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ESL forum > Techniques and methods in Language Teaching > How can we emphasize and improve “accuracy”?    

How can we emphasize and improve “accuracy”?


How can we emphasize and improve “accuracy”?

I’m feeling a little bit frustrated! Another term is coming to an end in our institute and I still have this problem in my classes. I would be eternally grateful if anyone could suggest anything that might help.

Here’s the problem: Our students, our female students in particular (our classes here are either boys or girls - young adults and adults, ages 16 to 25), don’t pay enough attention to their accuracy while speaking.. At intermediate level they constantly make simple mistakes with tenses (e.g. present instead of the past), parts of speech, with the third person “s”, etc. They obviously know the grammar. When I stop them or with a gesture show that they have made a mistake, they can correct themselves. The thing is that it seems to me they don’t really care about speaking correctly and they mostly want to just talk and communicate their thoughts. I have talked to them and have told them that accuracy is very important and they assure me that it’s important for them as well, but still… . They are fluent and speak at a proper speed for their level but their accuracy leaves something to be desired. I have used and am using different error correction methods. I encourage peer correction, I correct them on the spot when appropriate, I write their mistakes on the board and ask them to correct, etc.

Do you have the same problem? If so, how do you handle it?

Tonight, I even talked to them about setting some kind of punishment for repeating a mistake (humorously of course) and I am seriously considering it!

Any thoughts on the topic would be greatly appreciated.

18 Nov 2013      


my advice: don ´t interrupt your pupils, they need to be able to speak without interruptions if they want to improve.
what i do in similar cases is record them, then let them hear the tape and correct themselves...
I also give them that type of assessment grid to know where they can still improve:

Assessment grid for a spoken production







Short simple sentences, sometimes hard to understand , which provide very little information to the audience

Desire to provide simple but clear information to the audience, using a clear language.

Desire to provide accurate, detailed information to the audience, in a clear language.



very few new words are used

“new” = learnt recently in class

Sufficient to communicate on the subject.

Some new words are included

Sufficient to express yourself on most topics, but major errors still occur when expressing more complex thoughts…

Grammar / syntax accuracy

Poor accuracy, making it sometimes hard to understand what the person wants to say.

Easy structures, most of the new ones are not mastered, some very common mistakes (tense, plural…)

Accuracy is sufficient  even though the new structures are always fully mastered.

Ideas, thematic development

Short list of ideas based on the lesson – no originality

Longer list of ideas, most of them based on the lesson

The ideas found show that there was a real desire to be original & research the subject


Very few link words (and, but, so…)

No structure

Some link words

An attempt to structure the text

Linked a series of simple ideas into a connected, linear structure

assessment grid made according to the CEFR - http://www.coe.int/t/dg4/linguistic/Cadre1_en.asp

18 Nov 2013     

United States

ELOJOLIE ´s chart and suggestions are excellent. I might also throw in some plausible misunderstanding. By that, I mean acting confused when a student says, "I cook sabzi polo for the family yesterday," for example. Does she mean that she cooked yesterday, or that she often cooks sabzi polo?
I also tend to listen for one facet of English at a time, although your level of student sounds higher than mine. If we are working on the past tense, I will correct incorrect pronunciation or use of the past tense, but let mistakes with the plural go by, or vice versa.
Also, why is accurate speaking important to them? It isn ´t just because you say so, or because you want to look good to the principal/headmaster/headmistress/dean/other title for the person in charge. Can they get better jobs? Will their TOEFL scores be better if they want to go to college or university in an English-speaking country? The answer may be that accurate English really isn ´t that important to them. If that ´s the case, then correct with good humor.

18 Nov 2013