This is a common tool to optimise learning opportunities from mistakes learners make in written homework and to encourage the editing stages of process writing.

Paul Kaye

You show the learners where the mistakes are and what kind they are, and then they try to correct them as a second stage to the initial writing task. The codes shown here are just an example and are not meant to all be used at every level. You need to find out which ones work for you and your learners.


Make copies of the writing error correction code and worksheet.


  • Set your writing homework. Ask learners to double-space or leave a clear margin.
  • Collect the work and correct it using the correction code. Underline the mistakes you want learners to notice and add the codes, either underneath or in the margin.
  • Return the work and ask learners to take it home and correct it, then submit it again.
  • The first time you do this, explain to your learners what you are doing and why (in L1 if necessary). Talk through the worksheet. You can ask the learners to correct the mistakes on it using the code.
  • And / or the first time you do this, do the correcting work in the class.

Alternative procedures

1. Collect homework and then select the most interesting/productive mistakes and prepare a worksheet for the class to work on together. Keep it short – this is tricky for learners and takes time. You can make it harder by not underlining the mistake, just selecting the sentence (see worksheet B for an example). Make sure you first ask permission from your learners to do this.

2. Ask your learners to correct their work in class (don’t let this go on too long) and share some of the corrections with the group in mini-presentations. They can do this individually or in groups.

3. Use e-mail and Word’s insert comment tool to do this kind of work.

Some observations

Learners find this very motivating but there are some things to think about:

  • Don’t overdo it. One correction per line of an extended text is enough.
  • Be consistent with the system you use. Choose your code based on your learners’ level and awareness of mistakes.
  • Be supportive. Explain why you are doing this and be available to help.
  • Be punctual returning homework. Get a rhythm of correction going.
  • Encourage your learners to re-submit their work as many times as they want. You can correct at different levels each time, e.g. start with word and sentence structure, then look at style, register and lay-out.
  • Remember correcting your own mistakes is not easy.

Find out more about dealing with errors and mistakes in our teacher development module Understanding errors and mistakes.

Language level
Language Level: 
Beginner: A1

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