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10 Ways to Ensure That Your Quiet Students Never Speak Out in Class

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woman_holding_finger_to_her_lips_shhAngela Buckingham, language teacher, writer and teacher trainer, introduces her upcoming webinar on 24th & 26th September entitled: “Oral Error Correction in the English Language Classroom.”

As part of my role as a teacher trainer, I have observed many ELT lessons over the years: some given by new and inexperienced trainees, others by experienced members of staff who have been teaching language for many years. One area that interests me is the teacher response to learner mistakes in a lesson and what steps are taken towards oral error correction. Even if we haven’t thought about this consciously, our stance is usually writ loud and clear. What is evident to the observer is that teacher attitudes to learner mistakes can have a profound impact on behaviours in class.

Here’s my Top Ten list for ensuring that your quiet language students will be even quieter, simply by adopting some or all of these simple classroom techniques:

  1. Always correct every error you hear
  2. Ensure that you correct in a stern way; Do Not Smile
  3. Make sure that you never praise your learners for answers given in incorrect English
  4. Don’t give thinking time – where possible, make sure you supply the answer yourself
  5. When learners do answer, respond to the language only, not to the content of the response
  6. Spend most of your lesson facing the board, computer, or looking at the textbook. Avoid eye contact with your students
  7. Ask questions to the whole class but always accept early answers from the most confident students, who should get the answer right
  8. If a student is hesitant, don’t give them time to finish. Show in your body language that you are bored listening to their attempts
  9. Seize every error as a teaching opportunity – don’t move on until everyone in the class is absolutely clear what the mistake was
  10. Be prepared to interrupt your students’ interactions at any time, so that they are using Perfect English

Or… you might want to think about doing things differently.

Error correction in the language classroom is important – my students definitely want to be corrected, and can feel irritated if they aren’t. But for teachers, what to correct, when to correct, and how to go about it are issues we grapple with on a day-to-day basis.  How can we help our learners in an encouraging way?

In my upcoming webinar we’ll explore how to categorise oral language errors and examine strategies for dealing with them, as well as evaluating practical ideas for immediate use in class.

Join the webinar, Oral Error Correction in the English Language Classroom on 24th and 26th September to find out more.

Author: Oxford University Press ELT

The official global blog for Oxford University Press English Language Teaching. Bringing teachers and other ELT professionals top quality resources, tools, hints and tips, news, ideas, insights and discussions to help further their ELT career. Follow Oxford ELT on Twitter. Find Oxford ELT on Google+.

4 thoughts on “10 Ways to Ensure That Your Quiet Students Never Speak Out in Class

  1. Another thing that I find very helpful for encouraging quiet students is ensuring that they have time to work in pairs or small groups, before having to speak to the whole class.

    • Yes, I absolutely agree with you! It’s so important for learners to have ‘private feedback’ before ‘public feedback’. By working in small groups as you say, they can have a practice run, and also if they have got an answer wrong, they have time to change it before anyone else hears! It’s so important not to put the spotlight on out quiet learners too early.
      Thanks for posting!

  2. Thank you for your post. I’m looking forward to your webinar!

  3. Great! I’m looking forward to it too! It’s a really interesting topic for teachers and learners, so I think we will all have a lot to add to the discussion. I’ve just been teaching one of my classes this morning (adults, beginners – and so there were a lot of mistakes!) and I was thinking a lot about this area.

    So much of it comes down to the way that we were taught…and it’s fascinating when you start to ‘unpack’ your own views about error correction and start thinking about what is going on under the surface.
    I’m looking forward to meeting you in the webinar.

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