Dictation in the ELF classroom


To be honest, I think I started using running dictations more because of the running bit than the dictation bit – they’re just so much fun! But in a multilingual class, student-to-student dictations (running or not) are invaluable for students who need ELF, presuming you can pair them with someone of a different language background. When else do they focus so closely on every sound their partner makes?

Image courtesy of ELTpics @ayearinthelifeof

Image courtesy of ELTpics @ayearinthelifeof

Here are some other suggestions for student-to-student dictation activities (if you teach monolingual classes, check out our next post on dictations using audio clips)…

Why use student-to-student dictation?

  • Receptively, it encourages students to listen closely to every sound, especially if there is little context to help.
  • Productively, students are motivated to make their pronunciation as intelligible as possible to their partner because of the level of detail required.
  • As we mentioned in our post about using dictation to conduct a needs analysis, student-to-student dictation often raises students’ awareness of how problematic pronunciation can be for ELF interaction.

Choosing a text

  • Use sentences from the coursebook which are designed for grammar or vocabulary practice.
  • Take part of a reading text or listening tapescript from the coursebook.
  • Adapt or use a corrected version of student-generated work.
  • Write sentences or a short text about your class / your city / yourself.
  • Use sentences from a pronunciation book like Ship or Sheep, or Pronunciation in Use, to focus on a particular sound.

Dictation activities

Like I said, I do love a good running dictation (see Robert Johnson Roger’s blog for a good explanation of this – it’s number three on the list). But here are a few more ideas to mix it up:

  • Shouting dictation: for quiet classes, stand students at the opposite side of the room and make them shout to each other.
  • Two-part texts: students have a gapped text each, with opposite gaps in their text, i.e. the bits they’re missing are the bits the other person has. They need to work together to reconstruct the text.
  • Class story: give each student one sentence of a story. Students go around the class speaking to everyone and taking a note of the different sentences, trying to put the story into order as they go.
  • Student recordings: allocate sentences to each student to record at home and upload to a site like Audioboo, and then use them in the next class. Try letting students take control of pressing pause, play and rewind. See our very own Laura Patsko’s blog for more details on how to set this up (it’s the last activity in the post).
  • Chaos dictation: Put sentences on the walls, spaced out all around the class. The sentences should be numbered and match a grid which stays on students’ tables. Give each pair one grid. The writing student stays sitting at the table. The runner goes around the room finding the different sentences, remembering them and running back to tell their partner. Halfway, tell students to switch roles. It ends up with students going in all directions (hence the name) which makes its really fun, but not recommended for a big class.
  • Gapped chaos dictation: Give students four different gapped texts on four different coloured papers, on a similar theme (e.g four different people talking about what they do in their free time). Put the missing information on different coloured slips of paper, depending which colour text it matches. Stick these slips all around the room. Then follow the chaos dictation procedure.

The important bit

After the activity, encourage students to analyse what miscommunication occurred and why. Ask students to discuss, in their pairs, whether the miscommunication was a receptive or productive issue, to guide students to an awareness of their role as a listener as well as speaker. After the activity, you might like to do some pronunciation work focusing on sounds in the Lingua Franca Core that seemed to affect intelligibility in the activity.

Dictation by other names…

There are so many activities we do in class that involve students listening very closely to their partner, even though we might not think of them as dictations, for example:

  • Students conduct a survey or questionnaire, and read aloud the multiple choice options to their partner, who has to listen very carefully to choose their desired answer.
  • Students take part in a quiz and read aloud the questions to the other team. The motivation to hear every word is high when winning is at stake!
  • Students read questions or sentences (out of context is best), and their partner has to choose the appropriate answer or response from a set of options. Like this example from New Cutting Edge:

Cutting Edge questions

Cutting Edge responses

 post author banners-Katy


5 thoughts on “Dictation in the ELF classroom

  1. Pingback: Film star dictations | ELF Pronunciation

  2. Pingback: Thank you, Harrogate! | ELF Pronunciation

  3. Pingback: BELTA webinar: Teaching pronunciation and listening for ELF | ELF Pronunciation

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