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BELTA Matters
What are your thoughts on
error correction in marking
English Language
December 2007
Brunei Darussalam
I think error correction and marking English
Language compositions are helpful for both teachers
and students. Teachers and students can get
Unfortunately, it is time consuming.
Schools must take into consideration that even
teachers who mark PMB Exam papers spend whole
days to mark at least 40 papers daily, without having
classes and other interruptions. How will a teacher
mark, say, 70-plus compositions given to students in
a week to be returned by the next week? The
I think that any form of error correction is of great
importance as the students are able to identify their
mistakes and be more aware of them. When marking
essays, I think that it is vital to give students feedback,
not just a grade or mark. It is from the feedback that
students will be aware of their essay-writing
competence, that is, whether they have met the topic
question, the types of language errors that they have
committed and therefore how they are able to improve.
Students should be aware of the criteria used for
marking their essays as this will enable them to identify
their weaknesses and how they are able to improve.
I usually spend a whole lesson on error correction
for when I return marked essays. During the lesson,
The average Bruneian students' problem where composition writing is concerned mainly lies in grammatical
inaccuracy and the usage of incorrect expressions.
These ingrained errors are caused by mother tongue
interference and their inability to recognize these errors as unacceptable English Language sentences.
Where an expression is semantically incorrect due to
direct translation from Malay, I would normally rewrite/
correct the wrong phrase or sentence for the students
so that they will learn the correct English language
However, if there are too many gross errors in a student's writing to the extent of impeding my understanding, I will have an individual 'error correction session'
with the student where he/she has to clarify to me
what exactly he/she is trying to convey. I will leave the
composition unmarked except for an overall grade
indicated at the bottom of the composition. This is to
avoid demoralizing the student if his work were to be
practically covered in red ink. The corrections (or the
re-write) are only written out on a fresh sheet after an
in-depth student-teacher discussion of the errors.
How much error correction is too
much or necessary? What is
your preferred method of
correction and how helpful
has it been for your
own students?
teachers are left to compromise on their marking if
not their personal life outside teaching. In the long
run, any teacher will exhaust themselves with
marking even if they have years of experience.
Correcting errors is too much if it has to consume a
lot of teachers’ time. Marking can be tiring, your eyes
get tired, your back hurts and in the end, your energy
as a teacher disappears!
Dk Noorul Hairani binti Pg Hj Abd Rahim
SM PDSM Mentiri
the topic question is analysed, that is, story
development and approach to the topic. Then, with the
students' permission, I read extracts of their essays
(from the very good ones to the poorly written ones)
and invite comments from the class. Then a paragraph
is projected and students read it, identifying the various
errors (some common ones are spelling, punctuation,
sentence structure, specific vocabulary, tenses and
subject-verb agreement). Once that is done, students
are then asked to pick their worst paragraph and do
their correction. For the very weak students, language
enrichment exercises (e.g. syntax, vocabulary and
grammar) are given as supplementary assignments.
Adrenne Chinn
St George’s School
In other words, I would only correct every single error
in a student's work if the composition is comprehensible. With a seriously erroneous piece of work, I would
have a more informal discussion with the student concerned with regards to the correct vocabulary or grammar structure that he/she should use in his composition.
I generally put a lot of importance on error correction in
compositions as I know that my students view corrections as a language learning aid instead of some kind
of humiliation. I believe that corrections should accompanied by words of encouragement and positive remarks in order for it to be a highly effective tool in
eliminating recurring errors. If this is done, our students will most certainly understand that their teacher's
sheer intention is to improve their writing skills and to
develop their language proficiency instead of to degrade his or her lack of language skills. Doing corrections will then be an activity that they will look forward
to doing more often in future composition lessons.
Cikgu NorAziah Hj Mohd Ismail
SM Sayyidina Hasan
Although it is a teacher’s duty to mark and
correct all students’ work, sometimes marking
compositions is really a burden (especially with
deadlines for tests and exam marks). Marking 100
compositions in such circumstances is really a
nightmare to me!
Composition books will be piling up on the
language teacher’s desk by the end of the week.
Compare this to a Mathematics or Geography
teacher who has a pile of exercise books of the
same height. She can finish her marking by the end
of the day.
Language teachers need to check literally
everything from accuracy, punctuation, vocabulary,
sentence structure, spelling, paragraphing,
relevance, tone, register, interest value to
handwriting. It is only after referring to the band
descriptors in the marking scheme that a teacher
can put down the marks.
Although a teacher takes much care to correct
all the errors, how much do students benefit from it?
They seem to keep on repeating the same errors
throughout their school years. How many of our
students actually look over the work returned by us?
Normally I give general feedback to the class
by listing their weaknesses, strengths and common
errors. The students have to identify the errors and
Error correction is a necessary evil in the
process of grading English Language compositions.
When you have to correct every single mistake, or
even worse, the same mistakes, then it’s too much,
not to mention tedious. It is also de-motivating for
the students to receive papers riddled with red
I use the PMB marking scheme and symbols to
help my lower secondary students recognise their
errors and, eventually, aid them in confidently
carrying out self-correction.
Although I do not practise it often, I would
prefer to use selective marking, where I correct a
specific area of grammar or content. I find that this
allows a more focussed analysis of chosen
language areas, be it tense, agreement, spelling,
punctuation, paragraphing or content. It is also a
good tool that I can use to review specific topics
such as past tense or subject-verb agreement.
Students would also benefit more from this, as
their returned papers would not be covered with red
marks. Sometimes, this method of marking proves
more effective and lends more assistance to the
students in recognising and identifying the errors
themselves. It is helpful to my students once they
understand what the symbols entail and how to self-
correct them in class. This way, no one can get
away from doing the corrections. They also learn
how to identify and correct their own errors.
Suggestions on what and how to improve are
written on their individual pieces of work.
When marking classwork and homework exercises,
I underline and put numbers next to the errors. Then
I write down the word ‘corrections’ just after the
marks and put the numbers down. Students are to
correct just the underlined and numbered parts.
They can’t ignore the red numbers (easily spotted)
and I will refuse to mark the next composition if I
see them still blank. Students have to think about
their mistakes and to discuss either with me or a
friend if they are not sure. My main aim is to make
them be more responsible for their language
Sometimes I just mark some parts of the
composition that I want students to work on. For
example, after teaching them about the introduction,
I will write down Marked for Introduction only! This
helps students to concentrate on certain parts of
composition writing and also helps to reduce my
marking load.
Norhashimah bte Hj Burut,
SM Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam
correct. It raises their awareness about the kinds of
errors they have committed, which I believe is the
first step to improving their writing.
Of course, by no means are the students ever
left to their own devices. Explanations (even
repeatedly!) of the symbols and samples of the
correct versions of each symbolised error are vital
and constant practice is required before the
students can carry out self-correction independently.
However, for students who lack understanding
of the basic grammar rules (such as tense,
agreement, even word order and sentence
construction), using symbols for error-correction can
be a difficult process, both for my students and me.
Not only are they usually not able to correct their
mistakes, they are also unable to identify them.
More often than not, the weaker students’
errors involve sentence constructions, the kind
where the symbols for single word errors would
hardly be applicable nor practical. In these
instances, I usually have to resort to detailed
correction, by writing corrected versions of every
single sentence!
Norazimawati Ahmad
You can choose to react to a piece of writing by
giving a personal view or you can be exam-oriented by
concentrating on exam marking guides. Sometimes it
gets too much when there are errors or mistakes
everywhere and too much time is spent on a single
I think that it is important that teachers mark for
content especially if students have been able to
I feel that it is necessary and vital for an English
Language teacher to mark all errors in a composition
for the benefit of his or her students. As long as the
teacher is capable of marking all errors in a
composition, he or she should do it.
I usually correct the first and last paragraphs
thoroughly and underline other errors in an essay. To
facilitate self-correction by pupils, a simple marking
code is used. I also feel it is important to provide
support for thinking by asking questions and making
comments when doing error correction. Whenever
possible, I try to give praise for the quality of ideas as
convey the message or write relevantly. I suggest that
teachers give points for management of content, then
consider grammar and vocabulary as well as
punctuation. A lot of teachers’ marking load is also
dependent on the students the teacher has: whether
they are high or low ability students. This affects the
teacher’s time and need for error correction.
well as encourage and motivate students.
I also prefer to create a friendly and supportive
atmosphere in my classroom by encouraging
cooperation between learners through peer or small
group work. I agree with the view that in certain
situations, a learner's self-correction of errors might be
more beneficial for language learning.
I feel the approach I have taken has been quite
helpful to my students as I get positive feedback and
appreciation from them.
Vijaya Raj.
SM Sayyidina Ali
Call for Pre
7th Sept 2007
The Asian
Dear Fellow Asia TEFL Members,
for the 200
tion of Tea
8 Asia TE
hers as a F FL Conference
oreign Lan
I hope all is well with you.
I am very happy to tell you that we had another very
successful and historic conference in Kuala Lumpur
last June. On this occasion I would like to extend my
most profound gratitude to Conference Chair Edwin
Vethamani and his conference committee members for
their excellent preparations for the successful
Travel grants of US$300 are available for 30 concurrent
session presenters based outside of Indonesia. The
deadline for submission of presentation proposals and
travel grant application forms is January 10, 2008.
Those who apply for travel grants should send the
presentation proposal with the abstract, biographical
data, and travel grant application form to the following
address: [email protected]
The 2008 Asia TEFL International Conference will be
(Prof. (Dr. Ms.) Joo-Kyung PARK)
held at the Sanur Paradise Plaza Hotel in Bali,
Indonesia, on August 1-3 (Friday-Sunday), based on For more information about the conference, please visit
the theme, “Globalizing Asia: The Role of ELT."
the Asia TEFL website:
The 6th Asia TEFL conference will be co-hosted by Conference Chair Suwarsih Madya and I will make our
TEFLIN and Asia TEFL. Professor Suwarsih Madya, utmost efforts to make the 6th Asia TEFL International
President of TEFLIN, Asia TEFL Representative of Conference the biggest ELT event in Asia.
Indonesia is Conference Chair.
I hope many of you will participate in the Bali
The deadline for submission of presentation proposals Conference.
is February 10, 2008.
Those who are based outside of Indonesia should Prof. (Mr) Hyo Woong Lee
send the presentation abstracts and biographical data President of Asia TEFL
to the following address: [email protected]
(Prof.(Dr., Mr.) Kilryoung LEE)
Those who are based within Indonesia should send the
presentation abstracts and biographical data to the
following addresses: [email protected]
[email protected]

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