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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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