Volume 1 Number 2 October 2006
Kato, A. (2006). Error analysis of high school student essays. Accents Asia [Online], 1 (2), 1-13. Available: http://www.accentsasia.org/1-2/kato.pdf
Error Analysis of High School Student Essays
Fudooka Seiwa High School
Ever since the introduction of oral communication into the school curriculum in 1989, speaking has drawn attention as an important skill for Japanese students to master. A variety of speaking and listening practices have been experimented within high school English classes. Writing has also been included as an extensive practice. The 2003 revision of the Course of Study emphasizes “writing” as a vehicle of communication to convey messages according to the purpose and the situation (MEXT, 2003). However, in many of the university entrance exam-oriented high schools, writing classes are modified into grammar-centered classes; in other words, the students are accustomed to writing short sentences based upon the structures or the grammar points they are taught, and chances of writing effective essays are limited (Minegishi, 2005). It is true that grammar processing is needed for accurate production, but it is a challenge to teach how to write essays or even paragraphs within the available classroom hours, with the exception perhaps of some foreign language elective courses in select high schools.
Under these circumstances, the English Composition Division of the Saitama Senior High School English Education and Research Association hosts writing contests, for the purpose of encouraging students to test their English knowledge and to enhance their production skills in the form of writing. The contest consists of two sections: a translation section and an essay writing Page 2
Volume 1 Number 2 October 2006
section. In the essay section the participants are given topics and expected to write their opinions in about 200 words. They have 80 minutes to work on translation and essay writing. The translation sentences are assigned according to level, but the essay topic is the same for all. The translation part is marked and graded by Japanese teachers; the essays are evaluated by ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers) according to three criteria: creativity, organization and grammar. The winners are chosen depending on the total points of the two sections. In this paper, I will shed some light on the essays and analyze them with a view towards identifying problems students have, which will provide evidence of how English is learned and what strategies students are employing to construct their essays. The primary focus of this paper is on grammar in writing not creativity and organization, but some pedagogical suggestions for teaching and learning are also mentioned. Methods
The data analyzed for this study are errors in students’ essays written in an essay competition held in Saitama Prefecture, Japan. In this contest, the participants were given the topic, “If you were to meet a celebrity, who would you like to meet? What would you like to ask him/her? What would you like to do with him/her?” The errors in the essays were categorized based on Ferris’ (2005) Analysis Model (Fig.1). Her “Common ESL writing errors” fall into four categories; morphological errors, lexical errors, syntactic errors, and mechanical errors. This model is based upon the “Description of the major error categories” (Fig. 2), which covers verb errors, noun ending errors, article errors, word wrong, and sentence structure (p.92). According to James (1998), an error analysis model must be “well-developed, highly elaborated, and self-explanatory” (p.95). Ferris’ model fulfills these needs. With this system it is easy to identify global and...