Like every weekend this school year, I’m busy correcting a set of my students’ written assignments right now. When planning the senior class course back in August, I thought it would be a good idea to have the students write a lot and often. Based on my experience, students tend to grumble when they are required to produce something longer now and then. However, once the writing practice becomes regular, they get used to it and they finally start to like it (and, believe it or not, ultimately, you may even start enjoying all the correcting too).
Each Monday, before handing out the corrected essays, I give my students collected feedback. I put a couple of the recurrent errors on the board and provide quick explanations. Most of the time, they nod in agreement: “This is so obvious! Why on earth is she telling us? I’d never make such a silly mistake, would I?” But sometimes, I can spot a sign of surprise in their eyes: “Oh dear, she must be talking about my essay now!”.
Every Monday, when sharing the collected feedback, I say something along the lines: “Remember? Last Monday we talked about the difference between other and another. Yet, some of you got it wrong again. We also discussed the difference between it’s and its, still, many of you used these words incorrectly again.” I try not to be harsh. I hope I always say the words with an understanding smile. I want my students to know that I don’t judge them; I want to reassure them that these things just happen. But I also want to let them know that there’s still a lot to learn and refine, especially through writing and language production in general.
One would think that the above examples are the easiest things for your students to grasp and internalize. One would suppose that B1/B2 students can’t possibly get the possessive its wrong. But they do. Over and over again. No matter how often I tell my students that they should keep articles in mind, they will rarely use them correctly if they are not ready yet. It’s a never-ending story; I correct their essays, give them extensive feedback, revise the rules for using articles but whack! – next time they make the same mistakes or invent even more bizzare examples of language use.
But I don’t despair because it’s their mistakes and their language outcome – something I try to value despite all the imperfections. I will gently keep reminding them of the little flaws as long as they need it. And I believe that they’ll finally get it. Some of them will get it tomorrow, others will need more time. Anyway, I can see they get a little better with each new essay. They are more confident and more eager to get it right this time. I know new problems will always come up along the way, but I would never be able to find out about the potential problems without having them constantly produce something genuine, something of their own.