Variations on dictations

finger on it

This week I am working on dictations with my different groups, and I thought I would share a couple of ways I have found to make them a bit more interesting, both for the students and for myself.




With my more advanced groups, I am using a dictogloss, rather than a traditional dictation. The teacher divides the group in half, and sets one half some work to do outside the classroom. This week I had them preparing a presentation on a famous person. Meanwhile, the teacher does the dictogloss with the other half of the group. This exercise consists in reading a text to the students three times at normal reading speed. During the first two readings, the students listen, and after each reading they are given time to write what they remember. During the third reading they are allowed to write, so that they can check and complete their texts. After this they should be given some time in pairs or groups of three to check their work with each other. This usually leads to some interesting discussions on grammar and structure as they access what they know in order to reconstruct the text.


The other half of the group is then brought back into the class, and each one is paired with someone who has done the dictogloss. These then dictate the text they received as a dictogloss to their partners (this is done as a normal dictation rather than as a dictogloss). Finally, the teacher collects the resulting dictation, and then projects the original text so that they can check their own answers.


In this video, you will see Dave Spencer from Macmillan doing a dictogloss exercise with a group of students.



Jigsaw dictation


With my less-advanced students, I am doing a variation of a running dictation. Before the class, I copy a text of a level which the students will find relatively easy, but I place the sentences in a different order. The disorganized text is pinned on the wall. The class is divided into teams of three or four. One member of each team goes to the text and memorises the first part before going back to his / her team and dictating it to them. The second member of the team then goes to the text and memorises the next part and so on. While the second member of the team is at the text, the first member of the team writes down what s/he has just dictated, so that everyone in the team has a complete text.


Once the team has dictated the whole text, they must decide the correct order for the sentences, writing a clean copy of the text. This can be treated as a race, or each team can simply read out their version of the completed text at the end of the class before the teacher projects the original text for them to check their work.


Here is a video with other ideas for organising a running dictation.



For an extension activity for running dictations, particularly for younger students, click here.