Correcting written work


One of the most time-consuming and tedious parts of a teacher’s job is going through all the written work that you collect at the end of the lesson and correcting it. There are some alternatives.


Underline + note in margin

Simply underline the word/s that are wrong and write a short note in the margin like Tense or Word Order or Form. Then in the next class you hand back the work to the students and allow time for them to self-correct. Circulate and help. This way they are much less likely to make the same mistake again.

As above, plus pairwork in next class

For higher levels, or more challenge, do just one of the two things mentioned above. So either underline the incorrect forms without a note in the margin, or write notes in the margin without underlining which words they refer to. Then in the next class hand back the work and students can work in pairs to try to spot where the errors are in each other’s work and correct them together.

Tip: remember lexical development as well as grammatical errors

Remember that your ‘correction’ can also include underlining and comments in the margin for extending/developing language, not just errors. So your note to the student in the margin can be something like This word used a lot – alternatives? or Meaning not clear or Literal translation from German – try again.

Using a highlighter pen to mark words or chunks for reformulation is also a good technique here. Highlight where you want students to try to produce more complex or accurate lexis (closer to what they would achieve in L1). Then at the bottom of the text write an explanatory note such as Yellow highlight shows where you should try for a richer use of language – look in a Collocation Dictionary.

Tip: respond to the content, not just the form

It is very motivating for the student to know that you are really reading what they have spent so long writing – not just scanning it for errors. So write comments in the margin such as Good point! or Interesting – can you say more about this in the class?

And right at the bottom write a few encouraging words as your final comment: Well done! I enjoyed reading this! or Your writing is really improving – good work!