Feedback and Correction
To produce proficient speakers of English, we must offer correction in the classroom. The most obvious and oft-used form tends to be the direct teacher-to-student type, as in: "Akinori, you should say, 'Have you ever gone abroad?' instead of 'Have you ever went abroad?' Remember: go, went, gone." But this kind of correction proves the least desirable, especially if used often, because:
L1 refers to the first language, or native tongue, of the students and/or teacher. (L2, or second language, can be viewed as the target/foreign language.) There are positives and negatives for use of the L1 in the class. There are also positives and negatives for avoidance of the L1 in the class. It should be understood that many institutions and private language schools prefer to institute a 100% English only rule, which fails to consider the positives of using L1 in the classroom. Each teacher should assess how to best use the L1 in his classroom, particularly how to balance teacher and student talk time. However, care should be taken if the teacher allows the students to use their first language. It's very easy for the L1 to become a crutch, which can limit the students' improvement.
Imagine a pair of your intermediate students has the following conversation:
A: What are you going to do at Saturday afternoon?
B: I'm going to go to shopping.
A: I understand. Do you know what are you going to buy?
B: Not really. I maybe want to buy some new jeans.
Do you correct the conversation? If yes, what do you correct?
As teachers, we must decide whether or not to offer correction in each and every class. Appropriate correction and feedback is a staple of the ESL EFL classroom, just as are drills or speaking activities. But too much correction produces a class of students whose fluency suffers. They become overly concerned with grammatically correct responses. They produce lengthy pauses before answering even the most simple of questions, focusing too much on word order, verb tense, and the like. If the teacher swings the pendulum the other way and corrects too little, then words tumble out of the mouths of students. What comes out, though, is chocked full of problems with grammar and vocabulary. Too much and too little correction can hinder communication.
Praise and criticism serve as invaluable tools in any classroom. Both direct students to their goals, as well as to the teacher's expectations. For example, praise tells students what was done right, which means it may be repeated. Criticism tells students what was done wrong or needs work, which means it gets additional attention in the future.
For some teachers, praise comes naturally. They know just how and when to comment to students. Yet it's a skill that can be learned and used by all. In fact, it should be learned and used by all, and is every bit as important as lesson structure and reinforcement activities. Praise can get students to put in a superior performance for even a novice teacher, while his more experienced peer may struggle to get his class to rise to his expectations. Why? Because that more experienced teacher may simply not be offering effective praise.
Homework from workbooks or grammar worksheets serve as good resources to review the contents of the day's lesson. Typically consisting of fill-in-the-blanks or matching exercises, these controlled, right-or-wrong exercises try to get students to remember the lesson and target language.
Although specific goals and objectives, a lesson plan, and preparation are all important to the success of a lesson, the classroom remains a very dynamic and changeable environment. Even the best lesson plans may get altered based on the needs of the students on any particular day. And although a lesson plan shouldn't be ignored, the teacher should also be aware that any plan isn't set in stone. What's more, he should also be on the lookout for teachable moments.
A teachable moment refers to a time when students are especially receptive to learning something. The teacher can take advantage of this moment and take a detour from the lesson plan. In so doing, students gain value from the detour, as well as better remember the information conveyed.
Tests and quizzes remain an important part of the ESL EFL classroom, despite the perceived negatives. For example, it generally proves much easier to assess grammar or listening comprehension with multiple choice or fill-in-the-blank assessment; however, these sorts of tests don't show productive competency, which is also something more challenging to objectively assess. And yet, there are positives, as tests and quizzes allow the teacher to realize if course goals are being met, if all of the students understand the course content, and if the course needs additional curriculum and/or support.
There are alternatives to tests, though, such as course projects which require students to use not only content studied, but also to independently explore a lot of other grammar, vocabulary, etc. The project might be a short story or report written by the students, or even a skit written and performed by a group. Students can easily incorporate PowerPoint, add pictures, or film and edit a performance. More work is required than sitting a test, but the end result usually feels far more rewarding. What's more, students can work to the best of their ability too.