Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Writing in L2- from Grammatical Mistakes to Lexical Opportunities - Report on Leo Selivan's Session

After a very interesting plenary talk we had the honour of a workshop with Mr Leo Selivan during Tesol Macedonia Thrace 24th Annual International Conference. It was a full room and a very enlightening presentation on the thin line between grammar and vocabulary as far as errors are concerned.

Mr Selivan started his presentation by referring to the difference between Errors and Mistakes and the Truscott/ Ferris Debate about whether teachers should correct L2 student writers' errors.

                                                                                                                   photo by Emmanuel Kontovas

He went on to have a discussion with the audience about the reasons why teachers should correct learners’ errors and the reasons against doing so. Some reasons against error correction mentioned were that students ignore the correction and they are mainly interested in the mark and as a result they repeat the same mistakes. Also, students often do not pay attention to the teacher’s remarks and they do not even read them. Finally, error correction may lead to avoidance behaviour where students decide not to use certain structures that they often fail at. 

Some reasons in favour of error correction mentioned was that is that error feedback can improve students accuracy and improves the students’ writing.

Then Mr Selivan went on to ask the audience what techniques they use when they correct. Again there was a variety of answers from the most traditional ones where the mistake is underlined and corrected to the ones where explanation of the nature of the mistake is offered and students have to correct their mistake themselves based on that input.

                                                                                                                               photo by Efi Tzouri

Mr Selivan suggested different ways of responding to mistakes. He stressed that mistakes should be seen as a learning opportunity and as a chance of responding to students writing. He said that teachers should mainly look at the whole, at what the student is trying to say and whether the message gets across. He also quoted Dellar who said that “many grammatical errors are the result of lexical deficiencies”. 

He concluded his presentation by saying that being a good writer in someone’s first language does not necessarily mean that you are a good writer in L2. This is why we should brainstorm the language needed and review the language related to the topic a student is asked to write about.

Report by Emmanuel Kontovas

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