I ♥ dictation

Dictation is a very useful ESL activity that promotes many skills at once:
* writing (accuracy: spelling, punctuation)
* listening
* vocabulary
* grammar
* reading (when students read the text afterwards for correction)
* speaking (when T & students discuss the text afterwards)
How I Use Dictation:
I start and end every unit/theme with a dictation. If the unit happens to be about music, then the dictation texts will also be about music. I make sure that the level is appropriate and that the texts contain the new vocabulary words/lexical items and grammar structures that will be covered in the new unit. The two texts that I use will either be identical or (more often) variations of the same.
I use the first one to start the unit and expose my kids to the "new stuff" (words and structures) that they will be expected to master by the end of the unit. They usually make a lot of mistakes the first time around. This is expected and welcomed - I tell my students to be happy that they made those mistakes because now they "know what they don't know". The second dictation is used to finish off the unit/theme. This time there will (hopefully) be much fewer mistakes to correct! By comparing the first and second dictation the students can clearly see what progress they've made over the last couple of weeks!
Step #1: The T reads the dictation text through once, at normal speed. The students should only listen.
Step #2: The T reads the dictation again but stops after each phrase or meaningful unit. Students write what they hear. For any words they cannot transcribe, they leave a blank.
Step #3: The T reads the dictation through a third time at normal speaking speed. The students should check their work and make any last changes.
Step #4: The T projects the dictation text to the whiteboard and goes over it with the students. The students can also switch papers and check each other's work (I usually have them do this with my "end of the unit dictation").
Some Other ways to Use Dictation.
1. As fillers - short quick dictations can fill in an odd five minutes with something meaningful, see: http://www.tefl.net/esl-lesson-plans/esl-activity-dictation.htm
2. Song Dictation, see: http://iteslj.org/Techniques/Cullen-SongDictation.html
If you have doubts, read this list of the benefits of dictation written by Scott Alkire. I have shortened the text a lot and if you want to read all of it you can find it here: http://iteslj.org/Techniques/Alkire-Dictation.html
Benefits of Dictation
1. Dictation makes the students and the teacher aware of the students' comprehension errors--phonological, grammatical, or both.
2. Dictation shows students the kinds of spelling errors they are prone to make.
3. Dictation gives students practice in comprehending and transcribing clear English prose.
4. Dictation gives students valuable practice in notetaking.
5. Dictation gives practice in correct forms of speech.
6. Dictation can help develop all four language skills in an integrative way.
7. Dictation helps to develop short-term memory. Students practice retaining meaningful phrases or whole sentences before writing them down.
8. Dictation can serve as an excellent review exercise.
9. If the students do well, dictation is motivating.
10. Dictation involves the whole class, no matter how large it is.
11. During and after the dictation, all students are active.
12. Dictation exercises can pull the class together during the valuable first minutes of class.
13. Dictation can provide access to interesting texts.
14. Knowing how to take dictation is a skill with "real world" applications.
15. Dictation can be a good indicator of overall language ability.

Average: 4.3 (4 votes)


bluering's picture

I usually make use of dictation at the end of the unit to see how much the students understood. I agree with you in terms of the advantages of the dictation activities. They are good in teaching and revising many skills.

defneb's picture

It is nice to read something that gets back to the nuts and bolts of daily teaching. Dictation is classic EFL and very worthwhile.  The way you've described you use it is novel and fresh. To honor your efforts, I wll make it the next task I do with my class when I start a new unit.. So much to do, so little time.

hayriye's picture

Listen and Write is a great website. I signed up and tried many dictations. I loved it. I think the site will contribute to my listening skills, too. I also learnt a few new words.

hayriye's picture

Thank you for your tips and websites you shared. I agree on the effectiveness of the dictation tasks in class. However, students usually find those activities boring and useless. When I read your post, I wanted to talk about a fun dictation activity. I shared this activity in my last blog. If you want to read more about it, you can look at my last post 'Silly Dictation".

CoffeeAddict's picture

Good morning!
Thank you all very much for commenting and adding your own ideas! I also appreciate the other blogs on dictation that were posted by some of you later. I do not agree with Hayrie that students find dictation "boring" - that has not been my experience. I have been careful not to exaggerate the use of dictation and to explain to the students why we do it. Perhaps that's why they haven't gotten bored of it yet?
Have a nice day!

bonbone's picture

I practise dictation with my pupils at the end of each unit and they just adore it. I don't agree with those teachers who find it boring. It's not at all. You can check pupils' grammar, understanding English.