Peering Through the (word) Clouds at Error Correction

The ITDI Blog’s focus on error correction couldn’t have come at a better time (though it seems to me that any time is a good time to talk about this ongoing issue) as it is very much on my mind at the moment.

This round of debating how to correct errors began with an “AHA” moment when reading the post “What’s it all about…” on the excellent Macappella Blog. There’s a really practical suggestion for using word clouds to review language.

Word clouds are very cool.

However, we use technology to teach, not the other way round and the ways in which I tried to use those clouds weren’t really contributing to the learning process. But Fiona’s suggestion offers the best of both worlds!

So, off I went!

I clouded the text my student-teacher has just taught about Gallaudet University, the university for the Deaf in Washington DC. I asked the students to create sentences using words from the cloud as homework. I did not set any limits beyond the fact that there must be at least one word from the cloud in every sentence.

Certainly reviewing language!

So, now that the sentences are beginning to appear in my inbox, we get to error correction.

Here are the sentences that one student sent (11th grade!)

  1. I am not know to speak English.
  2. My room mess.
  3. Have many students in the school.
  4. I am deaf, and my parents also deaf.
  5. USA biggest country.
  6. I hard communicate with my friends`s class.
  7. I am 16 old year.
  8. No everyone can study in Gallaudet  university.

The vocabulary in these sentences was placed in correct contexts but the grammar is incorrect.

On the one hand I achieved my goal, the students had to think about those vocabulary items and generate sentences. The fact that the context is right means the items were understood. However, none of these sentences are correct.

Now I’m debating to what extent to correct or ignore these errors, as well as in what manner to correct the errors. There will be no frontal lesson to review grammar rules (long story) so the feedback will have to be made individually, either by email or in class.

In a past discussion regarding the topic over at Cecilia Lemos’s blog “Box of Chocolates” (Yes! She is the same one from the itdi blog) Cecilia and Tyson Seburnt suggested a technique that would be just the thing if I were teaching in a “normal” class situation. They suggested taking sentences from different students’ tasks and placing them on one page and having students help each other correct the sentences (with assistance as needed). However, I have not been able to adapt this for dealing with errors on homework tasks. The pupil whose sentences appear above, for example, doesn’t have classes with students at the same level!

Any suggestions?

5 thoughts on “Peering Through the (word) Clouds at Error Correction”

  1. Hi Naomi,

    Lovin’ your blog. You know, I’m pne of those correct it all kinds of writing guys usually, but thanks to the comments around Cecilia’s post, I’ve had a rethink. I want to gauge my feedback less on “correctness” or accuracy and more in line with what was the purpose of the task. I guess if it was me and I was hoping to get my students focused on the vocab., I would let the student know that even though there are grammatical errors, the words were used correctly. Then I’d ask the student if they wanted help in working on the grammar points as well. I guess, in short, I’d leave it up to the student.


  2. So glad you like the blog, Kevin!
    It does seem that we have to keep rethinking our attitudes. I guess it is about keeping a balance between the conflicting needs but its not easy…
    Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Hi Naomi I haven’t seen Cecilia’s post and the discussion around it but I would correct some mistakes – perhaps indirectly, not in the students’ notebooks but rather as a whole class. The purpose of the task was achieved alright (students used the vocab) but they clearly have a problem with sentence structure and patterns. So perhaps select just a few examples to deal with in class.
    (2), (4) and (5) clearly point to the problem Ss have with SVO structure in English – remind them that we always need a Verb in English
    (1) the mistake here is more lexical (I can’t speak English)
    so is (7) “I am 16 / I am 16 years old” – again, teach it and drill it as a chunk.
    Now off to check out Cecilia’s post

  4. I said “drill” above but I realise oral drills are not a possibility considering your pupils. What I meant you can get them to practise this pattern writing sentences about themselves, parents and siblings – a bit of practise of “I am… He/She is…” at the same time.

  5. Leo!
    Thanks for stopping by!
    I have addressed some of your comments in the follow-up post I posted today
    Just as you said, what to do in class afterwards has been on my mind.
    What you must remember though, that there is no “class”. Its a learning center. The pupil who wrote the sentences I gave as an example sits next to a pupil who wrote:
    “The university campus contain at least 1500 students”
    (different level of errors!)
    and next to another one who was not given the text at all as it was way above his level. In addition they come at different times with different pupils… never mind! its complex! See the other post, LOL!

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