Learning Paths






Error coding






To analyse errors and introduce a coding system


In this activity students analyse a series of errors, identify types of common errors and develop a code for signalling them.


Examples of short texts containing common errors that your students make (you can use actual texts produced by students). The errors should be of different types, e.g. spelling, punctuation, word order, grammar, vocabulary. Decide the number of error types, and the detail of description, according to the level of your class. Leave a blank column alongside the texts. The texts can be written on the board for students to copy or handed out as a task sheet.


Post-elementary upwards


Developing accuracy in writing

























 1. Hand out a few texts or write them on the board for the students to copy. Tell them that the texts contain errors of different types (spelling, vocabulary, word order, etc.). Elicit or give an example for each type, and list the types on the board.

2. Tell the students the exact number of errors contained in the texts. In pairs, ask them to spot the errors by drawing a circle round the relevant items and to write the type of error and a possible correction next to the line where it occurs.

3. The students compare their work in small groups.

4. Check with the class. Suggest that errors can be more easily identified and corrected if we use a different symbol for each type. Briefly discuss and agree on a set of symbols, e.g.

 Ellisse     =  grammar

  ___   =  spelling

  Ellisse    =  grammar (delete item)

  Immagine    =  word order

 Ellisse     =  grammar (missing item)

  ----    =  vocabulary


5. Hand out or write on the board a few other texts. In pairs, the students try to spot the errors by using the agreed symbols and to write a possible correction next to the relevant line.

6. The students compare their work in different pairs or small  groups before you check with the whole class.





To make the activity easier, start by giving the students the first set of texts with the errors already circled in. The students write the type of each error and a possible correction.


As an even quicker activity, hand out texts with the errors already signalled by symbols. In groups, the students decide what each symbol refers to. Or give them a list of error types and ask them to match each symbol with the relevant type.


In pairs, the students first spot the errors using the symbols, without correcting them. Then pairs exchange their work and write a possible correction.


Instead of symbols, the students can use abbreviations, different colours, or various kinds of underlining.


Gradually introduce the use of the coding system into daily class and homework. For example, in order of increasing difficulty, you can

  • use the symbols to signal the errors in  pieces of students' work and ask individual students or pairs to correct them;
  • put the symbols next to the line where the errors occur;
  • just put an X for each error next to the line where it occurs. In this case the students must identify the errors using the symbols before correcting them.


Encourage peer correction. Individual students or pairs spot the errors instead of you (see Follow-up 1), and other students complete the correction.


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