Owning your mistakes – this is becoming an impromptu series! Here is a very interesting reflection by Sam Pullan which has surfaced on Twitter today (sorry for skipping the ‘via’ reference, I usually go to the original posts straight away – as I expect everyone to do when you read something on my blog :)). Anyway, he remembers how many years he didn’t call out a student who said something really wrong, why he did it and what consequences it had for his teaching.
Makes me think about how many instances like this we don’t even notice when we teach… The teachable moments that are lost forever, the indifference we sometimes demonstrate even if we actually care, and care very much.
What a great post by Larry Ferlazzo! I’m pretty sure most of us make similar errors of judgement in the classroom when we focus on ‘covering the book’, ‘meeting the deadline’, ‘doing the Present Perfect’ instead of teaching our students. But how often do we have the courage and humility to admit the error even to ourselves? Larry describes how he prepared a solid sequence on storytelling and what exactly in his view went wrong. And what particularly awed me – he found a way to apologise to the students and to set things straight.
I’ve read it somewhere that when a service provider deals with a complaint well, it can satisfy and even delight the customer, much more than in a neutral situation. It’s similar, isn’t it? I’m sure Larry’s students were absolutely delighted.
Have your students sometimes refused to work with a weaker-level partner?
I’ve recently read this interesting post by Betty Azar responding to a teacher’s worry that students will acquire wrong models if you put mistakes on the board during a delayed error correction stage. She explains why fossilisation is not going to happen: error correction sessions develop the learners’ abilities to self-monitor, reinforce target language and generally help them become more aware of grammar cognitively. Good arguments that can be shared with students, I think! (But I’m still going to mark those incorrect examples with an asterisk or a different colour, just in case :)).
Here is a very useful weekend read: an article by Paul A. Kirschner and Mirjam Neelen unpacking different types of feedback and putting to rest the notion that ‘feedback is always great for learning’. For example, when do you think is the ideal time to give feedback? It’s not always the sooner, the better – a higher-level student would benefit from more time for self-reflection. There are more insights like this in the article, and it’s very readable too, with a Dilbert cartoon alongside quotes from Hattie. Not to be missed!
Do you still use the red pen to mark your students’ writing? Apparently, this type of feedback is seen as more aggressive and less helpful. This article suggests an excellent alternative: making video comments. You can show the students’ work on the screen, or your face, or both – and the feedback will be much more effective (and take you less time than writing out all the corrections). For more examples and a set of guidelines check the website mentioned in the article. I am definitely going to try something along these lines (once I get myself a proper mike!).
Have you seen this great copy-editing quiz from the New York Times? It can work very well with any advanced students, including EAP and exam prep. I had a lot of fun with it myself, and, to be honest, finding that one error was not always easy! (And of course it should be timed.) It’s Quiz No.12, so there are a dozen of these for all your correction needs.
Check out this very comprehensive description of a classical little activity called ‘Just a minute!’. It can help you energise your students when you’re not in the mood for slow teaching. I have tried it myself, even with one-to-ones: it helps keep the focus on accuracy or target language, at the same encouraging students to speak quickly and coherently (very useful for exam preparation). You might want to complement it with the famous radio show, but I rarely get students who are proficient enough to enjoy it!