Author: Deb Bullock | Published on 1 February 2023


Read what a teacher says about this activity:

Code and correct can be used with primary and secondary learners to help them self-correct. The activity is fun, and helps them become aware of their typical mistakes. They really like using codes, and love doing the teacher’s job!

Stage 1: Preparation

Take in your learners’ writing for marking. Don’t correct the mistakes. Make a list of common mistakes.

Create a simple correction code. Use real mistakes from your learners’ writing. 


Code Type of mistake Example of mistake Correction
sp Spelling Bahir Dar is the most beautifull city in Ethiopia. Bahir Dar is the most beautiful city in Ethiopia.
p Punctuation My sisters name is Keoraptse.  My sister’s name is Keoraptse.
v Wrong verb  Yesterday they play football. Yesterday they played football.
^ Something is missing ^ Moon goes round the earth. The moon goes round the earth.
ww Wrong word He’s studying in the college. He’s studying at the college.
? I don’t understand There has many turinsts.  

Now mark your learners’ writing. Use a different colour pen. Don’t correct – only code the mistakes.

Tip: Focus on a few common mistakes. If you code every mistake, the learner will be discouraged.

Stage 2: Introduction  

At the start of the lesson, draw an empty correction code on the board. 

Say: ‘I’ve read your writing but I haven’t corrected it. Instead, I’ve used a code to show your mistakes.’

  1. Write the first code in the grid, e.g. sp. 
  2. Elicit what the code means (spelling). 
  3. Write spelling in the 2nd column.
  4. Write the example mistake in the next column. 
  5. Underline the word that is spelt wrong. 
  6. Ask for a volunteer to come and write the correction in the last column.
  7. Repeat for all the codes. 

Stage 3: Self-correction

Say: ‘Use the code on the board to correct your work. Don’t erase your mistakes. Take a different colour pen and make corrections. You have 5 minutes.’ Check the learners understand what they have to do.

Give the learners their writing.

Circulate and check everyone has a different colour pen.

Monitor, support and praise learners, but don’t tell them the corrections. 

Stage 4: Peer check

Say: ‘Choose a partner. Look at each other’s writing. Check the corrections. Help each other. You have 3 minutes.’ 

Monitor, support and praise learners. Circulate again, and note any corrections the learners can’t do.

Stage 5: Whole class feedback 

Ask: ‘Are there corrections you can’t do?’ If so, ask a pair to share with the class, and invite the class to help. 

Repeat this several times. 

Say: ‘Copy the correction code in your notebook. We will use it every time we write.’

Stage 6: End activity

Ask: ‘Do you like using the code? Why? / Why not?’ 

Use the answers to show how self-correction can help learners:

  • think about their mistakes 
  • know which mistakes they make frequently 
  • understand how they can learn from their mistakes.

Ask how easy / difficult it was to self-correct. Tell them it will be easier the more they do it.

The next time your learners write a text, ask them to look at their corrections. They should check they don’t repeat the same mistakes. Together, you and your learners can add new codes to the chart when you notice common mistakes. You could even make a classroom poster. When your learners are more confident using the codes, they can find simple mistakes in their partner’s work.


Circulate: Move around the classroom to check what learners are doing, and if they need any help. 

Common mistakes: usual errors

Monitor: The way a teacher watches to see how well an individual, group or class is doing a particular task.

Praise: compliment