Correcting written work

When a student hands in a piece of written work and you mark it, correcting the mistakes and giving them back, how much do your students actually learn from all the time you've spent with a red pen in your hand? Probably, not a lot. This is certainly true of my Spanish written work. When I got it back, I really only wanted to know that I'd done okay. Yes, of course I made a note to go over the mistakes and write them down in a written errors book, but I never quite got round to it. What a waste. Surely, it's better to get the students to mark their own work from hints given by you as to their mistakes.

One quick way to do this is to read through their work and, instead of marking where the problems lie, just put a number next to each line, the number corresponding to the number of mistakes the student has made in that line. The student will then get back their composition with no red through it, just numbers down the margin. They must then spend five minutes checking through and re-reading their work, making corrections as they recognise them. It?s much easier to find a mistake in a line of text if you know there is one there. There are two main benefits to be gained from doing this :

1. Students spend mental energy proof-reading their texts, helping them notice their common mistakes, those they make time after time. This, if done often enough, will make them think about these mistakes whilst writing, so that hopefully they can be avoided during the writing as opposed to being noticed during the checking.

2. Teachers can distinguish between errors made because the student was lazy or sloppy and errors which need tackling in class because the student really didn't know the structure they attempted.

In exams where accurate writing skills are of benefit, this guided self-correction can be invaluable in improving students' written work.


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Category Writing


Angus Savory 18-08-2011



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