Monday, August 27, 2018

The Amazing Correction Race

Tamara Jones is an ESL Instructor at Howard Community College, Columbia, Maryland

Let’s face it, writing classes don’t usually scream “fun and games.” I mean, in real life, writing is usually a solitary activity. Even when I collaborate on a project with a colleague, we don’t often actually sit side by side and write. Also, writing can feel deeply personal, even when it’s academic or professional. Whenever I send off any writing I’ve done to my publisher, I always feel a bit vulnerable. And, that’s when I submit work in my L1. Imagine the bravery it takes to write in a new language, much less have a classmate peer review your work.

Clearly, getting students to relax enough to interact and write in a new(ish) language can be a tall order for any writing teacher. So, I heartily embrace any ideas for making writing lessons more engaging and fun for my students. Luckily, many years ago, when I was teaching TOEFL Prep, I stumbled upon a game that I have played with students of all ages and at all levels since then.

Before Class:

  1. Find an error riddled passage or set of sentences. For my Pre-Beginners, I wrote simple sentences, like these:
  2. For my TOEFL Prep students, I scanned sample written responses from the old purple Longman TOEFL Preparation Course for the iBT textbook.
  3. Put the text into a project-able format. Back in the good old days, I used to copy the text on to a transparency (I am that old), but nowadays, I scan the text and put it into a PowerPoint slide.
  4. Make sure you have several white board markers that are different colors.
  5. Right before the class begins, prepare the projector so that it is projecting on the white board or a big piece of paper. The idea is that the students will be writing where the slide is projecting, so the game won’t work if the PPT is projecting on to a wall or a pull down screen.

In Class:

  1. Divide the class into groups so there are the same number of groups as you have white board marker colors. For instance, if you have 4 colored markers (red, blue, green and black) then you will divide the class into 4 groups. Give each group a different colored whiteboard marker.
  2. Explain the rules to the students. Tell them that they will see a text with many mistakes and that they will take turns with their teammates (while racing against the other teams) to find and correct the mistakes. The team that corrects the most mistakes (correctly) is the winner.
    – Only one teammate can hold the marker at a time. Only the students with the markers can approach the board and write.
    – If the students are not holding the marker, they should be seated. (This will be hard for them. Even my dignified adult students want to stand up so they can more easily rush the board.)
    – The team members have to take turns correcting the mistakes. It’s a bit like a relay, in that one person can’t hog the marker. But, as they are waiting for their turn with the marker, they can help each other and strategize.
    – They can correct any error they find. They don’t have to go in order.
    – When the person with the marker corrects the error, he or she rushes back to the group and hands the marker to the next student.
  3. Project the text and watch the madness ensue.

    (If the game gets off to a slow start, encourage the class. Say things like, “Oh, look! Mehri corrected sentence number 3. The red team has earned 1 point!” Sometimes, it takes students a few seconds to figure how how to play the game the first time around.)
  4. Monitor the game. While the students are racing the other teams to correct the errors, things at the board will get a bit crazy. If you have 4 groups, there will be 4 students at the board at any given time, jostling to correct an error. Given the pace of the game, it can be hard to monitor the students, but it’s important to be watching like a hawk because sometimes they will correct things incorrectly. If they do that, they still have to hand over the marker to the next person on their team, but I erase the incorrect correction. Sometimes they also “correct” things that aren’t wrong. I also erase those “corrections” as well. I use an answer key, even when the text is very simple, to help me stay on top of all the corrections.
  5. When all the errors have been corrected, have the students sit down and read through the sentences as a class. Discuss the corrections. Then, count the corrections according to color. If the green team made 5 corrections, and the red team made three corrections, then the green team is declared the winner.

After the Class:

  1. Give the students paper copies of the original, uncorrected text and have them correct the mistakes and rewrite the sentences for homework.

I really like using this game in my classes. From true beginners to my most advanced learners, they all have fun, work together, and practice revising writing. It’s guaranteed to get the students out of their seats and smiling while talking about grammar. And, what can be better than that?


Comment from Sonia
September 18, 2018 at 12:06 pm

Thank you for it. It’s really informative.

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