Picture dictation

This is a low preparation fun activity that works well with large classes, especially with young learners and teens. All your students need is a blank piece of paper and all the teacher needs is a little bit of imagination.

Fiona Lawtie


  • First of all explain to the students that they are going to do a picture dictation, that you are going to describe a picture to them and that all they have to do is simply listen and draw what they hear you describe.
  • You then describe a simple and easy-to-draw picture to them and they draw it. To help you with your first picture dictation you can use the picture on the accompanying worksheet and the description beneath it as a guide. It is a very simple picture for a low-level beginner's class but this kind of activity can be adapted to any level of student. Simply change the content of the picture accordingly.
  • When you are describing the picture it is best to describe one object at a time slowly and to repeat each description two or three times.
  • Make sure you give students enough time to finish drawing one object before you move onto the next object and it is a good idea to walk around and look at the students' drawings as they are drawing them so that you can see how well they are understanding your descriptions and then you can adjust them accordingly and give them any support they need.

Tips for making the activity work well

  • Before starting the activity you may want to draw a square or rectangle to represent a piece of paper on the board and elicit vocabulary from the students that they will need to know for the activity, such as 'in the middle of the piece of paper', 'in the top/bottom/right-/left-hand corner of the piece of paper', 'in front of', 'behind', 'on top of', etc.
  • For lower levels, you may even want to draw pictures of the things, the house, the hill, clouds, birds and children skipping etc. that will appear in the picture on the board before starting the activity to review vocabulary. How much pre-teaching of vocabulary and language you do will depend on the level of your students.


  • Get students to colour the pictures in afterwards as a colour dictation, for example, 'Colour the roof of the house green', 'Colour the door of the house red', or get students to label different objects by writing the name of the object underneath it, such as 'house', 'bird', etc.
  • You can also get students to write a description of the picture afterwards.
  • Another good variation is to give students a list of objects and get them to draw their own pictures with all those objects in them.
    • The students then work in pairs. One student describes their picture to their partner and their partner draws.
    • They then swap roles and afterwards they compare the pictures they drew with their original drawings pointing out the differences and usually having a giggle.
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