Language Feedback Customized


Below I start out by stating the obvious and sharing some beliefs about learning and teaching I have, and later talk about the form specifically. If you feel bored, just jump into the HOW part of this entry!

WHY give language feedback after speaking activities in class

  • language students expect us to listen to them
  • language students believe that we are learning on/from the mistakes made and corrected
  • delayed error correcting helps develop fluency and confidence
  • the type of mistakes Ss make indicate what language focus their future lessons can have (their needs)
  • language feedback is more than error correcting (enriches S learning and provides a range of vocab and grammatical structures in their repertoire)
  • quality language feedback increases learner autonomy (students themselves can make conscious decisions and direct their efforts based on the language feedback they receive from the teacher and each other

WHAT is the focus of our attention

Taking notes of the inaccuracies our students have while they are speaking English to each other and making those mistakes explicit to them later in the lesson

HOW (more general)

  • a whiteboard (IWB) can be used for note-taking in a group lesson
  • a paper / word.docx can be used for 1-1 classes (hand-written as in the image above)
  • a chat space in Skype/Google Talk, etc. can be used for online lessons

Since 2003 this form has been used in our school, and the one we have now is the result of ‘evolution’ and discussion and reflection and feedback from our students.

The form as is at the moment (occupies the whole letter-size piece of paper, or a Word.docx page ‘album’ )

Name of Student: ____ Name of Teacher: _______ Date: _________

Main topic/language point of lesson: ____________




What does _________ mean?       How do you say ______ in English?      How do you spell / pronounce it?

HOW (more specific)

And this is actually the part to talk about: how to turn this language feedback form into a powerful learning tool, or even the main one, depending on the way you are using it.

Ways of working with Grammar column:

  • putting down the wrong sentence (exactly the way the students said it or changing names/places, etc. Making sure the mistake itself is kept)
  • gap fills of the target grammar structure (sentences taken from the context of the lesson, or even what the student said)
  • multiple choice sentence (2-3 alternative form to choose from)

Ways of working with Vocabulary column:

  • gap fills of the TL (sentences taken from the context of the lesson, or even what the student said)
  • a definition
  • a (better) synonym of the word used
  • an opposite of the word used
  • possible collocations with the word
  • L1
  • a picture to illustrate the word
  • a word prompt (either indicating the number of letters or giving the first letter, or both)
  • adding an idiomatic expression which suits the context and content of what the students was talking about

Ways of working with Pronunciation column:

  • giving a phonemic script of the word
  • writing words with the correct word stress mark (a circle, capitalized stressed syllables, etc.)
  • writing a word and only indicating a problem sound in phonemic script
  • writing sentences with the correct logical stress marked
  • a picture to illustrate the word mispronounced
  • putting down the words that are often confused (e.g. Were and Wear, Beer and Bear, etc.)

Finally, a couple of questions:

  • What are other possible variations of the form like this?
  • How else can we use the form in class?
  • What are the benefits for adding ‘good language used’ column (or make sure that each of the existing ones has that section as well?)
  • What are the pros and cons for using different forms with the same students?
  • Can students themselves make a decision about the content of the form? – a rhetorical question 🙂

Some links… 

a cool blog entry with DELTA course notes and author’s reflections on error correction; I found the reminder of possible types of mistakes especially useful because they can be further reflected on the form (including higher-level students)

Lindsay Clandfield and Duncan Foord’s article for OneStopEnglish where they spoke about Pro-Forma and added several ideas into the way we have been using the form

Adam Simpson’s post about using technology while giving feedback to students by 

… and acknowledgements:

Sergei Nesterenko, IH DNK Founder, for the idea of ‘error coLLection’ rather than ‘error correction’ term from his session on IH course in 2006

IH London’ teachers of Executive Center for the initial idea of a form for one-to-one classes (the original columns were Paraphrase / Correct, Good Language Use and Vocabulary). One of our students brought this idea back to Ukraine as a very successful one in 2003 and this was how we started developing it

All the teachers and students at IH DNK, Dnipro, Ukraine, for developing the form, adding new ideas, using it in class and giving and receiving feedback on for future improvements


… something I have never used in my language feedback forms before but definitely will is Thesaurus:  for synonyms, opposites, idioms, etc.


Updated in April 2014: adding a link to a great post by Jonathan Ingham about Tweaking Delayed Error Correction (some ideas are similar to mine and some are new and fresh!)

About Zhenya

ELT: teacher educator, trainer coach, reflective practice addict
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