italki Teaching Tips: What is the best way to correct my student during a lesson?

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What is the best way to correct my student during a lesson?

It can be a real bummer when a practice dialogue is going well and you interrupt your student to make a correction. It seems the inevitable dilemma for the language teacher. If you don’t correct your student when they make an error, they will naturally continue to make the same error. However, if you disrupt the flow of conversation, they may lose their train of thought which could be more damaging to the lesson. I’ve found it’s best to take notes during a dialogue with my students. Afterwards, I can mention things they did particularly well to encourage them, as well as correct errors. Often, a student will just make a small error. If I take notes, I can repeat the error and explain WHY its wrong and help them correct it for next time. I find this method is most effective and encouraging to my students.

correction_bestwayWe tend to falsely believe that we are embarrassing students when we correct their English. This could not be further from the truth. The embarrassment occurs when they are speaking at their place of employment or to someone in the community and they say the wrong word or mispronounce a word. The students are paying teachers to correct their grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary. If we create a safe environment where the student feels comfortable, then we can easily correct their speech without any negative feelings. A great feature of the one-to-one teaching via Skype on Italki is that the student does not need to feel any shame in making mistakes because there are not even other students around to hear them. Therefore, it is vital that teacher correct mistakes before they become a problem outside of the academic environment. When I have a student read a passage, I correct their pronunciation right after they mispronounce a word. When the student is writing, I give them immediate feedback on their grammar and sentence structure. Some of my students like to have assignments. For these students, I have more time to go over their errors before their next lesson so that we can spend quality time correcting them.

It depends how talkative your student is.

  • if he/she is VERY talkative : write down what he/she says on Skype as fast as he/she talks, and when he/she is done, post the sentences on the chat and comment on the mistake together. Talkative students make more mistakes. Don’t correct them all in one time – choose a recurrent mistake to focus on. Dare not to interrupt him/her!
  • if he/she is MEDIUM talkative : write down the sentence where there was a mistake and comment it together.
  • if he/she is NON-talkative : don’t interrupt him/her ! And typing while he/she talks maybe disturb him/her. So, when you have a comment to make, first make it orally, and then explain in writing.


I personally do not interrupt the student verbally. I will type the correct sentence on skype so that they can see it and look back at it in the future. This way the conversation keeps flowing and they have something to review later on.

If a student keeps making the same mistake or common mistakes, I will address it verbally and chat about ‘why’ they are making it. Usually it is a literal translation thing of how they say things in their native language. It’s important for a teacher to pay attention to these mistakes and even take notes to make sure you are watching for the same mistakes.

The beauty of online lessons is that you have the internet at your fingertips, so you should take advantage of this and copy paste definitions of new words and use google images to help you explain things.

Most of the time I try to avoid correcting a student directly.
I found that the student very often hears the mistake himself and corrects it next time he uses the word or phrase.
When we perform “Read after me”, I take notes, and repeat 4-5 words after the reading.
Some sounds are extremely difficult for the student to produce, so after a reading I may exercise one of these sounds especially, but never more than one sound per lesson, and I follow up on this sound in next lesson, till it is not a problem any more.
Most students have only 4-5 sounds that prevent them from speaking in a relaxed way. If I try to teach them two or more of these sounds in the same lesson, they never learn. Taking the sounds one by one is the fastest shortcut to teach them.
Same with grammar problems like inversion, different past tenses, etc., I don’t correct them in the moment, but create small exercises for the student, and we pursue the same problem also a little after it is not a problem any more.

I usually tell the student that I will “pause” them to make corrections at an appropriate time. If I want to avoid interrupting an important train of thought, it’s best to take notes and return to a point. If its a reasonable time to pause them after a mistake, we can do so — but I will try to make a mental note of the point they were making in order for them to return to this point after the corrections.
Teacher Jacob of USA

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