Feedback means not only correcting students but also offering them an assessment of how well they have done (during a drill or after a longer language production exercise). It is really important because it encourages students and it makes them realize how well they performed a task or what they have to improve in their future attempts.
Feedback during oral work
When speaking about oral work, the teacher should pay attention to the students’ accuracy and fluency. Accuracy involves grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary while fluency, the quality or condition of being fluent, the ability to speak in English, easily and acurately, with little or no mistakes regarding the flow of words. We need to decide whether a particular activity is designed to expect the students’ accuracy or we are asking the students to use the language as fluently as possible. Teachers should keep in mind from the start that usually non-communicative activities expect accuracy from the students and communicative ones are based more on their fluency. In the accuracy work the teachers’ role is to point out and correct the mistakes-he stops the activity to make the correction (teacher’s intervention). During communicative activities teachers should not interrupt students to point out grammatical, lexical or pronunciation errors. And more important a teacher should be able to correct students without offending. If teachers react to absolutely every mistake, the students will feel demotivated.
Feedback during accuracy work
There are several techniques which imply showing incorrectness. In all the procedures that are going to be mentioned next, teachers expect that students will be able to correct themselves once the teacher has indicated that something was wrong.
a. Repeating. Ask the student to repeat what they have said by saying „Again?” which coupled with intonation and expression will indicate that something is not clear.
b. Echoing. The teacher repeats what the student has said emphasising the part of the utterance that was wrong.
c. Statement and question. „That’s not quite right.”, „Do you think that’s correct?”
d. Expression. Facial expression or a gesture, but with care.
e. Hinting. Teachers might just say the word „plural” to make them think that perhaps they should have used another type of plural
f. Reformulation. The teacher repeats what the student has said, correctly, reformulating the sentence, but without making a big issue of it.
Example: S- „I call her last week”/T:- „So, you called her last week?”
If the students are unable to correct themselves we need to focus on the correct version in more detail. We can say the correct version emphasizing the part where there is a problem. If necessary we can explain the grammar, by giving examples. We will then ask the students to repeat the utterance correctly. Sometimes we can ask students to correct each other. We might ask another student to correct a mistake or the whole class.
Feedback during fluency work
The way we respond to students when they take part in a fluency activity will have a significant importance and role, not only on how will they perform at the time, but also on how they behave in fluency activities in the future. By adopting a gentle correction, students may be promted forwards if they cannot think of what to say. If their sentences have grammar mistakes, teachers can reformulate what the student has said, even though it hardly interrupts their speech and makes students lose their ideas and confidence.
When it comes to recording mistakes, teachers frequently act as observers, watching and listening to students so that they can give feedback afterwards. One of the problems of giving feedback after the students’ performance of the task is that it is easy to forget what students have said. Most teachers, therefore, write down key points they want to refer to later and some like to use charts, as in the below example.
Grammar Words and Phrases | Pronunciation | Appropriacy
In each column, teachers can write down things they heard, good ones but especially the incorrect or inappropriate ones. After they have recorded student performance, they will want to give feedback to the class. Teachers can do this in several ways:
a. give an assessment of an activity, saying how well the students did in it, getting the students to tell what they found easy or difficult;
b. put some of the recorded mistakes up on the board and ask students if they can recognise the problem and then if they can put it right;
c. write both correct and incorrect words, phrases or sentences on the board and have the students decide which is correct and which is not;
d. write individual notes to students, recording mistakes they heard during an activity/task, suggesting where they might look for information about the language, like dictionaries, grammar books or on the internet.
While recording and posting mistakes, teachers should not say who made them and they should concentrate on those which were made by more than one person.
Feedback on written work
The way we give feedback on writing will depend on the kind of writing task the students have done and the effect we wish to create. When students do workbook exercises, we will mark their efforts right or wrong. But when we give feedback on creative or communicative writing, such as letters, reports, stories, poems, we will clearly demonstrate our interest in the content of the students work. Teachers should see feedback as a response to students’ work and not as an assessment or evaluation. When they respond, they say how the text appears to them, how successful they think it has been and how it could be improved. Responding to students’ work may be done by:
a. comments in the margins of the paper;
b. if more extensive, on a separate piece of paper;
c. in form of a letter;
d. reformulation, but keeping the student’s words.’
So, instead of having as a response, a piece of paper full of correction marks, the students receive pieces of advice and hints for a better piece of work in the future. Some teachers use codes and they can be used either in the body of the writing or in the corresponding margin. Of course, students should know these codes.
Example: IS-incorrect spelling | ?-not clear
Feedback means above all, to help, to teach and to asses. This procedure finishes when students are able to correct themselves or to look for answers in dictionaries and grammar books.
Harmer, Jeremy. 2005. The Practice of English Language Teaching. Pearson Education ESL; 5th Edition edition