Correcting Errors and Teacher Survival – A Comment

Sharon Hartle,in her post “Is it an Error not to Correct” has once again brought up issues that are very relevant to my daily life in the classroom. My focus is mainly on errors in written work.

I took this photo at the train station in Liverpool.

Hartle says: “Once they (errors) are robbed of their explosive emotional charge, we can start to look at why they occur”.

I couldn’t agree more. Learning from errors mainly happens when students don’t see their errors as a threat, as something that must be ignored or simply made to disappear (by making a bee-line to the nearest trash can!).

I have found that giving students an opportunity to correct their mistakes and then either resubmit their task or get extra points, has had a huge positive impact, both on my adult and high-school students. While not everyone takes advantage of this (I have NEVER found something to work for EVERYONE), I’ve seen a significant rise in the number of students who actually read my comments and correct their mistakes.

However, like everything in life, it has a price. Mainly for me. This topic is so close to my heart because I’m still looking for ways to reap the benefits without working as hard.

I do as Hartle suggested, I don’t try to correct all mistakes, nor have the students correct them all. With the adult students that works better, especially since I began using EDMODO. Edmodo let me easily keep track of who was handing in things a second time and I wasn’t flooded with papers.  Since I could see my previous comments, and I didn’t mark all errors, reading the tasks a second time was much quicker. On the other hand, the adult classes are so very large, 38 students in each course so far…

With the high schools students it is more complicated. Our students take  a lot of tests. In the past many students used to throw tests away without looking at my comments. For the past few years I have been  giving 5 extra points to a student who corrects a test with me in class. 5 points can mean a lot to a student. Each class is small but altogether I have to keep track of more than 50 students. Instead of just grading tests and typing the grade into the computerized system, which is the most efficient way to work, I first write the grades in my diary. Only after a student has corrected his exam do I type up his grade. It is so much more time consuming to keep going back to the grades of each test and typing up individual grades.

I tried using a color coded system to help students be aware of the type of mistakes they are making and gave them a chart to track and see if they are making less of these mistakes. It was a very interesting experiment but I couldn’t keep it up – it took me twice as long to grade each test! And I had to be even more organized in class to make it work!

I can’t stop though – personalized comments and correcting does work! Have to figure out how to make it work for me too!

6 thoughts on “Correcting Errors and Teacher Survival – A Comment”

  1. Glad you liked the article, Naomi, and thanks for quoting me. It is a conundrum, because of course it all creates more work for both learners and teachers, but, in fact, I think it means that the quality of the work these learners is do is generally much better because they are not simple, as you say, throwing work away without reading your comments, but learning from the process.

    Keep up the good work 🙂

  2. I developped a correction system which worked for me when I was teaching English in a French lycée. First I explained to students that their first drafts would be graded by quantity not quality. that meant that if the assignment was to write 350 words, everyone who wrote 350 words got full marks. This removed a lot of the apprehension of “making mistakes” and their first efforts were generally more spontaneous and interesting. I collected their papers and went through them making NO comments, codes, etc., simply underlining in GREEN everything that was grammatically acceptable. I then returned their papers and gave them a week to write a second draft which would be graded for quality and count twice as much as the first. This allowed them to correct a lot of errors from the first draft and almost everyone was able to get a decent grade, which encouraged them. I found that I spent much less time on correction than I had before, and since the careless mistakes were eliminated, it helped me see which sturctures were giving them problems and needed to be targeted in class.

    1. Judy!
      What a fascinating suggestion! I can see how this would work for essay practice. I am eager to try it out with the few students I have at the high-school who study essay writing.
      The rest of my high-school and adult sutents work on reading comprehension tasks so I’m correcting both grammar and content, with an emphasis on content. Interesting to thinkin what manner to adapt your suggestion to that situation.
      Thank you for taking the time to write!

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