Types of ESL Dictation

Dictation Player

ESL Dictation Activity - Listening, Speaking and Writing - Elementary - 20 minutes

Here is an enjoyable ESL dictation activity for young students. You have to work quite hard in this activity, but the results are worth it. Divide the students into pairs. One student is the 'reader' and the other is the 'writer'. Stand outside the classroom with the text you want to dictate. On the floor in front of you, place five media control symbols: stop, pause, play, fast forward and rewind. The readers run to you, stand on the 'play' symbol and you begin to read the text. When the students have remembered the first sentence, they stand on 'pause', run back and tell their partner who writes the sentence down. Readers are not allowed to write anything down. As the dictation progresses, students will be pressing all kinds of buttons to go back and forth through the text as students normally work at a different pace from each other. When the students are halfway through, have them swap roles. Add in fast forward and rewind sound effects as a bit of fun. You should act like a media player only reacting when someone presses the controls. Hopefully, students will remember to press stop. When the students have finished, go through the text together as a class and have the students check for grammar or spelling mistakes.
 

Dictogram

ESL Dictation Activity - Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking - Any Level - 20 minutes

In this ESL dictation, students work together to recreate a dictated text. Tell the students that you are going to dictate a text to them three times. The first time you read the text, have the students work alone and listen for the general gist, writing down only keywords. The second time, have the students turn the keywords into phrases. The third time you dictate the text, the students try to write complete sentences. Next, divide the students into teams of four. The students then work together to come up with the complete text. When the teams have reconstructed the text, have them write their sentences on the board. Award one point for each correct sentence. The team with the most points wins.
 

Picture Dictation

ESL Dictation Activity - Listening, Speaking and Drawing - Elementary and Above - 20 minutes

This type of dictation can be used to help students practice describing and prepositions of place. Divide the students into pairs. Have each pair sit back to back. Give one student a picture and the other student a piece of paper. The student with the picture then describes it to their partner. The other student listens and draws the picture, according to their partner's instructions. When the students have finished, they compare the two pictures. Afterwards, have the students swap roles and describe a new picture.
 

Question Dictation

ESL Dictation Activity - Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking - Any Level - 20 minutes

This fun ESL dictation is ideal for reading comprehension practice. Stick numbered questions about your target text in different places outside the classroom. Divide the students into pairs. One student is the 'reader' and the other is the 'writer'. Give each pair a copy of the text. The reader runs to question number one, remembers it, goes back and tells the writer. The writer listens and writes the question down. The pair then reads the text together to find the answer to the question. Once a pair has the answer, they write it down next to the question and show it to you. If the question and answer are correct, the pair moves onto question two. If not, the pair goes back to find their mistake. This process is repeated until all the questions have been answered correctly. The first pair of students to finish wins.
 

Running Dictation

ESL Dictation Activity - Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking - Any Level - 20 minutes

Here is one of the most popular types of ESL dictation. Stick a text on a wall outside the classroom. Divide the students into pairs. One student is the 'reader' and the other is the 'writer'. The readers run to the text, read a sentence or two, remember it, run back and tell their writer. The writer listens and writes down what the reader says. Halfway through have the students swap roles. While the students are doing the dictation, write some questions based on the text on the board. When a pair has completed the text, check for any spelling or grammar mistakes. If the text is correct, have the pair sit down and answer the questions about the text. If the text is wrong, students carry on with the dictation. Afterwards, review the text and answers to the questions with the class.
 

Shouting Dictation

ESL Dictation Activity - Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking - Any Level - 20 minutes

This ESL dictation helps students with their communication and listening skills. Divide the students into pairs (A and B). Rearrange the chairs so there are two rows of seats facing each other. Make the space between the two rows quite big. The pairs sit opposite each other. Hand out a different part of the text to each row. Student A starts by reading the first part of their text to Student B. Student B listens and writes what they hear. When Student A has finished reading, the two students swap roles and Student B starts reading their text to Student A. This continues until the text is complete. Students have to listen very carefully to understand their partner as everyone will be talking at once and working at different paces. The activity can get quite noisy, but it's a lot of fun for students. When everyone has finished, have the pairs of students sit together and go through their texts to check for spelling mistakes and misunderstood words.
 

Silent Dictation

ESL Dictation Activity - Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking - Any Level - 20 minutes

In this amusing ESL dictation, students dictate a text to a partner by whispering. Divide the students into pairs (A and B). Put the chairs into two rows with the seats facing each other. Make the space between the two rows quite large. The pairs sit opposite each other. Give a different part of the text to each row. Student A starts by whispering the first part of their text to their partner. Student B listens and writes what they think their partner is saying. Student A can mouth the words or spell the words in the air for clarity. When Student A has finished, Student B starts whispering their text and so on. This continues until the text is complete. When the students have finished, have them go through their text with their partner to check for misunderstood words and spelling mistakes.
 
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