How can I make dictations interesting?

Help, tips and advice in teaching English

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How can I make dictations interesting?

Unread postby Jim » 05 May 2004, 17:42

Dear Lucy,

My students want to do dictations in class.

Have you got any ideas about how to make them interesting?


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I need help with dictations

Unread postby Lucy » 10 May 2004, 18:25

Dear Jim,

One way of livening up dictations is to do a running (or walking) dictation.

Take a text that isn’t too long (about 12 lines should be enough). Divide the text into 2 equal parts, each part should be on a different piece of paper, you’ll need approximately 4 copies of each half (ie a total of eight) for a class of 20 students.

Pin the 4 copies of the first half on the whiteboard or on the walls around the classroom. Divide the class into pairs. Student A dictates and student B is the 'dictatee'. Student A gets up and goes to read the first sentence or phrase of the text, (s)he returns to student B and says what (s)he has just read. Student B writes this down. They continue this process until all of the first half has been written down.

The students now change roles : B dictates and A the becomes the ‘dictatee’. The teacher pins up the second half of the text at this point. Student B relays the second part of the text to student A in the same manner.

You can decide whether you want all the students to keep a complete copy of the text. If you decide on this, student B dictates the first half to student A and student A dictates the second half to student B (they can stay seated for this).

The activity can be used to write down questions that will be used for a listening or reading activity, giving classroom instructions, explanation of a grammatical point, a summary of what was done in the previous lesson or simply as an activity in itself. A benefit is that running dictations use the 4 skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening; albeit in a controlled sense.

Running dictations are good to use with teenagers. They may need some encouragement at first, but they soon get into it.

Before doing the activity, you could remind students of phrases such as ‘how do you spell ... ? ‘could you say that again please ? could you please check that last part ? A quick look at names given to punctuation symbols (comma, fullstop etc) is also useful.

I hope you enjoy this activity.

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