TEACHING ENGLISH PROOFREADING SKILLS
One of the challenges associated with teaching English writing in Korea is the mindset of ESL students. Not many, it seems, have been exposed to process writing. By that, I mean the expectation that a piece of text will undergo several stages of proofreading and editing before it is considered good or complete.
Because students have not had much exposure to process writing, most are poor at proofreading (i.e. finding and correcting text errors) and editing (i.e. making substantial changes to the text with additions or deletions).
The inability to self-correct is a substantial weakness and problem. This lack of self-initiated capacity builds a dependency relationship on the teacher who might be expected to read the student text, highlight all of the errors and note down the corrected forms. That can result in a lot of extra work for the teacher which produces questionable long-term student benefits.
One solution is to help students develop their own proofing skills.
Most text errors, I believe, are easy to spot and correct because of the many years of grammar instruction students receive in middle and high school. So, lack of knowledge is not the problem.
The barrier is noticing. Many students are not skilled at deep textual analysis because English language instruction (in this country, at least) often involves learning short cuts to answer standardized test questions that prioritize skimming text and scanning for key words over comprehension and critical reading.
Learning to proofread, therefore, requires students to adjust the way they approach text.
Students Writing Errors
What are the most common writing errors? For Korean students, most writing errors fall into six categories:
- word choice
- verb tense
- subject-verb agreement
- conventions (e.g. spelling and punctuation)
Download Worksheets: Proofreading Exercises
I suggest that proofreading skills can be developed through guided practice. Below are links to two sets of proofreading exercises with answer keys to help students practice and develop this important writing skill.