Welcome to the RM Blog. The purpose of this blog is to create a forum for an active conversation among graduate students, educators, researchers and anyone else involved in language, literacy and technology education. It is hoped that individuals who have an interest in these subjects will engage with each other to further contribute to these areas of discussion and offer personal and professional insights.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

To Correct or Not to Correct?– The Big Grammar Question

A group of us were recently having a discussion about the benefit of grammar corrections, often a topic of continued interest to ESL writing instructors. We deal with this everyday in the classroom (not to mention outside of the classroom as many of us spend countless hours on this task). Common questions that always come up are: What kind of feedback should I give? How much feedback is necessary and how often? I question the extent to which this type of correction does help my students. As writing teachers, many of us do point out errors using some type of number or coding system, and many of also provide margin and end comments to get students to focus on meaning and content. I think if many of us did not do this, we would feel as though we are not doing our jobs and that our students are not learning. However, some of the research in this area shows that grammar correction is not highly beneficial and more emphasis should be on improving content and meaning which in turn results in improved grammar. Other studies that show grammar feedback improves the accuracy of student writing are inconclusive. If you have thoughts on this issue, let us know. Can we make better use of those hours in the upper-level writing classes? How do we get students at that level to improve their grammar? And what is the best kind of feedback?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

With other colleagues, I teach low language ability students and we have started to use a very minimalist approach to feedback. We use four colours to highlight errors on hand-written tasks, then a similar colour-coding on online edits. We also have students identify one error that they feel is important, correct it and explain the cause of the problem. This seems to be having a greater effect than having students learn multiple codes.

12:46 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have mixed feelings on the subject. On the one hand, the content/structure is most important. On the other hand, if we don't point out students' errors, we are not showing them what needs to be done. I have had students who complained about teachers who didn't point out the grammar errors; asa a result,they had no idea they needed to improve their sentence skills. So, I have implemented a coded editing system. If a student has more than 3 or 4 of the same type of error (say, run-ons), they are required to review and do exercises on that skill for homework. I also have students keep a log of their grammar errors. That log helps them to see clearly what has been done, what needs to be done, and how much they have (or have not)improved from one assignment to the next.

9:54 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also use a coding system to mark sentence level errors. I also require that the students keep a log of the those errors over the course of the semester. For every assignment that they turn in, they evaluate their grammar skills, and review/do homework for each error in their paper that occurs more than 3 or 4 times. The students have told me this has really helped them not only identify their errors, but also take control and responsibility for reviewing and fixing those errors.

9:56 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I use a coding system which the students become familiar with fairly early on and as they see a pattern in the types of errors they are making, they choose online exercises accordingly. I also see an improvement when I require them to do hand-written rewrites so they make the brain-pen connection. It seems to sink in better when they are forced to correct their errors by hand.

11:22 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

And I too use a coding system. I use numbers instead of letters or symbols because my students have told me that they actually prefer it. They have the number chart in front of them and it is easy to use. I do feel that the errors they make do need to be pointed out. On the final draft, once they have attempted corrections, I will make the final corrections before I return it to them so they can see their errors with the corrected version. It does take time for grammatical knowledge to be assimilated so when I meet with them individually, my comments are more focused on content, organization, ideas, development, and so forth. I do ask them to pick out the most common errors and then they are asked to consult the grammar handbook we use in class to review those areas.

6:04 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am dealing with elementary learners, who rarely make sense of correct grammar. However, I do not focus on pointing out their grammar mistakes, which is considered heavy interruption and reduction of interest. I help them by giving them positive comment after their "speech", then I rephase what they have said in good English. That's better if I add emphasis. It is unfair to spend much time correcting mistakes while the learners still have a lot of confusions with mistakes.

7:52 PM

Blogger susie said...

I was just talking to one of my Spanish tutors about this topic. As a Spanish major, he's experienced many different styles of teaching from his professors. And as an incredibly motivated student particularly interested in the systems of Spanish (he's applying to an MA program in Spanish Linguistics, something I did in Applied Lx. 30 years ago), he wants to be correct and thus corrected by those in the know. We talked about my preferred correction style in _speaking_ situations--to repeat some of what the student has said but with my corrections. Or in a more formal presentation situation, to make note of the patterns of errors and at least point them out if not go over an example from each. I've found that some students personality/learning style (or motivation level) just do not learn from hearing the correct phrase coming out of the teacher's or other students' mouths. They need it to be more emphasized, in writing, with an explanation.

In the Writing Center work I do with non-native speakers (here in the US), I work similarly, by marking errors when I am reading through the paper (underlining, marking at the end of the line). We then talk about content/composing issues (addressing the assignment? supporting claims, and well enough? ordering ideas (the markers come in handy here) and transitions from one part to another).

Assuming that hasn't taken most of the hour, I then point out the patterns of errors I've noticed, and one by one, why each is wrong, model a way to correctit, then have the student find the next example of the same error and try doing that with my guidance. Then the next, and then go home to fix the rest on his/her own. I often recommend their bringing the next draft to the center again, to see how they've done in correcting, and to see how they expressed all the new content they may have added to their paper since the last visit. All of this implies a stretched-out writing process, for sure.

7:35 AM

Blogger Abeya said...

I think that it is important to point out grammar mistakes to language users. I usually doing it on an individual level, in one to one conversations, and usually when that happens, the speakers remember the corrections. I somehow think that the issue about meaning and content and grammar correction should not be related to each other. I think that sometimes if the writer is not clear about their meanings in writing then the content will become ungrammatical because they cannot see the wood from the trees. This does not have to do with the grammatical content, because the writer can be aware of the grammatical rules but be unable to apply them.

I have personally found fairy tales to be very useful texts to get clarity because of their narrative structure, and I wonder why they are not sufficiently used in classrooms and wonder also how they could be used more efficiently among L2 learners.

I think that the more writers become readers of clear texts, their grammar will improve, and eventually their writing - if that makes sense.

11:48 AM

Blogger SALAH SCHOOOL said...

I use codes too which my students feel very confortable dealing with and very motivating as well . Helping the students to identify their errors and correct them by themselves is great . But I personally deal with very large classes and this is not very easy to cope with . that's why I generally focus on 1 or 2 mistakes and implement a series of activities ( a kind of remedial work ) Once the task is finished the students are better prepared for their self - correction . My blog :http://salahschool.blogspot.com/

11:53 AM


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