Error Correction Card Game

Research has revealed that some of the strongest influences on student learning include reciprocal teaching, cooperative learning, and computer-assisted instruction (Hattie, 2009). ESL teachers can make excellent use of all three of these powerful pedagogical levers at once by having students play a simple card game, like this one in Actively Engaged Online (Walker, 2015) from Bokomaru Publications with the support of a grammar checker especially designed for English Second Language learners.

Good Pedagogy

Savvy teachers will see a range of pedagogical opportunities open up as students play the card game below. This serious game provides useful practice correcting avoidable errors, with a number of additional benefits.

(You can skip all the rationale and read the how-to below if you prefer.)

Learning to correct high-frequency errors is only one good reason to have students play this game. Here are four more.

  1. Since only the correct answer can win the card, this game provides opportunities for peer-feedback on grammatical form in a safe and structured way. By providing both the prompt and the correct answer, the cards ensure that the feedback is correct and uncontroversial.
  2. And since the cards do not provide explanations for the corrections, the question “Why?” will arise naturally from time to time during game-play. Uncertainty about the nature of the error and the reason for the correction will create contexts for students to discuss the corrections and the grammatical rules that motivate them, a form of consciousness-raising.
  3. When students disagree with each other about the grammatical rule that motivates a correction, they may find themselves reaching for a reliable reference that they can use to answer their grammar questions–a form of metacognition.
  4. If students use their cell phones to visit an online grammar checker in order to answer questions about an error, they will get to use their cell phones in a new way to further their learning–an opportunity to develop their digital literacy.

Here’s where the game gets really interesting.

Online Grammar Checker Support

As mentioned above, one advantage to having students play this game is that it can be used to promote students’ digital literacy through the judicious use of their cell phones.  Usually, teachers are justifiably cautious about allowing students to access their cell phones in class, but in this case cell phones can be a big ally.  Here’s how.

Ask students to take out their cell phones for the duration of the game so that they can access the Virtual Writing Tutor grammar checker if they need to. Why? When students feel unsure about a particular error or correction, they will be able to type the sentence into the Virtual Writing Tutor‘s sentence corrector on their mobile device to see the correction, a grammar explanation, and a link to a remedial activity.

Since all of the grammar errors in this card game can be detected and corrected by the VWT online grammar checker (Yes, I’ve checked them all) teachers will indirectly be able to provide answers to questions about grammar without having to memorize all of the explanations beforehand. This computer-assisted pedagogical support dramatically reduces preparation time.

Don’t worry. Students will find it easy to visit the simplified mobile version of the website, type in the sentence containing the error into the text area, hit “Check grammar,” and get the grammar explanation they need. In this way, playing the game will promote digital literacy, autonomy, and lifelong learning skills.

Using an online grammar checker to get corrective feedback on grammar errors contained in the Error Correction Card Game will thereby serve as an easy introduction to the usefulness of free online grammar checkers when it comes time to correct their own writing.

How to Play

The Error Correction Card Game is an easy-to-use, mildly competitive guessing game that is easy to explain.

Diagram of Error Correction Card Game played in a group of 3
How to play the Error Correction Card Game

Have students play this card game in groups of three or four. Shuffle the cards and place the deck in the middle. Player 1 takes a card and reads the sentence containing the error aloud to Player 2 and 3.

Players 2 and 3 try to provide the best oral correction of that sentence. Player 1 gives the card to the player whose correction matches the correction on the card.

If both players answer correctly at the same time, Player 1 returns the card to the bottom of the deck. If neither player answers correctly, Player 1 reads the answer and returns the card to the bottom of the deck. The player to the left takes the next turn. The player with the most cards at the end is the winner.

Download the Card Game

Download this game and use it with your students by clicking on the image of the Error Correction card below, or use the hyperlink below.  I generated the PDF myself from an InDesign file and is to the best of my knowledge virus-free. Scan it yourself to be doubly sure.

Download the Error Correction Card Game here
Click on the image above to download a copy of the Error Correction Card Game that you can use with your ESL students

Download the PDF

Printing Instructions

The first page in the PDF explains how to play. You don’t need to print it. Instead, print pages 2-11 as two-sided copies. Use heavy paper if you have it.  Do not scale the copies to “Fit to page” or you will have to cut around the edges of each page. Here is a screen-shot of the print dialogue generated by Chrome.

Print dialogue
Select these print settings if you print the PDF using Chrome.


Hattie, J. A. C. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. London, UK: Routledge.

Walker, N. R. (2015). Actively Engaged Online. Montreal, Canada: Bokomaru Publications

5 Great Reasons to Use a Grammar Checker  

For every writer, getting your message across correctly, precisely, and concisely is an important skill. Many essays, stories, and blog posts miss the mark simply because the writer has much to learn about spelling, grammar, punctuation, word choice, and concision. For novice writers, getting from zero to hero can take many years of schooling and practice. In the meantime, what is an aspiring writer to do?

Rookie mistakes

Some obvious advice is to plan before you write. Barrelling headlong into a draft can leave you lost, confused and frustrated. Instead, you are better off jotting down a quick outline of your essay, story, or blog post on the back on of an envelope or with an essay outliner tool. Once you have a plan in place, a little freewriting and brainstorming never hurt to get the sentences flowing and get you moving toward your first, rough draft.

For all but a few professional writers, the first draft of your essay, story, or blog post will be an embarrassment. It will be full of errors and oversights that a fresher set of eyes could easily spot. To avoid this fate, novice writers may turn to a proof-reader to help with revisions. In the age of the online grammar checker, this is another rookie mistake—not because a proof-reader is not helpful, but because getting a human to edit an early draft will squander the proof-reader’s patience and goodwill by foisting upon him or her errors that could have easily been corrected by a machine.

Humans are not like machines. They tire. They react. They have emotions. Humans have the unique ability to tell you how a piece of writing makes them feel. Moreover, a human proof-reader has the unique ability to dramatize the presence of the reader through their comments and edits, showing the writer where a reader will struggle and stumble. To bog a human down with the task of eliminating surface errors is to squander a precious resource.

In other words, a student who uses an automatic grammar checker first stands to benefit more from the help of a human proof-reader than one who doesn’t. Furthermore, students who use an online grammar checker for any reason stand to gain in a variety of other ways.

1. Fix mistakes

The main purpose of any grammar checker used on a piece of writing is to detect errors for the writer to fix. As a result, students who use grammar checkers ensure that the work submitted is more likely to be error-free. By identifying the minor grammatical and punctuation errors, the students deliver an easily readable paper with greater clarity. Markers often assigned a specific percentage of the marks to the structure and writing of the student’s work. Hence, by using grammar checkers which can catch punctuation, grammar, and word choice errors, the student avoids losing marks unnecessarily. Similarly, a grammar checker offers the students a range of alternatives to consider in the restructuring of sentences while choosing the most appropriate ones.

2. Boost your confidence

Repeating the same mistakes regularly in the process of writing a paper may be quite frustrating for most students. However, neglecting these problems may, over time, affect the student’s level of confidence in writing. Failure to distinguish right from wrong with regards to grammar and pronunciation also limits efforts towards correcting the respective writing mistakes. Grammar checkers are good confidence-builders, allowing students to identify both the wrong and correct grammar or pronunciation in the process of writing. As a result, the learners will be more confident to try out different types of writing independently.

3. Learn more

By offering different suggestions to fix common grammatical and punctuation errors, grammar checkers assist students in the process of learning. The applications which incorporate complex algorithms and artificial intelligence dynamically learn a student’s writing style and error patterns. Based on this knowledge, they offer suggestions for the user’s on how to address common errors effectively. As a result, students using these applications access an opportunity to learn and improve their writing. Similarly, some grammar checkers allow students to evaluate their language proficiency through some problem-based tests in addition to maintaining a record of individual scores. These features inspire students to learn more with the aim of advancing their language proficiency.

4. Save time

Students often find themselves committed to many activities with the learning environment which limit the amount of time available to read through their work. As a result, by using a punctuation checker or a grammar checker, they save a considerable amount of time in checking their assignments before submission. The grammar checker is optimized to detect the minor grammatical and punctuation errors in texts in just seconds. With the errors already highlighted for correction, the students doesn’t have to read through the whole work trying to identify errors. Consequently, they can spend their valuable time elsewhere doing other things which need more attention.

5. Develop professional writing skills

Grammar checkers work in tandem with the manual proofreading activities done by the writer. This implies that for a piece of writing to be considered professional, the absence of errors is a crucial attribute.  Error-Free writing represents a form of professionalism on the part of the writer in addition to creating a positive appeal to the reader. As a result, essay checkers contribute significantly to the progression of students towards professional writing.