4 Rules to Remember When Giving Corrections and Feedback to Your ESL Students

By: Tutor Mike

Ahhhh, the balancing act of giving corrections during an ESL lesson. 

Have you ever struggled with when, where, and how to give feedback while teaching your online English learners? 

I know that I have! But as an online English tutor for the past several years, I think I’ve got how to give corrections and feedback down to a science. 

Corrections and feedback are essential elements to tutoring effectively. However, you can’t just throw around a correction every two seconds because you risk damaging your students’ confidence, and no tutor wants that. 

The manner of delivering the correction matters immensely, which includes 3 elements:

  • The frequency of corrections or feedback 
  • The tone you use 
  • Your attitude when communicating the correction

In addition to these 3 elements, it’s important to always remember that different students have different needs, and I’m not just referring to their English level!

For instance, to some students, stopping them mid-sentence may be too disruptive to their concentration, while others may benefit and encourage tutors to immediately point out every mistake they make. Learning each student’s nuances is key to being a great tutor. 

There are 4 rules to follow when it comes to feedback

Let’s go over them!

Rule #1: Always have a Positive and Constructive Attitude! 

Let’s be honest: it’s super daunting and intimidating when you are first learning how to speak a new language. This is amplified when the student is speaking to a native speaker who will pick up all of their mistakes. 

Your students probably experience some anxiety because of this, so it’s crucial for you as the tutor to put them at ease and smile

Tell them to take their time, and not to worry about making mistakes; remind them that practicing and immersing themselves in english material can conquer all slips! 💪

When pointing out their mistakes, try and bring along a positive observation on the student’s performance; “Great! Your pronunciation of X and Y is excellent! We just have to work on Z. You usually say Z like this; let’s try and make it this instead. Listen to how I say it…”

Or, for instance, when reviewing a student’s writing, point out some of the positives, in between corrections; “Your grammar’s great! You’re using great words here, we just need to work on your sentence structure.”

Be cheerful! Even when pointing out repeated mistakes; it’s important for students to feel relaxed and safe making those mistakes. Don’t forget to celebrate improvements! The smallest of improvements mean a lot to them. 

Rule #2: Be mindful of your frequency

Frequency is arguably one of the most important rules to keep in mind.

Giving too many corrections can be too disruptive, and can also discourage a student, while giving too few can hinder a student’s growth.

It’s best to aim for 1 per every 5 minutes of conversation. As you become more familiar with the student, you can bend this rule a little, but generally allowing the conversation to flow, and only stopping every 5 minutes to convey feedback will allow for a balanced exchange. 

Also, don’t forget to use the correction chat box! 

The chat box is helpful for three reasons:

  • It gives your student handy notes that they can look up when reviewing the lesson’s video, along with a timestamp of when you provided that correction. 
  • It generates a record for you, the tutor! You can go back to review corrections made across lessons to better prioritize areas that need work with each student. 
  • It’s an excellent way to compile the corrections between feedback points in the conversation, and works like a “buffer” this way because you can type the correction, and then send it over at the perfect moment! 

Rule #3: Don’t neglect your body language! 

Body language is one of the most powerful assets in your toolbox! 

Let’s go back to the concept of repeated mistakes; you have a student that constantly mispronounces certain words. You’ve pointed it out before, but it’s proving difficult for them to shake the bad habit. 

Gesturing apprehension as the student approaches these words on an article they’re reading to you will allow the student to read the anticipation on your face, making them aware of what’s coming up and will emphasize the correction, without you even having to speak!

Then reward your student’s correct pronunciation of that tricky word with a big smile and a thumbs-up! 

Body language is a universal language that you can lean on when tutoring; it’s subtle, and it creates a brain link between speech and action to boost language and vocabulary learning, while also reducing student’s inhibitions and lowering stress. 

It’s a beautiful thing, use it! 

Rule #4: Be patient

I know that sounds like a no-brainer, but again, there’s a universal language in human gestures; both facial and body languages will give away irritability or restlessness. 

Patience is a virtue. If you find that you’re needing to repeat yourself often, just relax, take a deep breath, and try new ways of explaining the topic. Eventually you’ll find an explanation that clicks with the student, and it will feel so rewarding! 

Deep breaths, a smile, and gentle nods; be the zen master every good pupil needs!

And there you have it, tutors!

Be sure to follow these four rules when giving corrections and feedback to your students and I’m sure you’ll see great success!

Let me know in the comments if you would add any other rules to this list, I’d love to hear from my fellow tutors! 

4 thoughts on “4 Rules to Remember When Giving Corrections and Feedback to Your ESL Students

  1. Nice tip about using body language to indicate a repetitive error or to give commendation. It really works!

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