As teachers, we are in a constant search for fun activities that foster language acquisition while encouraging students’ creativity. Dictation is usually a challenge, as students may find it boring. We propose a dictation activity for EFL classes that will transform your students from passive recipients to active listeners!
Dictation Activity: Text Reconstruction
Start by informing students they will hear a text but they will not be able to write the whole thing. After the first listening, they are to note down just as many keywords as they can. They are not to worry about writing a complete text.
- Read the whole text once through at normal speed. Students just listen.
- Read the whole text again at normal speed with students noting the keywords.
- Have students compare their notes in pairs and attempt to reconstruct as much of the text as they can.
- Repeat step 3. Pairs of students should be building up the text further.
- Have one pair come up to the board and write what they have got. Suggestions for any gaps can be given by the rest of the class. Any grammatical or lexical errors can be discussed and corrected.
- Compare the version on the board with the original that you read out.
Why try this alternative dictation activity?
- The text is not unnaturally cut up or spoken at an unnaturally slow speed, so the intonation and stress patterns along with elisions and shortened forms in speech are preserved.
- Students are listening for the overall meaning of the text at sentence level and above.
- Students practice rapid note–taking skills.
- Students collaborate to reconstruct the text.
- Because they cannot and are not expected to write down every word as they listen, students are forced to access their knowledge of the language and think about the probable language that will fill the gaps in their notes. They cannot remember exactly what was said so they have to come to a consensus with their partner about for example, which structure or preposition to use. They are involved in creating the text.
- They are focusing on meaning as well as accuracy.
Dictation can be used to reinforce or introduce particular structures or topics or to provide general language practice. You could dictate the first paragraph of a composition or story and have students continue it. The text can be anything you like, based on their level: a poem, song, mini-story, anecdote or newspaper article.
More dictation ideas
> Short gap-filler dictations can practice such items as minimal pairs – hat, hut, bat, but, cat, cut; numbers – 13, 30, 40, 14; or spellings of lexical group members – peas, potatoes, leeks, aubergines.
> Students can also 'play the teacher' and select texts that they dictate to you and the class.
The activities proposed above aim to develop and enhance students’ listening, speaking, and writing abilities in an interactive and engaging manner. After all, that’s what dictation should be all about!