Tried and tested (and approved!) games and activities to help English learning.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Group Dictation

Level: Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced.

Skills: listening.

Topic: vocabulary, grammar, spelling.

Materials: a short (one paragraph) story.

Time: 10 to 15 minutes.

The purpose of this game is to improve listening skills, with a focus on grammar, vocabulary, constructing a narrative, and/or spelling.

Dictation is often considered a passive activity because students don't stand up, communicate, or move about the classroom. Yet it's quite difficult to catch the words, link the words into sentences, and then link the sentences into a narrative. This activity adds a communicative element, though, which will further reinforce the target language.
Prepare a story before the class begins. For a class of lower-level students, keep the story to four or five sentences. For intermediate or advanced classes, the story or monologue may be as long as a paragraph. It's important to consider the following points for an effective story:
  • The best monologues are real and relatable to the students.
  • Stories or monologues should incorporate key grammar and/or vocabulary from the lesson. this will give students the chance to see the target language linked with other ideas and information.
  • Stories or monologues should show how to use the language later in the lesson.
Here's an example for a class consisting of strong beginners: I'm going to go skiing this weekend with friends. I usually go skiing a lot in the winter. But I only went once this year because it's been too warm. There isn't much snow in the mountains. My friends and I plan to stay for three days. I hope it's fun!
Read the story once at a pace just above the level of the students. If read too slowly, then the activity isn't challenging. If read too quickly, then the activity becomes far too difficult. Students just listen at this stage. They should not take notes because this will limit how much of the story they hear.
Students form groups of three or four and discuss what they heard. Students will have caught different words and sentences, and a collaborative effort helps them understand the complete monologue. Students work together for several minutes.
Read the sentences again, but at a slower pace. It's important to read each sentence twice. Students now take dictation, writing every word if possible.
Students form groups once more and discuss/compare the sentences for a few minutes. Together, they should be able to recreate most of the story.
Students should come to the board and write the sentences from the story. Correction (if necessary) can be accomplished by the class. If there are too many students, or time is limited, you may simply write the sentences on the board.


  1. Great activity. I've used it as a pre-reading activity with advanced sts in 3 different groups. I've chosen a paragraph from one of those long readings from textbooks. The result was great collaborative work - sts got engaged and motivated to work on their reading tasks.

    1. Nice to know that, Ana. Thanks for sharing your observations, it greatly helps me to keep improving the activities here. Please, come more often!


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