Copie de final assignment int400 genevieve charland
UNIVERSITE DE SHERBROOKE
Département de pédagogie
Providing Feedback to Written Assignments
Geneviève Charland 06 844 659
Work presented to Michelle Paradis and Dominique Hétu
As part of
Professional Essay (INT 400)
April 15, 2010
TABLE OF CONTENTS
2.1 RESEARCH PROBLEM…………………………………………………………………...3
3. LITERATURE REVIEW.......………………………….………………………........................5
4. ACTIONS TAKEN………………………………………………………………………….…11
4.1 METHODOLOGY AND ANALYSIS …………………...………………………….........13
6. EFFECTS OF THE RESEARCH ON PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT………………....34
9.1 APPENDIX 1 - Detailed planning of the actions…….……………..….………………..…39
9.2 APPENDIX 2 - All the educational material produced……..…….……..………………... 58
9.3 APPENDIX 3 - Data collection and analysis material ……….....………............................63
9.4 APPENDIX 4 - Some authentic material used for data collection…....................................68
Major dilemmas of assessment are how to correct and provide effective feedback to students written
assignments. This work presents an action research about providing constructive feedback on ESL
students` written assignments. This subject is compelling because teachers need to find a constructive
way to correct assignments and provide meaningful feedback. Various sources are discussed, as well as
methods to make students write texts. An analysis of the data and experience are provided. Overall,
corrections need to be done quickly but be meaningful. The research had a greater impact on stronger
students. They learned from their mistakes more quickly than weaker students. This paper will allow
readers to develop their correction methods and hopefully enlighten them on which method is
Providing Feedback to Written Assignments
Up until now in my career, I have gained experience while teaching every level from
kindergarten to secondary five. I also had the occasion to teach Intensive English to six graders, teach
in private schools as well as an animator for group discussions in college. Ever since I started teaching,
I noticed that students did not take into consideration written corrections on their assignment, which is
why I focused my action research on the following question: how can a teacher provide constructive
feedback on ESL students` written assignments?
Consequently, this paper is a description of my action research, which inspired students to write
and use constructive feedback from the teacher (me) to learn from their mistakes. This paper examines
my action research problem, the actions I undertook my methodological approach as well as my results
and the principal effects of the research on my professional development.
The Research Problem
I chose this subject because, at the beginning of my teaching career, my standards were too
high. I quickly learned that when correcting a student’s written assignment, I should not underline in
red every mistake, because when students received their copy they were disappointed. Another pitfall
was that they did not take the time to look at the mistakes. As a teacher, I would spend time correcting
each text and it was upsetting to see that students did not even take the time to look at the corrections
and learn from their mistakes. Next, I changed my correcting method. I spent more time looking for
what the students did right and I worked to build on those strengths, rather than pointing to weaknesses.
Of course, I also helped students to improve their weak points but I learned to share with them what
they had done right instead of only telling them what they had done wrong.
For my part, this subject interested me greatly because I wanted to find a constructive way to
correct assignments and provide meaningful feedback and corrections. Students have different ways of
learning. Some will take the time to read the corrections and will not make the same mistake twice
because they acquired new knowledge and understood it. Others do not even take the time to look over
the corrections. Why should I correct if it is not meaningful for the students? The impact my
corrections have on students is important for me as a teacher and I ceased the occasion to research on
Since English is mostly a second language in Quebec, it is hard, according to me, to expect a
well structured and error free text on behalf of the students, which creates a problem and brings
possible consequences. I remember correcting written assignments from secondary 5 students and
having a lot of difficulties to interpret the message. Teaching a second language is a challenge and
learning it is even a greater challenge. But, in my opinion, students should start writing in English as
soon as in grade one. That way, the quality of texts would be greater by the end of high school, which
means after eleven years of English as a second language. Even if English is a second language, I
believe that it can be mastered especially when students are learning it during many years and at a
Even if students had different abilities and backgrounds, I needed to motivate all of them to
write. As far as I was concerned, they were not stimulated to write in their second language whether it
was from their parents or previous English teacher. Therefore, it was a challenge for me to get them to
write a text but I believed that with the proper tools and motivation they would succeed and most of
them did. My objectives were to get the students to write complete sentences without mistakes, provide
feedback and see improvement in the students writing competency.
On top of focusing on my action research question, how can a teacher provide constructive
feedback on ESL students` written assignments? I also focused on sub questions such as: are mistakes
good or bad, how to teach students to revise their text, how to motivate students to write, and, does
intensive English make a difference for students who are learning how to write in English?
Writing is a highly valued skill that is often neglected in the ESL classroom. I think that one
reason is that teachers often do not receive adequate training in writing assessment. This task also
consumes a lot of class time. Since students are expected to brainstorm, write a draft copy, correct their
mistakes and then write a final copy. All this is not done in one class. Many different methods are used
by teachers to evaluate student writing. Which method is the best? How may teachers provide
constructive feedback on ESL students` written assignments? In this present study, various feedback
methods are analyzed. I examined effective and efficient methods to provide feedback according to
authors and the preference between peer feedback, self feedback and teacher feedback. I also
summarized the three traditional approaches to rate learners and explained the writing competencies
that students need to achieve according to the MELS.
When I talk about writing, I mean that students need to write structured texts using handwriting.
They are not writing what they want; they need to follow a process. It is not free writing but specific
writing. The criterion that is the most important when I correct is the interpretation of the text. If I
understand what the student writes, even if there are mistakes, it is the essential. For the purpose of this
research, I observed the students reaction to my feedback which means that I noted if it was a positive
or negative reaction. If students learned from my corrections, it was positive and if not, it was the
According to Williams, the traditional method used by teachers which is only correcting the
mistakes is not working. Students copy the corrections but do not understand the mistakes they made. It
does not teach students how to recognize or correct errors on their own. Indicating the presence or
types of errors without correction is also ineffective. Many times the students do not understand why
errors were indicated and guess the corrections as they rewrite. Both of these methods ask students to
focus more on surface errors than on the clarity of their ideas, and it only stresses the negative.
Let’s focus on the meaning of feedback for the purpose of this study. What does it really
signify? According to Williams, (2003) “The goal of feedback is to teach skills that help students
improve their writing proficiency to the point where they are cognizant of what is expected of them as
writers and are able to produce it with minimal errors and maximum clarity.” (Williams, 2003) He also
states the difference between feedback on form which is to indicate by underlining the place and type
of error but without correction and feedback on content which is written comments by teachers on
drafts, to point out problems and offer suggestions. Students are expected to incorporate information
from the comments into their writing.
In order to give effective and efficient feedback, Woodhouse and Page (2006) suggests the
Don’t correct more than a paragraph or two; Give rules or strategies for
language errors; Distinguish language issues from comments on the substantive
issues about the assignment; Give feedback anonymously to the whole group
highlighting common problems, rather than to each individual; Give feedback
on aspects that the student requests; Refer for ESL support when necessary.
(Woodhouse and Page, 2006)
I wanted to take into consideration these suggestions when I corrected and provided feedback but I did
not followed all of them since students expected me to correct their whole text and not only a single
paragraph. However, I did give feedback to the whole group and shared common mistakes that were
Williams (2003) believes that two methods work to give appropriate and effective feedback.
The first one is when students receive grammar feedback that indicated the place but not types of
errors. Indirect feedback is more useful than direct correction. The second one is when students find
understanding written feedback problematic. Student-teacher conferencing is useful to develop
strategies for improvement, since direct questions can be asked and answered right away. (Williams,
The two previous authors only elaborated on written feedback on the other hand Ferris and
Hedgcock (2004) suppose that “it is safe to assume that some students may have problems adequately
comprehending oral feedback, even though the conference format allows them increased opportunities
to request clarification.” (Ferris and Hedgcock, 2004, p. 205)
Williams (2003) also states that teachers should consistently use a standard set of symbols and
familiarize students with the system. They should also use a standard set of clear and direct comments
and questions to indicate content feedback. They should also familiarize students with the types of
comments and train them how to make use of the comments. (Williams, 2003)
Shum, a teacher at the University of Hong Kong in China, performed a study which
“investigated the effects of four different methods used to evaluate Chinese compositions of senior
secondary students in Hong Kong, with a particular interest in examining whether any one method
would result in improving students' attitudes to writing (especially their willingness to revise) and
increasing their writing achievements.” (Shum, p.1) The first method is a “detailed evaluation by the
teacher”. The second one is an “evaluation by the teacher using symbolic codes”. The third one is a
“peer evaluation by students using a checklist after students receive some training”. The last one is a
“self-evaluation by students using a checklist.” (Shum, p.2) Shum cited Liu (1985) who used a rather
interesting figure of speech to describe these four methods:
The process of conducting detailed evaluation of composition by teachers is
similar to that of teaching a child how to walk. The adult would first
demonstrate how to walk to the child. The process of teacher evaluation by
using symbolic codes and giving the composition back to the students is similar
to that of helping the child to walk by leading him the way. For peer evaluation,
it is similar to the process of letting the children walk hand in hand. Self-
evaluation by students is similar to the situation when the child learned how to
walk on his own, as equivalent to the ultimate goal of training. (Liu, 1985)
Shum’s results “showed that the students in the 'peer evaluation (checklist)' group performed
better in terms of taking the initiative in rewriting, their writing habits and their recall rate of revising.
A post-study questionnaire survey of the students found that they generally held a positive attitude
toward peer evaluation by checklist. ” (Shum, p.1) However, Woodhouse and Page (2006) obtained a
different result on a similar survey. Apparently, students “overwhelmingly preferred teacher feedback
over peer and self-feedback” (Woodhouse and Page, 2006, p. 228)
Students also want, according to William (2003), multiple rewrites, student-teacher
conferencing, label mistakes and to make corrections on their own and feedback about the content.
According to Bailey, author of the book Learning about language assessment: Dilemmas,
decisions and Directions, there are three traditional approaches to rate learners writing: holistic,
analytic, and objective scoring. What distinguishes scoring systems from one another is how values are
assigned to the written product.
Scoring criteria need to be defined before correcting. Correction should be “designed to give not
only a `yes` or `no` answer as to whether the student can do a task, but should indicate how well he or
she can do it relative to how well he or she needs to do it ” (Bailey, 1998, p. 186)
In holistic scoring, the teacher reacts to the student`s text as a whole. The tool used is a scale
instead of counting the number of errors. “The advantages are that it is fast and provides a standard
understood by the teacher and students.” The disadvantage is that it “does not provide a useful
diagnostic feedback to students” (Bailey, 1998, p. 189)
In analytic scoring, students' texts are assessed on a variety of “categories: content,
organization, vocabulary, language and more” (Bailey, 1998, p. 190) It would be a useful method to
define students' strength and weaknesses.
In objective scoring, a “quantified method” (Bailey, 1998, p. 192) is used. Students are asked to
count their words and circle for example the 250th word. Then, the teacher underlines every mistake,
and assigns a score to each error, from 3 to 1, 3 being sever and 1 minor.
In the school system, students need to achieve a writing competency whether it is at the primary
level or in secondary. At the end of cycle 3, in elementary school, which is grade six, students are
expected to attain competency 3: To write texts. According to the elementary English as a Second
By the end of Cycle Three, students write a variety of well structured texts to
fulfill meaningful goals. Supported by peers and the teacher, students make
greater and more confident use of compensatory and learning strategies. They
produce a text that is pertinent to the instructions given and apply the language
conventions targeted for the task. From an open-ended model and available
resources, students deliver a personalized final product that shows imagination
and creativity, and takes the intended audience into account. (MELS, 2003)
Few are the students who can write a text at the level and hardly any have the ability to revise their
texts using strategies. Since students do not always have the same English teacher year after year, some
are not prepared adequately to achieve this competency. I believe that if students would have the same
teacher throughout many years it would allow them to have a finer consistency and development of
their skills. Now, in our school system, students seem to be learning the same aspects over and over
since they are taught by various teachers that do not necessarily share what they have already done with
In the first cycle in secondary, students need to achieve competency 3: Writes and produces
texts. According to the Secondary Cycle One ESL programs:
By the end of Secondary Cycle One, students write and produce popular,
literary and information-based texts that represent their increased proficiency
and their emerging personal style. In order to write/produce an effective, well-
structured text, they use and adapt personalized writing and production
processes to the task at hand with increased ease…. They write/ produce a well
formulated text that is easily understood. They request, provide and integrate
feedback from peers and teachers on a regular basis….Students reflect regularly
on their successes and challenges and make appropriate adjustments for their
continued language development. (MELS, 2003)
Even if students are expected to accomplish all that, it is not everyone who does. Most of them try to
produce an understandable text but unfortunately, do not have the right resources to progress. Some
students are translating word by word from French to English and believe their message will be clear.
Students should be provided with strategies in order to help them to construct a text directly in English.
In the second cycle in secondary, students need to perform the same competency as in cycle
one. According to the Secondary Cycle Two ESL programs:
By the end of Secondary Cycle Two, students have developed a positive
attitude towards writing and producing texts in English. With some support
from the teacher and peers, they use and adapt the writing and production
processes to suit the task. They persevere, even when faced with challenges,
and take risks with language. Students cooperate and are open to other
viewpoints during the writing and production processes. (MELS, 2003)
These outcomes are not realistic for some students. Even after following many English classes, many
students did not yet grasp how to write an error proof text. At times, the motivation is missing, I do not
think it is their fault but instead, I blame the school systems and teachers that do not provide them with
what they need.
According to the British Columbia ministry of education, experienced teachers have found that
ESL students make better, faster, progress in the long run if they are given sufficient time to absorb
new input and are not pressured to complete work or meet the usual age-level performance
expectations right away.
Most of the frequently used and relied on methods of teacher feedback on written assignments
are ineffective when it comes to developing writing skills. Although students tend to have greater
confidence in teachers' evaluations and, in opposition, tend to have doubts about their classmates'
feedback, peer evaluation can encourage students to revise and improve students' writing habits.
Moreover, teachers need to familiarize and train students in how to effectively use the feedback in
order to make gains in their proficiency and competence as English writers.
My action research took place in the elementary school Saint-David, which is part of the
Commission scolaire des Bois-Francs in Victoriaville. I chose this school because it offers a regular
English program as well as an Intensive English program. Students for whom English is a second
language are a growing segment in this school population.
I focused my action research on the second year of cycle 3, which is grade six. I elaborated my
research with students in the regular English program as well as the Intensive English program. I was
curious to see the differences between students in the two programs. At first, I planned to do it with
students in the regular program but I quickly realized that it was not the greatest group to do my
research with. So, even if it was not part of my practicum, I asked the intensive English teacher if I
could elaborate a few writing projects with her students. It was the end of the program therefore the
students were strong in English and produced great work.
In the regular program, there were 26 students. There were no typical ESL students. Two
students had an attention deficit. Five students were enriched in English. One student was bilingual. Six
students were weak in English. One student spoke only Spanish. I saw the group three times, for a
period of sixty minutes in a cycle of ten days.
In the Intensive English program, there were 27 students. The objective of the program is to
make students functional in their second language, and in all life situations. In an Intensive English
class, 50% is devoted to teaching English and 50% of the remaining time to other subjects taught in
French. Intensive English is equivalent to approximately 8 years of regular English. A period of five
consecutive months is devoted to the teaching of English and another period of five months to other
The major differences between the two programs are the increased time allocated to teaching
English and the concentration of teaching time. Observations from studies conducted at the College
International Marie de France stated that student: Speak better than students in regular classes; Are
more comfortable to speak and have a more varied vocabulary; Are more confident and less hesitant to
take risks. Here are excerpts from a study of the school board Eau Vive done the MEQ, RCCPALS and
SPEAQ: "... The average of students in subjects other than English was even higher than the one of
students in the regular ... " "... Benefit from a program like intensive English both on the development
of their English skills and their motivation as well as their autonomy... "
My research touched on the competency 3, Write Texts, which is almost the same in the two
programs except for a slight difference:
Regular English Intensive English
Write a variety of well structured texts to Write a variety of original and well
achieve a meaningful objective. structured texts to achieve a meaningful
In the two programs, most students were Canadian-born from francophone families who lived
in the surrounding neighborhood. All students had varied degrees of exposure to their second
language, as well as a wide variety of life experiences and attributes that can significantly enrich the
life of the school and help enhance learning for all students. Some had various linguistic and cultural
backgrounds. Not all required the same types of support. A number of students needed to complement
their early childhood experiences and first languages with wide ESL support to be successful in the
A few students immigrated to Victoriaville from Germany, Algeria, Columbia and the United-
States with their families after having received some formal education in their home countries. In some
cases, they learned English as a foreign language in school. Given appropriate ESL support, including
cultural-bridging experiences, these students progressed well in their new schools.
Some students arrived in Canada as refugees. These students received little or no schooling in
their country. They also experienced traumatic conditions caused by political, social, and economic
disturbance. In addition to ESL support, these students needed specialized counseling and literacy
training in their first language as well as in French since it is the main language taught.
Methodology and analysis
The purpose of my action research was to bring students to consider the teacher’s (my)
feedback on their written assignments. I focused on students in grade six since I did not think the other
levels produce a sufficient amount of texts for me to elaborate my research. The objectives of my
action research were to find appropriate ways of correcting texts and providing feedback to students in
order to answer the question: how can a teacher provide effective feedback to ESL students’ written
Given that, students in cycle three had targeted competencies to achieve. I focused my action
research on competency 3. They also developed other competencies as I elaborated my action research.
In addition, they developed many cross-curricular competencies such as to use creativity, to adopt
effective work methods, to cooperate with others and to communicate appropriately. Moreover, they
used strategies like cooperation, self-monitoring, use of prior knowledge and using resources.
My action research took place during a period of three months from approximately January to
March. As I had predicted, some adjustments had to be made especially with the regular groups.
Unfortunately, I encountered complications during my action research. I was not able to follow the
curriculum I had planned since students were weak in English and did not produce a sufficient amount
of writing. However, I came up with a solution that allowed to reduce the amount of writing done by
the students and to use a few correction methods as planned. Firstly, students did a pen pal project so
they wrote letters and secondly they had irregular verb tests in which they had to write sentences.
As part of my grade six curriculum, I wanted students to have pen pals. Therefore, I talked
about my project idea with the principal of the school Saint-David, Mrs. Guylaine Croteau and she
approved it. At that moment, I contacted the principal of the school Centre scolaire Étoile de l’Acadie
in Sydney Nova Scotia and he approved. Then, I contacted the English teacher Mrs. Lorna MacDonald
and she accepted to take part in my project.
Writing pen pals has numerous benefits in today’s society. Nowadays, students do not send
letters by mail neither do they receive any. Instead, they use various other communication methods
such as, email, text message, Facebook, and cell phone. Therefore, the postal mail is not necessary
anymore. In the postal mail, we receive bills and junk mail but rarely personal letters. According to
Most people are more accessible than ever before, so what reason could there be for
sitting down with paper and pen, and actually handwriting a letter to someone? The
excitement and curiosity it provokes when that letter arrives is reason enough. Teaching
children the value of correspondence along with good handwriting and composition
skills, by means of a very tangible action such as having a pen pal can be a great
inspiration to them. It can be carried out as a group activity, where one class makes a
connection with a similar age group of children in a school overseas, so that the letters
can be sent regularly and all together in a parcel from teacher to teacher. (Payne, 2010)
To introduce my project to my students I did a reading comprehension (Appendix 1) in which
there was four letters from pen pals. We read the letters together and then they had to answer questions.
This activity gave them examples of letters which they followed when they wrote their own letter.
After that, I got them to fill out a sheet called introducing yourself (Appendix 1). Basically, they had to
fill in the blanks with information about themselves. Then, they had complete sentences that described
them. Then, I elicited with them the definition of a pen pal according to dictionary.com; a pen pal is a
person with whom one keeps up an exchange of letters, usually someone so far away that a personal
meeting is unlikely. A pen pal can become a friend made and kept in contact through correspondence –
emails, letters, Windows Live. Then, I presented Sydney Nova Scotia and the school that students
exchanged with. Following that, I taught them the writing format of a letter and an envelope. I showed
them an example of a letter using the projector and an envelope using the board and I guided them
throughout their writing process. For homework, they had to bring a picture of themselves to school in
order to send it to their pen pal. Some of them did not really understand the concept of having a pen pal
at first so they did not want to send their picture to a stranger. Others, were prohibited by their parents,
therefore, only a few sent their picture.
Once the students were done their draft letter, they had to come show it to me. As I was pressed
for time, I realized that it was easier to directly correct their letter. (Appendix 4) With stronger students,
I told them their mistakes orally and they corrected them in front of me. I gave general comments to all
students. After, they had to write their final copy. When the letters were completed, I asked the
secretary of the school to send them. Since it was a school project, all the mailing was done and paid
for by the school.
The letters were sent anonymously since students did not have the name of their pen pals. I
asked Mrs. MacDonald, to give the letters to any students. I did not match the students according to
their gender. I let destiny decide which pen pal they had. The only pitfall was that I have 27 students
and the class students were corresponding with had 24 students. Therefore, some students had the same
pen pal and a few students in Sydney had two pen pals from my class.
After waiting patiently, I received the response letters on March 9. I decided to change my
planning for that day to give the letters to students. I planned one class to let my students read their
letter, share with their classmates and start writing their reply letter. For homework, they had to present
their pen pal to their parents. During the next class, I asked my students to finish writing to their pen
pal. It was the first time that I saw a group of students so motivated to write. They wrote great letters in
a short period, I corrected them and they wrote their final copy.
After that, I created a big poster entitled: We would like to present to you our pen pal from
Sydney Nova Scotia. I also included a map of Canada, highlighted Nova Scotia, and added a bigger
map of Nova Scotia on which I highlighted Sydney in order for everyone to know where our pen pals
were from. Then, I asked my students to glue the picture of their pen pals and write their pen pal’s
name under. Once it was completed, I placed the poster on the wall in the hallway to show everyone in
the school the project in which students took part.
My students enjoyed this project and I recommend every ESL teacher to include pen pal
exchanges in their curriculum. Receiving a real letter that someone sat down, thought about, and wrote
with just you in mind is something that does not happen very often so why not provide it to our
Once my practicum was over, my associate-teacher took over the project and he is going to
continue to get students to exchange letters until the end of the year. Another possibility would have
been to get students to correspond by email or even chat together. It makes it difficult since the access
to the computer lab is limited and because some websites are not accessible at school because the
school board banned them.
As part of my curriculum, I also wanted students to learn their irregular verbs. While they
learned them, they were reinvesting their understanding and writing. First, I taught them that English
verbs have a base form, simple past and past participle. For most of the verbs, regular verbs, the simple
past and the past participle are spelled the same and are created by adding `ed` to the base form.
However, there are many irregular verbs in the English language, which do not match this pattern.
Those verbs are mostly unpredictable; it is hard to develop them as you talk. There are some patterns
among them: spring-sprang, drink-drank, and blow-blew, know-knew, but it is still hard to use those
patterns as rules. The only way to learn irregular verbs is to practice them and memorize them.
Secondly, I gave my students a short list of the hundred most common/useful verbs, and asked
them to learn it; they needed to study ten irregular verbs at a time. For homework, I suggested that they
find the meaning of the word in French in order to be able to construct sentences that made sense.
Afterwards, I suggested that they write ten sentences at the present and ten at the past. I did not verified
if it was done; I told them it was their choice but that they should do it if they wanted to have a good
mark. As I they wrote the test, I knew which students had done the homework I proposed because the
ones who were not ready spent a lot of time constructing their sentences and using the dictionary. I
also did spelling and pronunciation drills with the students. I divided the class in two and said an
irregular verb aloud and one student of each team had to write it on the board. The first team who wrote
the correct answer got a point. Since it was a competition, students were motivated and studied in order
to not deceive their team. In addition, I exploited a teaching methodology known as Total Physical
Response: TPR to practice the verbs. Basically, I said an irregular verb and students had to do the
action. I think it allowed them to remember the signification of the verb more easily.
I did this with the intensive group as well and I had the collaboration of the teacher since she
verified if their homework was done every day. Every Tuesday, they had to hand in ten sentences at the
present and Wednesday they had to hand it ten sentences at the past. (Appendix 4) This made an
enormous difference in the marks and on the time that was taken to write the tests. All the students
were prepared; most of them were done each test under fifteen minutes which is quick compared to the
regular group who took about an hour, which is a whole class to write the first test. Another major
difference was the fact that in the intensive group, one test was done each week which helped to
establish a routine. In the regular group, one test was done by month since I had to do other activities
with them. I only saw them three times in a cycle so my time with them was very limited compared to
the intensive group.
During the test (Appendix 2), students had to write sentences using the time, pronouns and
verbs indicated. They could also use their dictionary. For each test, I gave a bonus point for the date,
one point for each verb and one point for each the sentence. Students lost 0.5 if they forgot to put a
period at the end of their sentence. (Appendix 4)
For the first test, I corrected all their mistakes and underlined the verb tense if they used the
wrong tense. I also underlined the pronoun `she`, `he`, `it` if they forgot to put an `s` at the end of their
verb at the present tense. Even if I told them they had to put an `s` only at the present, some of them did
not put it and others put an `s` at the past as well. Before the second test, I went over this notion again
with them and some of them still managed to do the same mistake which proved that they either were
not listening or that they did not understand the notion I taught.
The result of the first test was awful for most of the students. Only a few students got a passing
mark. I gave them their test back and asked them to look at their mistakes. I told them that their results
should be higher on the next one since it was the same format. As a matter of fact, most of the results
were higher except for a few students who got the same mark or a lower mark. Some students did not
try at all. They thought that since I was only a student-teacher that I was not going to evaluate them for
their report card so they did not apply themselves when they worked.
With the intensive group, I was able to do what I had planned in the proposal as well as what I
did with the regular group. My medium range planning is available in Appendix 1. I asked them to
write three texts on various subjects. I used different methods to correct their written assignments.
Following that, I compiled the results and compared the texts in order to see which of my methods
were more constructive for students. I also had planned to ask students to fill out a questionnaire but I
did not have time.
Before I taught students how to write a text, I talked to the students’ homeroom teacher, to see
which steps they learned to use for writing. Students transferred their prior knowledge and applied it in
their writing process.
First, I taught students the steps to follow in order to write a text. I provided them with a
checklist with all the following aspects to focus on, as demonstrated in appendix 1. The first step was to
prepare to write. Students needed to think of the instructions; take out the resources they needed such
as books, dictionaries, bank of expressions and more; looked a the model provided by the teacher,
wrote down ideas which was brainstorming and then put them in order in an outline. Refer to appendix
1 to see an outline students needed to complete. The second step was to write a draft. Students needed
to look at the model again, followed the instructions, used their ideas, wrote short sentences in English
with a subject, verb and object; used the vocabulary and expressions known; and if they had, any
problems they needed to ask for help. The third step was to revise the text. Students needed to ask
themselves questions such as ``did I follow the instructions? Did I follow the model? Are my ideas
original? `` Afterwards, they needed to check the spelling, the word order and punctuation with the
resources they had as well as with a friend. The last step was to write the final copy of the text.
Students needed to ask themselves questions such as ``is it ok? Is it neat? Is it easy to read? ``
Next, I taught them how to decide their layout, which consisted of five paragraphs: an
introduction, which included roughly three sentences. It contained about two sentences about the topic
and one thesis sentence ``what are you going to write about in your text? `` Next, a body or
development of three paragraphs of more or less five sentences each was needed. To complete their
text, they needed a conclusion, which hold around three sentences. It rephrased the question,
summarized the main ideas, gave their opinion, if they did not give it already and looked to the future
by saying what will happen if the situation continues or change. All this needed to be done in just three
sentences! The conclusion was the end of the text and it was the part that the reader may remember the
most. It should be clear, and avoid confusing the reader, which was why you should never add new
information. Each sentence had an average of about 12 words each, which made a text of about 252
words. It seemed like a big amount of words but in my experience, with intensive English grade 6
students, most of them could write long texts without any difficulties. Students were not motivated
when they saw the amount of words they had to produce but when they started to write, they quickly
realize that to write a story, they needed at least that amount of words. There was only two or three who
were struggling to attain that quantity of words.
Secondly, I explained to them how to revise and correct their work and reminded them about
the sentence structure. I gave them strategies to edit and proofread their text such as correcting
vocabulary errors, correcting grammar errors, correcting punctuation, and capitalization and editing to
improve style. I also showed them how to look up words in the dictionary since a lot of them were not
sure which word to take when they want to translate a word. (Appendix 1) I did this with the regular
group as well. I started by explaining to them that in half of the dictionary they found words from
English to French and the other half from French to English. Then, I told them to focus on one part,
English to French. I taught them that the letter `A` was at the beginning of the section, `C` at the ¼,
`M` at the ½, `S` at the ¾ and `Z` at the ending. I tried to show them not to start at the beginning of the
section if they were looking for a word that started with an `S`, in order to save time, they should open
the dictionary directly at the ¾ part. After, I got them to find the word `coat` in the dictionary. I
explained each part of the definition and showed them what was important to look for. I showed them
that the first thing they see is the transcription for the phonetic alphabet. After, it is indicated if the
word is a noun, verb, adjective or adverb. Then, I told them that some words, like `coat`, have many
definitions such as 1: manteau; (plus court) veste; 2: a coat of paint/ une couche de peinture. I told them
to use their logic and criticize what was the right translation for coat. I also shared with them that they
will get used to using the dictionary and that finding a word will become a fast process.
Thirdly, I showed them the grading scale I used which is the same one the Mels provided to
teachers for the correction of their ministry exams. I decided to use that scale because I found it easy to
use and straightforward. It allowed me to be equal with all the students’ texts. As you will see in
appendix 1, the scale is divided in three sections. Once I read a text, I read the first question in the scale
and answered it. As you will see, they are all yes and no questions that allows the teacher to answer
easily without too much questioning. Once all the questions answered, a level is given to the text.
Fourthly, I gave them a subject and precisions such as the number of words and the amount of
time they had to complete their text. For the strong students, I increased the amount of words that was
required. I explained to them that since they were strong, they had the ability to create a text of a
greater length. According to my experience, students who were strong enjoyed writing and did not
mind to submit a bigger amount of words. It allowed them to express their ideas with a rich variety of
words. For the weaker ones, I proposed to them to come to remedial English at lunchtime, either after
school or even on a pedagogical day in order to finish their text. I was also more present for them since
writing was harder for them.
Given that I planned to make students write a few texts, many subjects were given to students
such as: The Mount Mercury Adventure, What would you do if you won 9 million dollars? and what
will you do in fifteen years?
For the first subject, students needed to write a narrative text in groups. (Appendix 4) Students
were guided throughout a process to stimulate their imagination. The Mount Mercury Adventure was a
writing project where students created a narrative based on a very simple structure.
To start with, I taught target language such as in the beginning, first, next, after that, afterward,
while, as, before long, finally, in the end. After, I reviewed the past tense: simple past and/or past
perfect as well as adjectives.
The written project required at least five periods. It gave time to students to process the
information, write their story, make changes and type it on the computer. It also allowed them to
correct their story and rewrite it.
The materials needed for each group were a model of a story, a map, a hero sheet, an obstacle
sheet, and a storyboard. All the materials are available in appendix 1.
As far as the planning, I did almost all I had planned. First, I had the students read an example
of a story. I gave one map to each group as well as a hero and obstacle sheet. I explained that they were
going to create a story using this map as a guideline. First, they had to choose, gave their hero a name,
and names to any other characters. Second, they decided upon a reason for him/her to be going to Mt.
Mercury. I explained that on the way to Mt. Mercury their hero needed three major obstacles. I
discussed some possibilities as a class (giant spider attack, giants from the mountains, a lake of fire, a
waterfall and more). I had the groups decide upon three obstacles from the discussion period or on their
own. Students began creating their storyboard. They elaborated on the events and created their story.
When they got to the temple at Mt. Mercury, they brought the story to any conclusion they wanted.
Once completed, they reviewed the target language and I asked students to go back and try to improve
the flow of the story. I asked the students to type their story on the computer and they used the
correction tools provided. However, before hand, I taught them how to be critical of Spelling &
Grammar check on Microsoft Word or on translation websites. I recommended them to use an online
dictionary. I asked them to insert pictures related to the story and to print their story, read it, correct it,
and hand it in. While correcting, I noticed that many students were able to find their own mistakes. I
underlined the mistakes that were not found and they brought the modifications to their story on the
As a follow up, I had the students tell their story to the class using their storyboard. This made
the writing project more communicative. I could also have posted their stories in the classroom or
asked the students read their story to younger students in the school. All kinds of follow up were
possible; but the time limited the project.
For the second and third subject, students needed to write texts individually. In one of them,
they needed to use the future tense and the other, the conditional to write which is why I reviewed the
tenses with the students prior to the writing. The subject was written on the board and students were
guided toward the writing process taught previously.
Once they were completed their writing process, I had planned to ask students to fill out a self-
evaluation (appendix 1) but I forgot. Answering these questions would have allowed students to reflect
on their performance. Questions 1 and 2 ask students to evaluate successful and unsuccessful aspects of
their papers. Both of these questions seek to uncover students` developing awareness of their intentions
and to ascertain how accurately and specifically they are able to explain these intentions. Questions 3
and 4 ask students what aspects of writing the paper were easier and more difficult. I believe these two
questions prompt students to think about changes that may be occurring in their composing processes.
The correction methods that were used are the following: first, as the students were writing, I
read parts of their writing and gave immediate feedback to the students. Some of them enjoyed this
method but others were disturbed when I looked over their shoulder and they froze which meant that
they were losing writing time. After doing that, I corrected students’ text using a rubric (appendix 1).
While I used this rubric, I corrected every mistake with a red pen. I also had planned to label the
characteristics of students writing skills using a rubric such as in appendix 1 but I did not do it. While
correcting, I gathered mistakes that were made often by many students and brought it to the attention of
the class. This way, other students benefited from it and learned from others mistakes. After that, I
handed back their text and gave them time to read and reflect on their results and mistakes. I was also
available to answer their questions. I could also have asked them to rewrite their text and include the
corrections that were made but I did not.
Since students were expected to write two texts individually, I asked them to refer to their first
text done individually while they were correcting their second text. I thought this method allowed them
to recognize their mistakes and not reproduce them. In other words, they had a corrected text as a
resource to follow. For the second text, my correction method was supposed to vary since I had
planned to only underline the mistakes and then ask students to correct them. However, on the day of
the writing activity, I substitute teacher replaced me and she corrected the texts using the same method
I had used previously. I was not expecting her to correct them. If I would have known, I would have
specified how I wanted it done. I was also considering other methods such as to use abbreviations while
correcting to let students know which type of mistakes they made. I believed this method might be too
difficult for grade six students to understand but will keep it in mind for secondary students.
As mentioned in the review of the literature, the three traditional approaches to rate learners
writing are holistic, analytic, and objective scoring. I used the holistic scoring method since I based
myself on whether or not the text was understandable. However, I also corrected every mistake but did
not count them to attribute a score. If I would have done that, most students would have failed since
even the stronger students made minor mistakes.
I did not use analytic scoring method because I believe that it is time consuming for the teacher.
I already used this method to evaluate projects and oral presentations but never for writing. I will
develop a scoring grid for writing and assessing text using this method.
I used the objective scoring method for stronger students. I asked them to write longer texts but
stopped correcting their mistakes once I got to the 250th word. I believe it is fair to all the students.
However, since I was asking for a specific amount of words, I found that the students focus too much
on counting them. They wrote one paragraph and then counted the words and as soon as they got to 250
words, they stopped their text, besides the strongest ones who were instructed to continue. So, asking
for a specific number of words motivate students who tend to write short texts and discourage the one
who tend to use their imagination and produce long texts.
The students’ texts provided information to be shared. For that reason, the texts were put in the
students’ portfolios in order for parents to see them during parent-teacher night and for students to refer
to them when needed. I was not present during that night since my practicum was over but I am sure
that parents enjoyed seeing their child’s assignments.
I found out that the level of English of students varied greatly. Therefore, it was almost
impossible to use the same correction method for all the students. Some of them did not understand my
correction so how could I have expected them to do better and correct their own sentences or texts.
I was astonished by the correction students did as a group and by how letting them correct their
own mistakes helped in encouraging students to use English rather than to worry about making too
As I predicted, there were a number of common mistakes that learners face such as spelling and
structure. I realized that mistakes are an important of life. I tried to transmit the importance of making
mistakes to students. I told them that mistakes are the stepping stone to learning. It is like anything we
learn or are learning, we make mistakes until we get used to the technique or skill. We do not get
everything right on the first time and sometimes we need to be corrected. In order to improve their
English language skills, students need to have a good understanding of what they are doing wrong.
Being able to recognize the mistakes they are making early on in their English language studies will
help them to correct those mistakes and avoid bad habits in the future.
By allowing students to make mistakes, I reinforced the errors they were making. I felt that if I
did not correct mistakes immediately, I would be helping to reinforce incorrect language production
skills. This point of view was also reinforced by students who often expected me to continually correct.
The failure to do so often created suspicion on the part of the students.
If I did not allow students to make mistakes, I would have taken away from the natural learning
process required to achieve the writing competency. Learning a language is a long process during
which a learner inevitably makes many mistakes. In other words ESL students take a multitude of tiny
steps going from not writing a language to being fluent in the language. According to some students,
the ones who are continually corrected become inhibited and cease to participate. This resulted in the
exact opposite of I try to produce, the use of English and motivation.
In the regular group, I did not have enough time to teach strategies and I realized that my
criteria were not clear enough. I thought that students understood the task that they had to do but when
I was correcting, I realized that some of them did not understand at all my explanations. I did not really
do my research action with the appropriate level. I will pursue it in high school eventually in my career.
Since I corrected all the mistakes one of my hypotheses was that it might be confusing for
students. Some of them tried so hard to write a sentence or a text and they got sad and upset when they
received their work back. In the future, I ought to focus on one, two, or three main errors and correct
only those which is call a selective correction. In this case, I decide to correct only certain errors.
Which errors will be corrected is usually decided by the objectives of the lesson, or the specific
exercise that is being done at that moment. In other words, if students are focusing on simple past
irregular forms, then only mistakes in those forms are corrected (i.e., goed, thinked, ...). Other mistakes,
such as mistakes in a future form are ignored. I could let the students know which grammar point will
be corrected. Therefore, they can pay attention to that grammar point when they are writing. Using this
method, will not penalize students for other mistakes they do apart from the grammar point demanded.
My second hypothesis was that I was hoping to help the weaker students more but I realized
that my methods were easier for stronger students to understand. Basically, it was the opposite that
happened. I helped the stronger ones. I think it was because they were more motivated and that they
already understood the basic of the English language, which made it easier for them to grasp their
mistakes and not reproduce them. It was easier for them to learn more and get better. Some were
motivated to get better grades but others did not care since they knew that they were doing better than
most of the students.
I did the planning I described above and then I collected some assignments from the students. I
gathered tests, letters, stories and texts. Some were drafts others were final copies. I got some original
copies and photocopies since I had to leave some assignments to the students.
First, let’s focus on the research I did with the regular group. I got them to write letters,
Appendix 4, and I decided to correct their mistakes with a pencil and asked them to correct it and come
back to show it to me. I think this method was useful since students had to look at my correction,
remember it, erase it, and then copy it. After, I was convinced that their letter did not have any mistakes
unless they did not follow what I told them. Since they knew that a student from another school would
read it, they did the best they could to correct it. They wrote their final copy and I did not need to have
another look at their letter. When they wrote their second letter, they were answering questions that
their pen pal had asked them. Most students did not ask for my help because they knew how to write a
letter. They only came to me when they were finished in order to be corrected. They did fewer mistakes
in their second letter. When I corrected their second letter, I underlined their mistakes and asked
students to correct their mistakes. For the stronger ones, it was easier to see the mistakes they made but
for the weaker ones, it was an endless process because even if they had access to a dictionary, they
seemed to be struggling. Some of them came back to me having in mind that they had properly
corrected their mistakes, which was not the case. I told them it was still wrong and they were frustrated
they had to start over. At this moment, I asked stronger students to help the weaker ones. This method
helped me a lot to save time. I hope they will continue to write letters and that they will remember the
Now, let’s focus on the irregular verb test. I decided to focus on eight students of various levels.
The average for the first test was 49%. The average for the second test was 60%. I am convinced that
the average of the next tests would have been higher. Their results are in an irregular verb test grid in
appendix 3 and a few tests are in appendix 4.
The first student was bilingual. He was confident therefore, he told me he did not need to study.
I was expecting him to perform well. Like a native speaker, he used irregular verbs but had a hard time
when it came to put one specific verb at the past. I related to him since I went through that same thing. I
thought I knew my grammar but when it came to exercises, I had a hard time since I learned how to
speak it before writing it. Even if he only got 60% on the first test, he clearly did not study for the
second test even if he got a score of 72, 5 %. I thought he would have studied for the second one to get
a better grade but he did not care at all. He knew that he did better than most of the students and did not
bother studying. The aspects that got better were that he did not forget to put his period at the end of
each sentence and he made less spelling mistakes in nouns. He lost more points for the verbs on the
second test and got more points for the sentences. It showed that he took into consideration my
correction and tried not to reproduce the same mistakes. It proved that as a strong student he progressed
using the corrections I had done.
The second student, Appendix 4, got bad results on the two tests, 30% on the first one and worst
results on his second test 20%. Before the second test, I sat down with him and explained his mistakes
and told him what he should have done. He did not ask me any questions and when I asked him if he
understood he said `yes`. Once I corrected his second test, I clearly saw that he still did not understand
since he made a lot of similar mistakes. Since a shorter amount of time was attributed to write the
second test, he did not have time to write his last four sentences. He also had an attitude problem that
influenced him. He knew he was not good in English and did not try at all. He did not care that he was
not passing. I talked about it with his homeroom teacher and learned that he did not performed well
either in his class. I also noticed that he made a lot of mistakes when he wrote in French because he
wrote a note in French on the test. He wrote `verbe: doit se fénire par S quant il est devant he/she/it just
au présent`. He did not write correctly in his first language so how could I expect him to write correctly
in his second language.
The third student, Appendix 4, got 20% on the first test and improved to 62, 5% on the second
test. After the first test, I clearly saw that she did not know which verb to use. I showed her that the
verb was written at the infinitive and that she had to write it either at the present or past. I also
explained to her that she did not need to use the verb to have like she had done in the first test. She did
fewer mistakes in her verb which meant she understood my corrections and learned how to use
irregular verbs. Other than that, she did spelling mistakes she could have avoided by looking them up
in the dictionary.
The fourth student improved her mark but did not get a passing grade on either of her tests. She
got 12, 5% and a better mark on the second one, 45%. As I was observing the results and the correction
I did, I realized that I was not as strict on the second test. I wanted their score to be higher and I did not
want to discourage them completely because I knew that some students, like her, were very
disappointed on their first mark. Instead of removing one point for each sentence if there was a
mistake, I removed only 0.5. I noticed that this student had trouble with her verbs. On the first test, she
wrote one verb correctly. She confused the verb tense. I had a talk with her and explained her which
verb to use for each sentence. On the second test, she wrote a `to` in front of each verb as if it was at
the infinitive. I told her it was not necessary to write the `to` in front of the verb. I am convinced she
would have done better on the next test.
The fifth student got the same mark on the tests, 32, and 5 %. He had no motivation at all in
class. He sat down beside a student who was bilingual and could have used him to progress but instead,
he just lost his time and kept saying ``j’comprend rien en anglais. `` He was not motivated and did not
believe in the fact that he could become better in English. He gave up on himself and did not pay
attention to my corrections.
The sixth student, Appendix 4, was a great example of hard work and improvement. She got
95% on her first test which meant that she made one mistake and got 105% on her second test which is
more than a perfect score since she got a bonus point for writing the date correctly. He results showed
that she did not reproduce the same mistakes twice.
The seventh student asked me a lot of questions when I explained that they had to study
irregular verbs and then write a test. She understood and clearly was well prepared to write it. She got
95% on the first test. Her mark was lower on the second test, 85%, but it was not because she did not
look at my corrections. It was due to the fact that she wrote different words in which she made spelling
mistakes. She could have used her dictionary to correct herself. Her mark was still above the average.
The eighth and last student spoke Spanish and no French. Therefore, he was learning his second
language which is French as well as his third language, English. At first, I did not really know what to
ask him to do. But, as far as the verb test, I got him to write the irregular verbs according to the tense. I
allowed him to use his irregular verb list which I did not allowed others to do. When it came to correct
him, I had to change my method since I could not give him a mark for each sentence. Instead of
marking him on 20, I marked him on 10 and gave him 1 point for each verb that was written correctly.
Even if he had the list, he did mistakes; he got a 7 on 10. He got 4 mistakes and a bonus point for
writing the date correctly. During the second test, he was absent. So, I was not able to compare his
results and his progress.
As you can see, my research had different impacts on students. They learned differently and
were at various levels when it comes to English which was why they did not all react the same way to
my corrections. I hope they learned from my corrections and that they learned how to write sentences.
It is an ability that will serve them in the future.
Second, let’s focus on the research I have done with the intensive group. After I corrected their
texts, Appendix 4, I put their marks in a grid (Appendix 3) in order to compare if there was any
improvement. I then noticed that only four students got a lower grade on the second text which meant
that most of them did better. 15% of the students got a lower mark, 44% got the same grade which
meant that their texts were similar, and 33% got a better mark.
As you can see in the 1st circular graphic in Appendix 3, on the first text, four students got A+,
twelve A, one A-, three B+, three B, three C, and one C-. These marks showed that all the students
passed the writing assignment. Since the intensive students were asked to write these texts at the end of
the program, most of them were strong in English and had the ability to write well structured texts.
On the second text, fives students got A+, eleven A, one A-, three B, three B-, one C+, one C,
and one E (Appendix 3). Most students got a better score, some got the same score and one student did
not submit her second text since she finished her first text instead of doing the second one. She was a
weak student and did not follow the same rhythm as the others.
I focused on four students of various levels. The first one was strong in English, the second one
was weak, the third one was in between and the fourth one was not motivated to write more than one
The first student made fewer mistakes when he was writing alone. In the story written in teams
there was many mistakes that he did not reproduce when he was writing alone. Or maybe it meant that
he understood my corrections and did not do the same mistakes again. His teammate was possibly
writing and he was dictating what to write without paying attention to spelling mistakes, I did not
notice. Perhaps he did not concentrate in a team and worked better alone. He got A+ on both texts
written individually. He separated his first text with paragraphs like he was instructed to, it was well
structured. The 2nd text was written as if it was only one paragraph and it was more spontaneous which
means that he wrote as if he was talking. I gave him the same mark since his texts did not need any
interpretations even if he did minor mistakes. In his 1st text, he got about 18 mistakes on 307 words and
in his 2nd text, only 7 mistakes on 276 words. In both of them, he forgot to capitalize some of the
pronouns `I`. But, curiously at times it was written correctly. I concluded that he took into
consideration my corrections which are why he made fewer mistakes. Once he read his corrected text, I
am convinced that he understood the mistakes he had done since he was a strong student.
The second student decided to do the narrative story alone. Since she had a model to follow, it
was easy for her to construct a story. However, when she wrote a text and only had the subject and the
amount of words to follow, it was difficult for her. A lot of words were missing in her texts and some
words made no sense in the context. She looked up words in the dictionary and wrote a translation
without looking at the proper meaning in English. I corrected mistakes she did repetitively. It seemed
as if even if I corrected her and taught her using a different method, she never acquired the correction I
was trying to fix. She learned differently and it took her a longer time to grasp my corrections.
However, she evolved greatly since she could not even write a sentence. She went a long way since the
The third student story was hard to interpret and confusing, which showed that he did not work
well with his partner. After correcting it, I asked them to type it. They were more serious and followed
my corrections carefully. Once it was done, their story made a lot more sense. On his 1st text, he got B
and wrote only 114 words which meant that he did not follow the instruction of 250 words. He also
used French words instead of looking for the translation in the dictionary. On the 2nd text he got A- and
it had more words but still did not achieve the number of words that was asked. I realized that I did not
penalize him for the lack of words, I only wrote a comment saying that it was not long enough. In both
of the texts, he made many mistakes in the verbs. I do not think my corrections had an impact on him.
He just did not care and clearly did not try hard enough.
The fourth student obtained an A on his first text which was a satisfying result and he did not
think it was necessary to apply himself when he was asked to write the second text. Therefore, his first
written production was very well written, the second one was terrible according to the potential of the
student but was still acceptable since he got a C. He did not take the time to review his mistakes since
his score was satisfying to him. Even if I told him that it counted, it did not matter to him. He had no
motivation at all and did not pay any attention to the modifications I brought to his texts.
I concluded that students have different ways of learning. Some took the time to read the
corrections and did not make the same mistake twice because they acquired new knowledge and
understood it. Others did not even take the time to look over the corrections. I do not think that one
correction method can reach all the students.
In order to gather opinions from many ESL teachers, I created a questionnaire (Appendix 2). I
was curious to see what teachers thought about writing. I have my thoughts on the subject and I
realized that I might be expecting too much from the students especially when it comes to writing.
Elisabeth Magerlein, a teacher at the CEGEP de Sherbrooke, brought to my attention that students in
the Basic English class at the CEGEP de Sherbrooke were expected to only write a text of 250 words.
(Appendix 3) This means that secondary students are expected to write even less. Basically, I got
elementary students to write as many words as a CEGEP student is expected to produce.
Ann George, a teacher at the CEGEP de Sherbrooke, had a similar observation to mine. For the
past 14 years at the Cegep, every time she corrected a writing assignment, she used a code. She handed
back the paper and told the students that it was their responsibility to correct their errors to make sure
that they were learning something. Quite often, she found the papers in the trash can! If she was
lucky, maybe three or four good students actually made the effort to concentrate on their mistakes. This
year, she tried something different. Her students were told that correcting must be done in class, that it
had to be handed back to her, and that they could not sit in the final writing exam unless they had made
their corrections. This meant that they rewrote all the incorrect sentences on a special sheet that she
provided, they encircled the errors, and then they rewrote the whole sentence with the corrections
encircled. She kept the corrected sheets, made a file for each student, and handed the files back just
before the writing exam. She did this three times, which meant three hours less on other things. I think
her method was useful and innovative. I will definitely consider her method later on during my career.
Her reflection made me realize that students do not pay attention to their teachers’ correction even at
the CEGEP level and at university.
Principal effects of the research on professional development
Conducting an action research and teaching at the same time is not an easy task. Nevertheless, I
managed it even if I had to modify my planning along the way. At first, I concentrated on my
practicum and then I realized that I should start getting my students to write and gather data.
I concluded that getting students to write in regular grade 6 is a lot harder compared to students
in Intensive English. Most of the students in the regular group were not prepared for what I expected of
them. They did not do much writing with their teacher so it made my task more difficult. Some of them
had no clue how to write a sentence in English, some had a lack of vocabulary while, others had the
ability to write and wrote well structured sentences but did not try hard enough. Those who were more
advanced wrote basic and short sentences even if it was easy for them to elaborate. If one day I teach at
the elementary level, I will teach my students how to write basic sentences as soon as in cycle one. If
the writing competency is developed earlier on, students might get better scores and might be more
motivated to write.
I do not believe that my research had a big impact on students. I wish it would have, but it did
not. If I had spent more time which each group, it would have probably made a bigger impact.
Although I am sure that I managed to teach some students how to be critical of their writing, most of
those students were stronger in English and understood quickly what they mistakes were. I only had to
underline the mistake and they would correct it right away.
To continue my professional development, I need to find innovative ways to get students to
write. For example, ask students to write a postcard to someone and then the teacher (me) plays the
mailman and replies. Afterwards, the students can write back and the activity goes on. I think students
should be drilled with short writing tasks in order to make them enjoy it. Once students will be
motivated to write, hopefully, they will look forward to writing and not see it as a boring task. I also
need to come up with a few easy steps to follow when writing. I need to develop strategies and a
routine I could use with my students every time I ask them to write.
As I performed my action research, I kept in mind that error correction should be helpful and
lead to better learning, not become a huge burden on the students and I. Correction needs to take place,
and is expected and desired by students. However, the manner in which teachers correct students plays
a vital role in whether students become confident in their usage. I viewed error correction as a
necessary and important part of student learning, not just testing. I will definitely pursue my research
throughout my career, especially at the secondary level. I will push my future students to write as soon
as they can and as much as they can. I find it wonderful to be able to express myself in two languages
and I would like to transmit this ability to all my future students. Learning a language is a rewarding
experience that could influence a lifetime.
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