Error correction made simple.....

Writing is something that people ‘evade’ because it is least needed for survival. Given its importance today, it is paradoxical that writing is sometimes referred to as a less ‘necessary skill’ not needed in day to day life. I couldn’t agree more to Tribble that the ’authority and permanence’ a written piece conveys in comparison to a spoken text or discourse only contrasts the aforesaid view.
My experience and research strengthens my belief that the ability to write needs some formal instruction. It is not a skill that is ‘readily picked up by exposure’ aptly said by Tribble. Spoken English skills are not transferable to writing .Often the best of speakers ramble when asked to put their ideas cogently in writing. Writing involves much more than developing ‘a set of orthographic skills’.
Though schools focus on writing for examinations and assessment of language skills they don’t teach ‘how to write’. This is exacerbated in traditional classrooms where writing is relegated as a task for homework making it boring and solitary activity.Feedback is mostly limited to comments like, ‘good, very good or can do better’.
In an era where digital tools have pervaded our lives ,where communicating through text messages or acronyms or even substituting language with weird symbols is serving the communicative purpose, language structures are seen distorted and spellings severely mutilated ,writing in formal or impersonal style seems a far cry ,perhaps an evanescing skill and can only be acquired through conscious and systematic efforts.
Low level students find writing all the more daunting especially in formal settings such as exams. With poor ‘world knowledge’ they struggle to get started often worrying about sentence structure and grammatical accuracy. Hence the role of error correction and feedback becomes significant.
This becomes increasingly tedious in case of large class rooms. In India language teachers are often struggling with bundles of papers and note books , trying to correct practically every sentence.
Error correction and feedback is inherent in teaching profession and so working out ways to give feedback can go a long way in reducing the load of the teachers as well as students .The point is also what to correct and how much .
Getting students to correct their own and peers’ mistake is effective .
In this context using error correction codes or agreeing on a shorthand to review /focus on the areas you want to work upon is a useful technique. For instance if the focus is on using correct verb forms /tense and their spellings ,by agreeing on some common codes students’ can be encouraged to view their own writing as well as others. Students are quick to point out each other’s mistake and this can be used to optimize teaching and learning opportunity. The commonly occurring mistakes or the pattern of error can be used to reinforce the concept and give feedback. Students find this motivating because they feel empowered and are less frustrated as opposed to the scripts that comes back in red. Also information arrived at by one’s own reasoning is more likely to be retained .
In case of academic or creative writing involving long texts such as essays or biographies providing guidelines that meet the conventions of the genre as checklists can be helpful . In this way students simply recognize their own error and redefine their understanding. For instance in case of discursive essays pointers such as-Does my writing include an introduction, body and conclusion, are the ideas relevant ,sequenced logically, use of connectors, are there clear paragraphs, is vocabulary simple or has variety etc can help students correct the features by checking the boxes .
It tells exactly what they need to improve on and there is less room for ambiguity.
Having pointers by way of small statements can reduce the teacher’s load as well as act as a reflective exercise for students.
This activity could be extended to get students examine their own essays and critically assess their writing. Allowing learners to revisit the different aspects of their writing such as content, organization and language system and make necessary changes will train them to look for areas for improvement and give them a message that they are developing.

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