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Error Correction Telephone

By Jessica Aggrey

Image of someone holding a can with a string for the telephone game.


As I’ve said before, I think it’s important to have students practice finding and correcting the errors they make in order to help them develop the skills needed to self-correct in real time when they use the language. This semester I’ve been trying to find new ways to structure error correction to make it more engaging for to students. A good friend of mine told me about what she has named Grammar Baseball, an activity my students loved. You can read more about that here.


This week I came up with what I’m going to call Error Correction Telephone. My students really enjoyed it. I also liked it because it’s a four in one deal that will get your students to improve their grammar while at the same time requiring them to focus on pronunciation, listening, and teamwork. Here’s how you can do it.


    1. While grading your students’ work, find 10 sentences containing common errors you see your students making.


    1. Type these up onto a paper and number them. Underline the error or use correction symbols to help point students to the errors. Print one for each group.


    1. Next, create a group sheet with blank lines equal to the number of sentences with mistakes. Number each line. Students will write the corrected sentences on this page. Print one for each group.


    1. Divide your class into groups of at least four students each. Then, have each group split in half. Have one half go to the front of the classroom and one half go to the back of the classroom.


    1. Across one wall, tape an error list for each group. It’s better to have one for each group instead of just one for everyone because this allows the group members to talk about it in private and also make notes on the paper to help them as they correct the errors.


    1. On the other side of the room, tape a lined sheet on the wall for each group.


    1. Explain to the class that their goal is to correct the mistakes in each sentence and get them correctly written on their group’s sheet across the room. The catch is, however, that neither half of the team can cross over to the other side of the classroom. Instead, team members must meet in the middle and exchange information. This builds in the pronunciation and listening part of the activity.


    1. The team members on the side with the sentences must work together to decide how to correct the error and then relay the correct sentence to their team members on the other side. 


    1. The team members whose job it is to write down the correct sentence must work together to listen to the information carefully and copy down the sentence without making new mistakes. These students also have to analyze each sentence to make sure it seems correct and that their classmates accurately fixed the error.


    1. While this activity is going on, you can walk around and give students hints and suggestions. For example, if a sentence wasn’t copied correctly, you can tell the students they need to go ask for clarification of a particular sentence. If a sentence still has an error, tell students they need to try and fix it and possibly go talk with their classmates about it again.


  1. At the end of a given amount of time, the team with the most correctly written sentences wins.


I like this activity because it’s lively and fun and it places different cognitive demands on students than only asking them to find and correct a mistake. It turns error correction into a competitive team building activity that requires attention to detail and clear speech in order to make sure each sentences is accurately relayed to the team members on the other side. It’s also nice to fit into a long class where you want something that will get your students up and out of their chairs.


If you try it out, I’d love to hear how it went and what ways you adapted it. Please leave a comment below or shoot my a line in my TESOL Planner inbox at @jd8727.

Say Thanks! Get Jessica a cup of coffee.


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TESOLPlanner Copyright 2018 Jessica Aggrey
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