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Q&A: How to Help Students Fix Recurring Grammar Mistakes

February 22, 2022

This is the first post in our new Q&A series! Our subscribers often write to our editors with excellent grammar or teaching questions. We thought we'd start sharing some of the more common questions and answers so that more people could benefit!

Question

What can I do when students keep making the same grammar mistakes over and over again? How can I help them?

Answer

That's a great question and it's something so many teachers face!

Whenever I notice a student making a grammar mistake repeatedly, there are a few things I always do for that student (or, better yet, for the whole class if it's something they could all benefit from).

1. Review the Form & Function

The most important thing is to review grammar notes on that particular grammar target so that your student(s) learns (or reviews) how the target is formed and how it functions in a sentence. This will greatly reduce their chances of making the same grammatical error in the future. 

Subscribers love using our Grammar Practice Worksheets, which include grammar notes at the beginning of every lesson to make the presentation easy for teachers and students. 

You can also search the Grammar & Usage section on our blog to find grammar notes on many popular targets.

Another way to help students fix recurring grammar mistakes is to have them watch a captivating video.

Many grammar lessons on our site include a video that introduces the target in a fun and engaging way. You can also play some of these grammar videos for your students from our YouTube channel. We add new grammar videos there every month!

2. Assign Practice Exercises

Once you're confident that your student understands the form and function of the target, you can assign practice tasks (from drills to grammar in context) to ensure retention.

Use your class textbook, find exercises online, or try some lessons from our popular Grammar Practice Worksheets, Fun Grammar Lessons, or Basic Grammar Sentences sections.

3. Look at the Grammar in Context

Context is everything. Showing your students how to apply the grammar target they've been struggling with in different settings is an effective way to help them fix the grammatical error they've been repeating. 

News articles are a great place to see the target in context. Find an article that includes the target and have your student underline or otherwise point it out.

To see more grammar in context, subscribers can search for the target on our site, or they can visit our Grammar Collection (in the Materials dropdown menu) to see all the lessons that include that target. Our Grammar Stories and True Grammar Stories sections are great places for subscribers to look too.

4. Don't Let Mistakes Slide

Above all, don't stop pointing out (in a kind way, of course) when a student has misused a grammar target in writing or speaking. If we ignore it, the grammar mistake could become fossilized and more difficult to overcome.

I usually try to point out grammar errors without interrupting the student's speech or singling them out. I tell them privately after class, for example, or note several mistakes made by various students—without naming names—on the board after a group discussion.

5. Offer Encouragement

I also try to offer a lot of encouragement (e.g., "It takes a long time to learn a language and English grammar is difficult, but you're doing great and you'll get there!").

Students can become overwhelmed or discouraged while learning a new language, so perhaps the best thing teachers can do is to keep motivating our learners as best we can.

Good luck and happy teaching!

How do you handle recurring grammar mistakes? If you have suggestions you'd like to share, please leave us a comment below!
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