Dictation machine

Dictation is one of the oldest activities. It is thought, unduly, to be an old-fashioned, teacher-centered and uncommunicative activity. Nevertheless, it still has its place in ELT. The activity that I will present in this post is a variation of the traditional dictation. You can look for more variations in my previous post about why teachers should use dictation in English language teaching.

This dictation activity allows students to recognize language in  listening and  writing. It is different from the traditional dictation because:

  • the learners themselves control the dictation,
  • it allows for all learners of all levels to participate actively.

The activity doesn’t require any materials apart from sheets of paper and pens or pencils.

The activity

  • Prepare a short text which contains language points students need to work on.
  • Write on the board “play”, “stop” and “go back”.
  • Elicit the meaning of these terms from learners.
  • Tell the students that you will function like a machine ( cassette player)
  • Explain to students that you will be playing a short text that they should write down as accurately as possible.
  • Tell them that at any time they can ask you to stop and go back to a particular point in the text.
  • When students are ready,  stand still at the front of the class.
  • Don’t speak until a students shouts “play“.
  • Read at a slow-normal speed; don’t utter words separately.
  • let the class take complete control, stopping only when they ask you to by saying “stop, go-back”.
  • The dictation goes on until all the students feel satisfied with their text.
  • They may want  to play the cassette again. In this case the only thing they need to do is shout “play” again.
  • Give students a few minutes to compare their texts.
  • Hand out copies of the original text for them to check against.

Variation

As a variation, before handing out the original text for students to check against,  ask them to re-dictate the text to you. When writing  try to keep any mistakes they utter. As you finish guide  learners to identify the mistakes if there are any. Then work on these mistakes.