu-
whom the main purpose might be its In addition to considering the serious-
lous correction of my attentive teachers.
beauty, the ultimate goal of language is ness of an error, the instructor should
most cases is to get across a specific consider the frequency of the error. If
Although a small incident, the conversa-
message. If the student has achieved the student has a concern with almost
tion highlights a number of misconcep-
that, his production is probably good always omitting articles (a, an, and
tions about correcting error in second
enough, in most cases. the), this is a problem that should be
language writing (and speaking, for that
addressed because omitted articles are

matter): that every error should be cor-
rected, no matter the situation and no FOCUS ON PURPOSE distracting from the overall message
OF CORRECTION. and can affect overall comprehensibility
matter how small, and that correcting
of the writing.
error somehow results in improved lan-
Why do we correct student error? Is it to

guage production, and that the learn-
ers emotional response to correction show our expertise, to show the student COST-BENEFIT
doesnt matter. All three assumptions her errors so shell learn from them? To
demonstrate our editing skills? To show Are all errors even worth the time
are incorrect, in my experience, lead-
we know more than our students? In and trouble to correct? For example,
ing to the principles of error correction
most cases, of course, the purpose of prepositions in English, especially the
I have developed.
correction is to help the student revise more abstract ones that dont refer to a
literal place, are very difficult to teach
PRINCIPLES her writing or improve her fluency and
as they are idiomatic and dialectal: for
OF ERROR accent. In order to do this, correction
example, in American English I come
CORRECTION IN should be limited and focused on spe-
around to see a friend, while in British
SPEECH & WRITING cific points for improvement: for exam-
ple, verb tenses or intonation patterns. English I come round. Is it go down
If every error is noted, it becomes too the street or go up the street? They
overwhelming for the student to begin mean the same thing. And if a nonnative

speaker mixed up these expressions, However, through considering such
I probably wouldnt notice, much less issues as overall comprehensibility
be confused. So considering the diffi- and goals of correction, the instructor
culty in learning prepositions, and the can turn the potentially negative exer-
overall unimportance of them, it prob- cise of giving corrective feedback into
ably is not worth the time investment a positive learning experience.
to learn them. This also goes for trying
to correct specific nonnative English
speech sounds, like the non-English
trilled r. It is all right in most cases,
unless the student is training to be a
spy, to retain some nonnative accent
in both speech and writing.

Finally, its usually not enough for the
instructor to just show where the er-
rors are. The student also must know
how to correct them, so the instructor
should demonstrate for the student
how to do this how to check that
the verbs agree with the subject, for
example rather than just making
the correction herself, from which the
student learns nothing. It is, of course,
ultimately the goal for the student to
use English independently, which
means monitoring and correcting his
own language production.

Last but really not least, student affect,
emotional response, has to be taken
into consideration. A paper that comes
back covered in red ink accompanied
by the instructors biting comments at
the end weve all probably expe-
rienced something like this at some
point may very well result in the
student giving up, which is, of course,
not the goal. The goal is for students
to move forward, improving from the
place they are. This involves carefully
weighing what comments and marks
on papers will mean to students how
they will be affected by them. Do they
know what subject-verb agreement
means? Have I taught that yet? Do
they know how to correct it? What are
the positive aspects of the students
speech and language production that
I can mention and which they can
build on while working on their weak-
er spots? Marking papers and giving
feedback does really involve address-
ing many aspects of student need.



Correct Me if Im Wrong: Error
Correction in Writing & Speech
ing until I had achieved near-perfect speakers. They will especially vary in
ONE OF THE BANES OF A TEACHERS pronunciation and grammar in the the idiomatic, that part of language
EXISTENCE IS THOSE STUDENTS current one. I would rather my stu- without a set of formal rules and
WHO ARE ALWAYS RIGHT. dents have a range of topics they can which follow largely native speaker
They are never wrong, and if you think discuss and write about, comprehen- intuition, such as two-word verbs (I
they are wrong, and produce evidence sibly if not perfectly. was given the run around or the run
that they are wrong well, both you about?) These differences should

and the evidence are wrong! (Okay,
FOCUS be accepted, and some nonnative
today is not Mexican Independence accent in both spoken and written
Day -- despite the students in tradi- ON GLOBAL ERRORS
production accepted, especially if it
tional dress celebrating in the quad.) Focusing on global errors is an aca- doesnt interfere with meaning.
These contrary students are there to demic way of saying Pick your bat-
contradict and argue the most minor tles. That is, it makes little sense to
of points. mark all the grammar errors in a stu- TALK TO STUDENTS
dents paper if there are numerous ABOUT ERROR
But perhaps even worse than the concerns with organization, develop- CORRECTION
student who never admits to being ment, and vocabulary that are going
wrong and never accepts criticism is Error correction is really an instruction-
to force major revision anyway cre-
the student who wants to have all of al strategy, meant to help students im-
ating a new set of grammar errors.
her failings pointed out, no matter how prove their second language acquisi-
Rather, do correcting in stages, first
minor. She would like you to interrupt tion, so it is important to not only have
focusing on the global then perhaps
her when talking to point out mistakes a set of principles of error correction
the more local errors of articles and
in pronunciation and grammar, and if but also to be able to talk to students
punctuation, for example.
you dont do this its a sign that you about your guiding principles: why

are failing at your job as an instructor, you dont correct every written or spo-
Clearly some discussion is needed for DONT INTERRUPT ken error, for example. Many students
such students, as well as the class as Being interrupted while trying to expect and want each error corrected,
a whole, on the rationale for error cor- communicate a message is a univer- and may become confused or frustrat-
rection and when it is appropriate. sally frustrating experience. I would ed if you dont, perhaps doubting your
never do it to a native speaker who competence as a teacher (you dont
GENERAL PRINCIPLES happens to use a nonstandard form in correct because you yourself dont
OF ERROR online production, so I would not do it know the correct form or because
CORRECTION with a second language learner who you dont know how to mark a paper
is struggling to communicate. Rather, properly.) There are some methods to

Language, is after all, about
the student should be noticed for the
effort and eventual success at com-
municating after she is finished and
guide students in understanding error

communication, therefore the focus,

especially in the beginning stages of
language learning, should be on com-
then as appropriate some concerns
pointed out. This strategy has an ad-
ditional benefit in that the concerns
municating clearly, if not with perfect
you point out e.g., be careful about
accuracy, and in a variety of situa- Fluency, the ability to speak or write
dropped word endings is advice
tions. For example, like many other without hesitation, is extremely impor-
that will probably apply to most of the
American second language learners, tant to general comprehensibility of
class, so no one is singled out, and
I can communicate with a good deal the speaker or writer, probably more
the other students also benefit from
of accuracy in my second languages so than flawless production that pro-
the instruction.
of French and Russian on a limited ceeds very slowly for fear of making

number of topics: in almost anything
related to school and other familiar ADJUST EXPECTATIONS an error. In addition, aiming for flaw-
less production probably limits acqui-
topic like family, I have been told I Second language learners, es- sition: fewer vocabulary words and
have near-native control. But out- pecially those coming to the second structures are attempted because
side that limited range of topics, my language as adults, although capable risking use of new forms almost cer-
ability to communicate breaks down of near-native like speech and writing tainly results in errors at first.
because, again like many American and certainly proficient and compre-
second language learners, I was not hensible second language produc-
allowed to progress to learning a new tion, are still going to differ from native
topic or level of conversation or writ-

Language acquisition does not come Often an instructional strategy will not
from being corrected. There is little work if students are simply convinced
evidence that correcting errors and that it wont. If your students are used
focus on perfection will lead to acqui- to having all of their errors corrected,
sition. Rather, acquisition occurs in try correcting students during produc-
predictable steps and from continual tion, or marking every error during a
engagement with the second lan- paper, and then ask how that works
guage through practice in spoken and for them compared to the strategies of
written tasks: correction doesnt nec- focused correction. Do they think that
essarily speed up this process. Error having every error pointed out helped
correction may actually be more prac- them learn better? Often the answer
tice for the teacher in the art of error is no, especially if they experienced
correction than help for the students the frustration of the teacher interrupt-
in acquisition of language. ing them while they were in the midst
of communicating a complex thought.

You may then refer to your original ex-
planation of how and why you address
student error. Or if students remain
Mistakes are part of the process. Tak- convinced of the value of correcting
ing risks, trying out new vocabulary every error, you may continue doing
and structures, is part of the progress this, while still trying to introduce them
of learning new language: trying it to more focused correction by some-
out, getting some focused feedback times using this strategy.
at the end, and trying again. Correct-
ing every error, and focusing on the GIVING STUDENTS FEEDBACK IS AN
incorrect rather than correct, often en- ART FORM, TOUCHING ON VALUES
courages students to not take risks, to AND EXPECTATIONS OF BOTH
not speak up in English class, unless TEACHER AND LEARNER.
they know exactly how they should There are some general principles of
say it, for fear of the teacher interrupt- effective error correction, such as fo-
ing them to explain a grammar or pro- cusing on major concerns over minor
nunciation pointwhich will develop and communication over correctness,
the theoretical understanding of the that have been proven more effective
point but probably not the use of it. than others and that should be intro-
Students can really only learn the use duced to students
of a second language through actual
use of, not the discussion of, it.

Because the teacher did not overtly
correct you does not mean she didnt
correct you at all: rather, she might
have modeled the correct form af-
ter the use, for example (Oh, I see,
you visited your friend yesterday?
or summed up at the end some gen-
eral areas to work on: Remember
to check your word endings before
handing in a paper.) Because the
teacher didnt correct every error in
your paper or dialogue does not mean
she didnt mark it at all. She may have
focused on a couple of major problem
areas to work on: repeated problems
with verb tense, for example, rather
than the one missing article.

4 Simple Steps to Fostering
Accuracy in Your Students
Our goal is fluency in our students,
It is easy to emphasize coura-
stress that accuracy is important in
language use. When your students
see that accuracy is important to you
and they understand why it is impor-
geous language use so much that ac-
and we design curriculum and lesson curacy is less than a second thought. tant in real world language use, they
plans to meet that goal. We are ex- To avoid this trap, emphasize ac- will value it themselves and as a result
cited when our students use language curacy issues early in your lessons. will try to achieve it.
correctly and begin to attain fluency. Make sure, when you present a les-

Even when they have not reached son to your students, they are clear YOURE NOT THE BOSS
fluency, we celebrate the little victo- about correct language usage, the
ries along the way. After all, language OF ME
right pronunciation and the potential
learning takes time, and no student errors they could make. Take time to When teachers correct and over cor-
or teacher should expect immedi- point out how to use this language rect their students, there are several
ate perfection. But in our excitement, accurately. By emphasizing accurate possible negative outcomes. But who
its possible to overlook errors in our language use early, your students will says you have to be the one to point
students language use. We accept be thinking about their own accuracy out all the language errors in your
questionable pronunciation and gram- as they experiment with the new lan- classroom? Make your students re-
matical errors because our students guage structures they are learning. sponsible for noticing and correcting
are doing more today than they did their own errors. Teach them how to

last week.
CAN YOU REPEAT THAT? make corrections as they speak. Give
them tools for self-evaluation. And do
This isnt necessarily a big issue in the Another key element to fostering not discourage peer correction. When
classroom. All of your students are in accuracy in your students is repeti- everyone in the class plays a part in
the process of learning English, and tion. By offering your students many fostering accurate language, you are
you have the experience to know what opportunities to see and practice cor- no longer the bad guy who loves to
your students mean even if it isnt ex- rect language usage, you will engrain see your students make mistakes.
actly what they are saying. But what in them the language patterns you
happens when your students leave want to see. Keep in mind you do not Accurate language is important for
the classroom? What happens when have to limit repetition to one lesson. language fluency, and with these
they need superior language skills for Consider covering the same grammar simple strategies you can encourage
their careers or when speaking with topics or vocabulary several times accurate language in your students.
unsympathetic English speakers? In throughout the year. There is no rea- Give attention to accurate language
these and other situations, accurate son you cannot teach noun clauses early in your lessons, teach your stu-
language use is important. in the career unit and then again in dents the value of accurate language
the food unit of your class. You could use and encourage them to be aware
THE FINE LINE also teach food vocabulary a second of their own mistakes. If you do these
time when you talk about restaurant things, you will see your students
If we think about it, we know that ac- careers. Dont feel as though you are reaching new heights in their lan-
curate language use is important. wasting your students time when you guage fluency.
We want our students to have good go over a topic more than once. It of-
pronunciation, choose language ap- ten takes several times going over the
propriate to the context, and speak same material to really cement it in
fluently and free of grammatical er- their minds.
rors. This goal, though, is difficult to

achieve. And to get there, teachers
must walk the fine line between cor-
recting their students incorrect lan- Communication is of utmost im-
guage use while not discouraging portance, and you should encourage
them from speaking. If our students your students to use the language
feel overcorrected, their speech is that they know. But you can balance
likely to become slow, choppy and this emphasis on communication with
hesitant. The good news is you can reminders of the need for accuracy. If
make efforts to foster accuracy in your your students do not know why they
students in ways that will not discour- need accurate language usage, they
age them from using the language may not be motivated to strive toward
they know. Here are four simple ways it. Take every possible opportunity to
to do that.

Teaching in Japan:
5 Common Student Mistakes
food or ideas. You can recognise them between teach and tell is a common
WHEN TEACHING ENGLISH AS A from the katakana alphabet that offers one, and down to a very simple reason
FOREIGN LANGUAGE, YOU WILL hamba-ga and ko-ra on the menu. the word for both is the same in Japa-
ENCOUNTER A LOT OF MISTAKES. However, not all words are adopted from nese (oshiete). When youve grown up
While you can choose to simply correct English. Study the language and youll only knowing one word to mean several
those mistakes and move on, it is usually soon find a lot of strange words, such things, it can be confusing to try distin-
worth looking at which mistakes crop up as arubaito (from the German arbeit guishing between two meaning why is
time and time again. Common mistakes work which in Japan is the word for a it tell here, yet teach here?
can be due to the way youre teaching part-time job) or pan (bread, from Por- Japanese and English often disagree on
something, or they can be due to a fea- tuguese or French). the usage of words. Another example is
ture of the students native language. It A lot of students assume that if a word coming and going. In English, you might
is important to understand not only what is written in katakana, then it must be text Im coming now! if a friend asked
the common mistakes for Japanese the English equivalent. Sometimes the you where you were, and you were en-
learners of English are, but why they pop words are English, but the meaning has route to their location. In Japanese, how-
up so often. changed fried potato, you may have ever, you would say Im going now,
guessed, is fries/chips, but there are which sounds a little strange to native
THE MOST COMMON some far stranger words that youll come English speakers.
MISTAKES ARE THE across. Take, for example, pasacon Its good to be aware of these differenc-
FOLLOWING: which is a shortened version of personal es, so that you can catch them and cor-

computer, or baikingu from the word rect them. The more Japanese you learn,
I RIKE RED! Viking, but in Japan its used to describe the easier it will become to identify mis-
Those racist impressions have an all-you-can-eat dinner special. takes and understand why they happen.

some truth behind them Japanese Youll have to teach students that, sadly,
speakers often mix up the sounds R katakana and English are not the same I READ BOOK IN A SCHOOL.
and L when they speak English. This thing. Its a good idea to arm yourself with Japanese does not use articles
isnt just confusion about which letter to knowledge of these imported words, so (the, a, an) or plurals, for that matter.
use most learners genuinely cant dis- you can figure out what your students are Actually, it often omits pronouns (he, she,
tinguish the difference between the two trying to tell you. I, you) so Hon o yonda, a perfectly

sounds. While Japanese does not use valid sentence in Japanese, translates
an L sound, but its R is not quite an I AM VERY ENJOY! to read book. It can take a lot of time
R as we would say it, either. Practice One thing that cropped up all the (and confusion) to teach students to use
the two sounds, and notice where your time was the use of enjoy (or even en- pronouns for every sentence, and even
tongue is. Their sound is somewhere in joyment) as an adjective. When your more to get them to understand articles.
between the two. students tell you that I was enjoy, what Many students end up randomly shoving
When English words get transcribed into they mean is that they enjoyed some- articles before nouns in the blind hope
Japanese, they are written in katakana thing, they had a good time, or it was that theyre right.
the alphabet for imported words. This fun. The mistake comes from attempting In English, the rules of when we use
alphabet (like the rest of Japanese) to translate tanoshii or tanoshii-katta the are pretty confusing, even for na-
doesnt have an L or a V, for that from Japanese. tive speakers. Theres no need to go
matter. Ls become Rs and Vs become Tanoshii is a word that means fun, en- into a lot of detail with beginner students
Bs, while both th sounds become either joyment, or pleasure, but the way that its youll scare them off. The basic idea
S or Z. Consonants also dont exist with- used is different in Japanese. In English, is that if we both (speaker and listener)
out vowels after them (except for n), so we ascribe emotions to ourselves I know WHICH book/boy/sandwich youre
hot becomes hotto etc. When you can am angry or she was happy but its referring to, we can use the. If theres
translate English words into katakana, a little different in Japanese. If you di- only one of these things and we dont use
youll start to recognise why students rectly translate the sentence Watashi wa the, we have to use on,a/an, or turn
pronounce things the way they do. kowai desu, it could mean either I am it into a plural. Otherwise, when your kids
The best way to practice this is to get stu- scared or As for me, [it is] scary. say I love cat! it sounds a little dubious.
dents to focus on their tongue and teeth So, what semantically means I had a
placement when making the sounds, and good time comes out as For me, it was STUDENTS GET FRUSTRATED WITH THE
to drill them with certain words over and enjoy and as it seems to be a sentence COMPLICATED NATURE OF ENGLISH
over. Only practice can help with this that crops up a lot, its good to know what OFTEN ENOUGH, SO DONT FOCUS ON
and discouraging the use to katakana in your students are trying to say. Teach EVERY TINY MISTAKE UNLESS THEYRE
their books to help with pronunciation! some stock phrases rather than all avail- ADVANCED LEARNERS.
Praise them for their efforts, and gently

able possibilities, to avoid confusion.
I ATE FRIED POTATO correct them as they go along. The more
A lot of imported words are used in Jap-
anese, especially relating to imported
It sounds a little strange, but the confusion
you know about their language, the more
you can help them by recognising their
mistakes and catching them early on.

5 Non-Verbal Ways
to Do Error Correction
take it so seriously. You can get as creative as you like with
EFFECTIVE ERROR CORRECTION IS your facial expressions, gestures, and

ONE OF THE THINGS ESL TEACHERS USE GESTURES visual reminders. Remember here
STRUGGLE WITH THE MOST. that the ultimate goal is to help stu-
If you correct them too much, you Another very effective way to dents learn from their mistakes, and
might make them feel discouraged show students theyve made a mistake if you simply supply the right answer,
and compromise their fluency for the is through gestures, some of which they may not fully internalize it.
sake of accuracy. If you correct them may be specific to the kind of mistake.
too little, theyll continue making the Teachers typically gesture backwards
same mistakes. Achieving the right with their hands or point to the back to SOME TEACHERS HAVE EVEN BEEN
balance is a daunting task, although show students they havent used the KNOWN TO HUM WELL-KNOWN
not an impossible one. And when do- verb in the past. Students often use SONGS TO TRIGGER THE CORRECT
ing on the spot correcting, do you sim- the wrong pronouns: its quite com- RESPONSE, LIKE DEPECHE MODES
ply supply the right answer? Although mon to hear a student say, She went PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE WHEN STU-
it is certainly an option, you should to the movies with your boyfriend. To DENTS MAKE THE CLASSIC MISTAKE,
sometimes give your students the which you simply reply by pointing to PEOPLE IS.
chance to correct themselves. There yourself with a look of shock or sur-
are several verbal strategies you may prise. You may also implement a ges-
use, like asking them to repeat what ture to indicate that students should
theyve just said, or repeating the sen- repeat something, or say it again, and
tence yourself but pausing to let the if they repeat the mistake, you can
student fill in the blank correctly. raise a finger to show them where in
the sentence the mistake is, though
HOWEVER, HERE ARE they have to figure out what they are
THE 5 BEST NON- doing wrong.


Once you have your students
Very often students forget the
final -s in the simple present, third
person singular. You may have a big S
actively engaged in some drilling ex- stuck on a wall that you can point to on
ercises, use a little red flag to flag such occasions, or point to something
their mistakes. The flag goes up if that will trigger the right response, like
they make a mistake and students in- the picture of an S-shaped snake. Vi-
stantly know they should go back and sual reminders are also great for vo-
say it again. You may also use the flag cabulary-related mistakes. A student
in others types of activities, or when- may say childs instead of children.
ever you wish to work on accuracy. You point to a picture of a group of
children to indicate that something is


Students are sometimes self-
wrong: the student has to figure out
he or she used the wrong plural.

conscious enough without having to
endure constant corrections. So, how
can you effectively correct them and How can you correct mistakes in
not stomp on their confidence in the word order in a non-verbal way? Fin-
process? When a student makes a ger counting is simply perfect for this!
mistake, like saying a verb in the past Say a student used the wrong word
tense incorrectly, use an exaggerated order to ask a question: You are a
facial expression to signal the mis- teacher? Ask the student to repeat
take. Give them an open-mouthed, the question and then show him or
wide-eyed stare. Or arch an eyebrow. her how you count the words on your
The more theatrical the facial ex- fingers. Show the student how the first
pression is, the funnier itll be. Youll two fingers are in the wrong order,
be effectively signalling that a mistake so that the student understands the
has been made, but students wont question should start with Are you...

The Upside of Errors: When and
Why to Avoid Correcting Students
takes without help from someone else. prepared your students will be for self-
I TEACHED MATH IN MY HOME correcting on their own.

STUDENT TO CONTINUE. Students must have some level of MUCH?
I mean, I taught math in my home self-awareness when it comes to their
country. This is a perfect example of Making students aware of their mis-
language use if they are going to self-
when not correcting an ESL student takes is like walking a thin line too
correct. But as students learn to self-
is the best way to handle an error. By much and you will end up discourag-
correct, they become more aware of
signaling her student with a small ges- ing your students rather than empow-
their language use and therefore any
ture, the teacher helps the student un- ering them. For this reason, remember
mistakes they are making. When stu-
derstands that he made an error. He what level your students are at. Dont
dents are more aware of mistakes,
thinks back to what he said, and then expect perfect speech from beginning
they make fewer. As a result, they be-
produces the correct structure. This is level students, and dont expect them
come better at self-correcting. Getting
what in language studies is called self- to correct every error they make. For
students to self-correct, then, begins a
correction. any student, when errors occur in many
positive cycle of awareness and correct
contexts, try focusing on one or two and
language production.
Self-correction is just what it sounds let the rest slide (for now). Building a
like when students correct their own students foundation in self-correction
mistakes rather than depending on the DEVELOPING is often a slow process and one that
teacher to correct them. Self-correction SELF-CORRECTING should not be rushed. You can always
happens naturally in speech, both with STUDENTS help them tackle more areas of error
first and second language learners and later, and you want them to feel good
in spoken and written language. And Self-correction can be developed. For about the language they are producing.
students who are able to self-correct students with little experience self-cor-
have many advantages over those who recting, you can give them sentences CREATING A CULTURE OF SELF-COR-
do not. with errors that they need to correct. RECTION CAN BE CHALLENGING.
Spending a few minutes on this type of Sometimes students will realize their
SELF-CORRECTION activity each day will increase student mistakes on their own. Other times
BASICS awareness of language errors. Creat- the teacher will have to offer a signal
ing examples inspired by actual student that self-correction is needed. She may


errors is a good way to make sure your
sentence corrections will make a real
impact on how your students speak.
make a physical signal or say some-
thing like, What was that? Excuse
me? Though establishing a classroom
You can also use examples depicting culture where students self-correct may
They are able to recognize mistakes, errors common with speakers of your be challenging and time consuming at
even in their own speaking and writing, students first language. You may also first, it is well worth it as your students
and know what the correct structure create examples that highlight gram- become more effective and more confi-
should look like. They are then able to matical concepts you have recently dent English users. They become more
produce that correct language on their taught in class. Each of these may independent and are ready to take their
own even if it is on the second try. serve a different purpose, but all of English skills out into the real world.
them will help your students become

better self-correctors.
RECT ARE MORE PREPARED Another way to encourage error aware-
FOR THE REAL WORLD. ness and self-correction is to signal
your students when they make an er-
They depend less on their teacher and ror. You can use verbal signals, ask-
more on themselves, and they take ing them to repeat themselves for ex-
more responsibility for their own qual- ample, or use simple physical clues like
ity of language. When they do this, they raising your eyebrows. If students still
can better function in real life language struggle with identifying their mistakes,
situations and are able to better commu- give a more obvious signal like rais-
nicate with native speakers, even when ing you hand when they make an er-
they make mistakes, because they are ror. The more natural your signals are,
able to identify and correct those mis- and the more subtle they are, the more

How to Correct Mistakes
Throughout their studies, students will ing words such as wrong, incorrect, As long as you are positive in your
make lots of mistakes. It is an impor- or no in response to mistakes. They method of correcting errors, reassure
tant part of the learning process. If they are negative and will have ill effects your students that they are doing well,
are not making mistakes then they are on your students confidence in the and do not get upset with them for
not being given difficult enough topics classroom. making mistakes, they will continue to
and structures to work with. You have volunteer and try their best because
to choose material that is challenging
but manageable for your class and
correct mistakes in positive ways. Sin-
When a student is unable to self
making mistakes is OK. That is how
learning should be. If students never
take risks, they will not improve.
gling out students who make errors correct, peer correction might be ap-
will make students feel self conscious propriate. If a student raises his hand
and shy so some tact when correcting while you are waiting for a student to
mistakes is important. self correct, you may want to call on
that student for the correct answer
or, after waiting a short time for a stu-
HOW TO PROCEED dent to self correct, you could ask the
whole class the same question and

When introducing new vocabu-
encourage a choral response. Es-
pecially with challenging questions,
this is a good method because then
lary, emphasize correct pronuncia- it is unknown who in the class has the
tion and during the drilling exercises right answer and who does not. Just
have students practice using choral repeat and emphasize the correct
repetition. This means students are answer by writing it on the board and
not immediately singled out to pro- explaining why it is correct. This is a
nounce new and unfamiliar words and good method of correcting mistakes
they can become accustomed to the because it shifts focus away from the
sound of the words together. The next student that provided the original in-
step is generally to call on students or correct answer.
have students volunteer to pronounce
words or phrases. It is an important
step to check pronunciation on an in-
dividual basis however it means that
a student is being singled out to per-
Sometimes individual students as
form independently in front of the en- well as entire classes have no idea
tire class. Correcting mistakes at this what the answer to your question is.
level is the most challenging but you If providing hints and examples does
can use the same process to correct not lead them to the correct answer,
errors in any situation. you will have to provide it. Generally
this is a last resort and means that a

The best way to correct mis-
lot of review activities may be in or-
der but keeping a positive attitude and
explaining the answer good-naturedly
takes is to have students correct will do a lot to keep your students pos-
themselves. Ideally a student will real- itive about learning English. Asking
ize a mistake has been made and fix similar questions in a simpler form will
it automatically but that is not always build student confidence again so that
the case. If a student answers a ques- the lesson can continue smoothly.
tion incorrectly you can gently prompt
them to revisit their answer. One of
the ways to do this is to repeat what AT EVERY STAGE OF AN ACTIVITY,
the student said placing emphasis PRAISE SHOULD BE GIVEN.
on the incorrect portion, for instance If a student volunteers to answer a
I have play baseball. and saying it question, you can thank him immedi-
in a questioning way. At this point the ately for volunteering which will boost
student has an opportunity to think his self confidence. At that point if the
about and revise his initial response. student provides an incorrect answer
You may have your own method of you can correct in an encouraging
prompting students with a facial ex- way by saying Almost. If the student
pression or phrase which they associ- gives the correct answer, be sure to
ate with being incorrect but avoid say- say Good job! or Excellent work!

How To Provide Quality
Feedback In The ESL Classroom
Visual feedback can come in
script, and the quality of their acting.
Students could be graded as a group
or individually. Student evaluations
should not have any bearing on the
two forms. The first is any expression
SECOND NATURE WITH JUST A or gesture you use with or without grades that you give students but you
LITTLE BIT OF PRACTICE. FEEDBACK verbal feedback that indicates how might want to use the information to
SHOULD BE USED TO ENCOURAGE students are doing in class. A smile say which skit was the best and who
STUDENTS TO WORK HARD AND or thumbs up would be one form of the best actor was.
INDICATE WHAT THEY NEED TO visual feedback. When using visual
FOCUS ON WHEN THEY ARE HAVING feedback, it is not always necessary
DIFFICULTY. to add verbal feedback and could REGARDLESS OF HOW OFTEN YOU
Feedback often takes one of three save you time when working through USE THESE DIFFERENT TYPES OF
forms: verbal, visual, or written. In this an activity quickly. You can also FEEDBACK, IT IS IMPORTANT THAT
article well take a look at how teach- prompt students to reconsider their STUDENTS ARE GIVEN A CLEAR
ers can use these different methods answers and self correct using visual IMAGE OF THEIR PERFORMANCE
to provide feedback in the ESL/EFL feedback. If you use the same expres- AS WELL AS THEIR GOALS.
classroom. sion each time students say the incor- This will help them focus of what is
rect answer, they will pick up on that. most important. Giving constructive
WAYS TO PROVIDE This visual feedback allows you to criticism and providing students with
FEEDBACK give students another chance without both the materials and support they
verbally telling them they are wrong. need to succeed are important. Doing


Another form of visual feedback can
accompany written evaluations. This
may take the form of stickers, stamps,
these things will help students excel in
their studies and maintain a positive
attitude towards education.
During lessons, teachers use a lot of or even charts that reflect student ac-
verbal feedback to let students know complishments. You may choose to
how they are doing and also to transi- have a display in the classroom that
tion from one section to another. Short visually represents how well the class
expressions such as Great! or Good is doing in reaching their goals so that
job! can be used to praise students students can see how much progress
for correct answers. Rather than tell they have made and stay motivated.
students directly they are incorrect, it

is better to ask them to try again or re- WRITTEN FEEDBACK
consider their answers. The goal is to
elicit the correct answer from the class Teachers often have the oppor-
and students should not be afraid of tunity to give students written feed-
being wrong so keep your reactions back on homework assignments, on
positive. You can summarize how stu- exams, and at the end of each term.
dents did and introduce the next topic These are great opportunities to point
for transitions by saying Alright! You out what students did well and what
did so well talking about food. Now areas they still need to work on. You
lets move on to ~. This will reinforce should provide students with some
the fact that students should keep up suggestions of what they could do
the good work. If student responses to improve and offer to assist them
are a little lackluster, you can point by meeting with them for tutorials or
that out in your comments too. By providing them with extra study ma-
saying I know its Friday but I need terial. You can also allow students to
a bit more energy in this next section, provide feedback for each other. Do-
OK? *wait for student response* OK! ing this during role play exercises, for
Great, now were going to talk about example, means that students who
~. you show that you empathize with are not performing still have to pay
students while still pushing them to do attention. Categories could include
their best. It is easy to include verbal pronunciation, creativity, and perfor-
feedback in every stage of your les- mance so that the presenting stu-
son. dents are marked on how well they
were understood, the quality of their

7 Things Your Quiet ESL
Students Are Not Telling You
teams. But they shouldnt have to do coursebook. But they might not tell
ISNT IT GREAT WHEN WE HAVE ESL everything on their own, either. you that. They are not interested in
STUDENTS WHO ARE VERY VOCAL some fictional characters conversa-

ABOUT THEIR NEEDS? PLEASE DONT PUT ME tions with his boss or family. Though
They arrive to their first day of class, we should use a coursebook in class,
tell you all about their English-learning ON THE SPOT.
sometimes its best to adjust it and
background and describe what they Some students love being in the spot- adapt it to better suit our students in-
hope to accomplish. When they dont light, the center of attention. Others terests.
understand, they tell you. If youre go- would prefer to blend into the wallpa-

ing too fast, they ask you to slow down. per. If you believe a student in particu- I DONT UNDERSTAND
If only all ESL students were like that... lar is having a hard time with an ex- YOUR HANDWRITING.
ercise or task, or if they cant answer
By contrast, we are sometimes met a question, dont insist in front of the Students take forever to copy from
with a quiet room full of blank stares. entire class. Check back with the stu- the board and whisper amongst them-
How do you know whats going on in dent at the end of class to make sure selves while they do so. You dont
their heads if they dont say anything? he/she understood. know that what they are whispering is,
If you have students who are too quiet, What does question number 2 say?

chances are there is something they
are not telling you, which youll need PLEASE, BE PATIENT WITH Some students struggle with your
ME. IM TRYING MY BEST. handwriting, but they wont tell you
to find out fast! that. Instead of guessing, its far easier
to just ask, Is my writing clear? Let me
IMPORTANT THINGS Youve probably seen this happen. A
know if you can read it all. Try switch-
YOUR STUDENTS ARE student says he/she does not under-
ing from cursive to print handwriting.
NOT TELLING YOU: stand something, and you explain.
The student still does not understand, For longer exercises, you might want

so you re-phrase and try again. The to consider giving them copies it cer-
IM HEARING TOO MANY student still does not understand. Un- tainly saves time.
NEW WORDS. der no circumstances must we lose
our patience. You try by all means Lets bear in mind that cultural differ-
Do you give your students long lists ences may come into play. In some
possible to help the student grasp
of vocabulary words or do you intro- cultures students are taught to respect
whatever it is he or she is having trou-
duce new vocab in digestible sets their teacher, and they dont want to
ble grasping, and if they still dont, you
of five to six words? When you give offend. In others, it is not accustomed
set a moment to talk about it, perhaps
them instructions, do you use words for students to make eye contact with
after class.
they may not understand? Students their instructor.

who are too shy or dont want to be
disrespectful may not tell you they did I NEED SOME TIME TO
Students are also different throughout
not understand half of what you said THINK BEFORE I ANSWER. the world. Some are naturally talk-
or the story you read. Make sure you ative, while others are timid and shy.
introduce new vocabulary as appropri- Some people dont like long silences
or pauses, and ESL teachers are no Whatever the reason for your students
ate, i.e. before reading a story or giv- keeping quiet, just make sure its not
ing instructions for a new task. Check different. But sometimes students
dont answer questions as quickly as due to the ones mentioned above!
for comprehension of the new words,
and only then proceed with the task. wed like them to. The question dan-
gles in the air, and if the student takes

too long, we either answer it ourselves
ITS TOO HARD FOR ME TO or ask another student to do it. Some
DO THIS ON MY OWN. CAN students need time to think. Give them
I WORK WITH A CLASSMATE? a few extra seconds, and then per-
haps a clue or a nudge to steer them
Some students are overwhelmed by in the right direction.
an exercise or task, and would feel

much more comfortable working with
another student. Dont underestimate
the value of pair work or team work. SMITH FROM THE BOOK.
Lots of students enjoy it and thrive THIS IS BORING!
in this type of task. Of course, not all
tasks should be completed in pairs or Nine out of ten times when students
are bored, they are bored with the

10 Best Pieces of Advice You
Could Ever Give Your ESL Students
ESL students come in all shapes and
sizes, from adorable little preschoolers
to senior citizens who want to learn an-
other language in their free time. In the
Students who are tired or hungry have
Improving English skills is not all about
spending hours completing grammar
exercises. Suggest some fun activities
they may enjoy in English!

middle, we have all sorts of students, trouble concentrating in class. If you
with different backgrounds and inter- have students who are burning the can- LISTEN TO YOURSELF!
ests. Yet there is one thing they all have dle at both ends, remind them of the im- There are students that make the
in common: they are learning English as portance of getting enough rest and bal- same mistakes again and again. You
a Second Language. Of course, some anced meals. Their performance inside correct them, but they repeat the mis-
are learning of their own volition, while and outside the classroom will improve take the very next day. Advise students
others (usually children and teens) are by leaps and bounds if they take proper to listen to the mistakes they make re-
being forced to study English. No matter care of themselves. ally listen, and not be so quick to dis-

who your students are, the fact remains miss them. That is the first step towards
that they want or need to succeed at DO THE WORK! improving and changing.
learning. Here are the 10 best pieces of

There is one essential piece of
advice you could give your students to information that students often forget. BE METHODICAL
lead them towards success: You, as the teacher, are not solely re- AND CONSISTENT
sponsible for their learning. Students If a student wants to improve their listen-
TOP 10 PIECES must do their share of the work after ing comprehension by watching videos
OF ADVICE FOR class, and this means not only doing on, they should have specific
YOUR ESL STUDENTS homework but also reading extra mate- days and times to do it say twice a
rial, listening to audio, watching videos,

week right after their ESL class. They
REMEMBER WHY YOURE writing emails, and working on whatever should listen to the same type of audio
LEARNING ENGLISH skills they need to improve. in this case short news stories for a cer-
Sometimes the going gets tough. Stu-
dents are overwhelmed by the amount
of work they have to do for their other
Some students will tell you theyre great
tain period of time before moving on to
longer videos or audio. Switching from
one activity to another may not give
them the results they want. Encourage
classes. Adults have too much going on
at work. When students start complain- at writing but lousy at speaking. Others them to stick to one method until they
ing about their workload, suggest that have perfect listening comprehension, get results.

they look at the big picture. The busi- but get tongue tied when they have to
speak. Students must be very aware of NEVER GIVE UP
ness English students need to remem-
ber that improving their English skills will what they need to work on (and if theyre This may be the hardest
open doors to better job opportunities. clueless, be sure to tell them what it is!) piece of advice youll ever have to give.
Young learners need to remember that This way, they can focus their after- There are students who have been
they have an important international ex- school efforts towards improving that studying English for years, and always
amination coming at the end of the year. which needs extra work. end up in the same place, not advanc-

Every student has a reason for learn- ing to a higher level. Some take inter-
TALK TO NATIVE national examinations several times
ing English. Make sure they never lose
sight of what it is.
ENGLISH SPEAKERS with no success. The best thing you
can do for your students is to tell them

Having normal conversations with na-
SET MILESTONES tive English speakers will do wonders for they shouldnt give up. If a student feels
FOR YOUR OVERALL GOAL your students confidence and speaking he has reached a plateau, quitting will
skills. It all depends on where you live, mean that hell probably forget and lose
Some students are very clear about
but where do all of the foreign expats most of what hes learned. Quitting is
what they hope to accomplish. Some
hang out? Are there any MeetUp groups not an option. They must stick to it until
want to sit for the PET this year, the FCE
in your city for English speakers? Any they meet their goal, or at the very least
next year and the CAE the following
other clubs or organization where Eng- redefine a goal that may be a little too
year. Others want to go from beginner
lish speakers meet? Encourage your unrealistic.
to intermediate to advanced. If you have
students to join them and be exposed to
students who are unclear about what
real, everyday English. BEFORE YOU CAN ADVISE YOU STU-
they can accomplish, specifically, and DENTS ON ANYTHING, OF COURSE,
their timeframe to achieve this, maybe
you can give them a nudge in the right
direction and help them set some mile-
Tell your students to buy word
search books in English! It will increase
WEAKNESSES ARE. Remember you are
not just teaching English grammar and
their vocabulary. What about online
vocabulary. You are also showing them
games? Do they enjoy role-playing vid-
how to learn.
eo games? Most are played in English.

Whoops, I Did It Again:
Talking About Mistakes
interview him about his crime. Encour- homework and our teacher assigns twice
age creativity! as much to the entire class? At other
times, the person affected by our mis-
Sometimes they come as a result of a
well thought out plan that just does not
work, and other times they are a result of
We all make mistakes. Sometimes,
take is someone that we have wronged.
We blame someone else for something
that they did not do. We cause physical
those mistakes are small, like stepping harm to someone in a moment of anger.
impulsive actions. In either case, we are
into a muddy puddle. Other times they We betray a friend and then live to regret
forced to face the consequences how-
are big, like choosing the wrong marriage it. Get your class thinking about the ways
ever unpleasant they might be. Though
partner. Give your students a few min- that another person could be affected by
no one likes to admit his mistakes, it is
utes to discuss with a partner one mis- a mistake that they might make, and in-
sometimes necessary to do so if one
take they have made, big or small. They vite your students to share their ideas.
wants to improve his life. Challenge your
can be recent mistakes, like drinking too
students to think about what it means
much at a party over the weekend, or sig- Then take the discussion a step further
to make mistakes, and they will learn
nificant ones that happened a long time and ask what they would do in a situa-
about more than English as a second
ago. Encourage students to share as tion where they had made mistakes that
many details as they can or that they are affected another person. Would they
TALKING ABOUT comfortable with about the incident, and ignore the mistake and act as though it
MISTAKES IN YOUR ESL suggest that they take some notes as never happened? Would they approach
CLASSROOM they write. With that discussion in mind,
explain to your students that a narrative
the person and apologize? Would they
buy the person a gift with the silent mes-

piece of writing is one that tells a story. sage that they regret their actions? Each
A BIG MISTAKE The most important piece of a narrative person who has made a mistake will take
On January 4, 1990, a man in is the series of events that make up the very different actions than another per-
Providence, Rhode Island robbed an ar- story, also known as the plot. A narra- son might, but are there cultural expec-
mored car. He took four bags of money, tive should also be arranged accord- tations involved in that persons choice?
each weighing thirty pounds. He was not ing to time, that is chronologically. Give Put your students in discussion groups
able to carry the bags because of their your students some class time to write to talk about what they would do and
weight and was caught by authorities. It the narrative that tells of their mistake, what most people from their home cul-
turns out that the bags contained pen- but challenge them to make one signifi- ture would do in certain circumstances
nies... cant change in the story. Your students of transgression. You may want to give
should write the piece again changing them some questions to discuss such as
Share this story with your students as a the mistake they made. They will end up the following:
listening exercise. Then, ask your class to with a story that tells of how they could Is it appropriate for a parent to apolo-
think about what mistakes the man made have made a mistake but did not and the gize to his child?
as you share the story again. You may positive results that ensued. Doing this What should a husband do if he
want to review any unfamiliar vocabulary will give your students an opportunity wrongs his wife?
with your students before going through to combine actual events with fictional For someone in a professional set-
the story the second time (armored car, events to create a narrative. Once the ting, what is the best way to make up
authorities, etc.). Once students have lis- papers are done, let your students share for a bad decision?
tened a second time, put them in groups their stories with their original partners, What can a young person do when
of three to make a comprehensive list of and encourage those partners to weigh he has hurt his best friend?
all the mistakes the thief made. The list in on how the story was changed. Could
should include such things as robbery, the writer have changed the story any After the groups have discussed the
taking heavy bags, choosing bags that other way? Does the story now have a questions, ask volunteers to role-play
contained pennies, etc. Challenge your happy ending? those situations or any others that come
students to decide within their groups up in the discussion.
which mistake was the biggest one of all.
Some may think it was attempting rob-
bery in the first place. Still others will say
With almost all mistakes, some-
one else is involved or suffers some of
his choice in what to steal was the big- IN THE SAME WAY.
gest mistake. Once your students have the consequences. Sometimes they are
Your students will gain not only linguistic
had ample time to discuss the topic, work in partnership with us, and we make a
knowledge but interpersonal knowledge
as a class to make a comprehensive list bad decision that leads to the mistake.
as well after talking about mistakes and
of the mistakes that the man made, and Perhaps we make an investment against
what to do about them. You can be sure,
then take a vote on which mistake was our spouses wishes and regret it. Maybe
though, if you do these activities with
the most significant. You can then ask we make a bad decision in a video game
your students, you will not regret it.
for volunteers to role-play a conversation and our partner loses his life. Is it pos-
between the police and the man as they sible that we complain about too much