About Error Sheets page 3

One reason why I do not have convincing evidence of the value of error sheets is that although I used them regularly over a long period, I never had the opportunity to use them as systematically as I would have liked to have been able to do. I seldom had the opportunity to spend a major portion of classroom time on either composition or grammar. And, moreover, since the sheets I used were almost always based on the previous writing assignment, I was seldom able to put enough time into preparing them or into preparing myself to use them as effectively as possible in class. It is my hope that the error detection section of flesl.net, when it is complete, might facilitate the systematic use and rigorous testing of the error sheet method.

another benefit: non-elementary matters are also studied

The original idea behind the error sheets was that they might help to reduce the frequency of elementary grammatical errors. When I started actually making the sheets, however, I found that many of the errors which seemed worth including were not entirely “elementary” and, moreover, that many of them had an important lexical aspect. An error like, her baby born died, for example, involves both the non-elementary grammatical matter of subject complements, and the lexical fact that the verb “bear,” when it is used to describe birth, can take such a complement. (Of course, the error also involves the elementary failure to use the passive voice where it is required as well as the basic lexical point that when this verb is used to describe birth, it is almost always in the passive voice and that when it is used in this way, a special form of the past participle is employed.) In short, error sheets turn out to provide not just a way of ensuring that students’ and teachers’ attention is regularly drawn back to problematic fundamentals but that at least some deeper matters that might otherwise be completely ignored are discussed.

requirements and resistances

My experience with using error sheets regularly over a long period of time was entirely positive. At times, when I was fortunate enough to have highly motivated students, the general discussion that followed error sheet sessions was extremely enthusiastic and invigorating; and even with less energetic students, I always felt that something worthwile had been achieved. However, despite my enthusiastically advocating the method to my colleagues over the years, I’m not sure I succeeded in persuading even one teacher to permanently adopt error sheets as a part of his or her teaching repertoire. Certainly, there are possible reasons for being reluctant to try using error sheets as well as possible reasons for becoming