, ,


I recently received this query: 


“I know self-monitoring by students is important for [confronting fossilized errors], but–aside from “Correct the Errors” activities, I can’t find any tips on how to promote self-monitoring. “  – J. Weiss


Indeed, recent research in Adult ESOL Literacy confirms what many of us have suspected.  Literacy seems to enhance students’ meta-cognitive ability and, conversely, lack of literacy seems to reduce self-monitoring cognition.  This means that people with little education are less likely to attend to the form and accuracy of their expression, despite our exhortations to produce the language correctly. Our feedback on language form is not on their cognitive map. 


So how do we teachers of Adult ESOL low-literacy learners get students to strengthen their language skills?  I suggest two approaches:

·         Strengthen that meta-cognition muscle by explicitly instructing students in self-monitoring routines.

·         Give meaningful feedback.   


Current Posts on Self-monitoring Activities:  (more will come)


Brain Research and Effective Learning — Activities for Improving Memory.



Pause and Reflect:  A Simple Way in Increase Student Learning



Goal Setting:  Purposeful Learning




Giving Meaningful Feedback

·         Explicitly teach words that are necessary for correction.  (For example: consonant-vowel, subject-verb-complement, punctuation-period-question mark, syllables-letters-words etc.) 

      Use these words to characterize student errors.  For example:  Where is the vowel in this word?  What is the subject? Do you need a period or a question mark?

·         Provide writing surfaces on which it is easy to erase (black boards or erasable boards), so students can correct their work multiple times and still have a nice looking product.

·         Have students point to words as they read their writing aloud to a partner so they notice any omissions or repetitions in their writing.


·         Get students to attend to the error by comparing their error to your model.  For example:

Student:  I no work on Sunday.

Teacher:  You say:  I no work on Sunday.   (Using fingers to identify each word)  I say:  I don’t work on Sunday.  (Using fingers to identify each word)  Which word is different?


Student:  (writes the word) Wenesday

Teacher:  (Writes the word Wednesday)  What’s different? How many letters are there?  Which letter is silent?


·         Use physical and visual feedback for pronunciation errors.

See examples on my blog post:  Let’s Get Physical:  Teaching Pronunciation:



·         Accept that some errors will not change, because everyone understands what the student means despite its inaccurate form.