dictation 2

This is the second post on the series of dictation. I will be using the same list of words and expressions as the one from the first post as an example. You can make your own. The basic aim here is to review vocabulary and do something with it for consolidation purposes. Here is the list of 15 off-the-cuff words and expressions that a group of advanced students saw over the span of a couple of weeks. Once again, dictate these words at natural speed and tell the students to listen carefully but they can’t write anything down at this stage. They should listen and try to remember as many items as they can:


-a fancy restaurant

-it threw me off

-to carpool

-from scratch


-to commute

-to turn down a job


-it slipped my mind

-side effects

– it’s worth watching

-to get a refill

-to pull a sickie

-to have a whale of a time

Now it is time for the students to write down as many of these language items as they remember. In most likelihood they will remember about a third of them. Next it is time for them to compare lists and add missing items in order to come up with as many words and expressions as possible. Check answers with the whole class and write them on the board (or have a student do so).

Now comes the task attached to it. If your students have internet connecting devices, they will be doing this in class. Otherwise, step 1 will take place at home and they will be retaking step 2 next day in class.

Step 1

Tell the students to choose any three items from the list. Then tell them to go on Twitter and look for them as part of a phrase or a language chunk or word combination with inverted commas. For instance, if they pick the first word, “raw”, then their query may be something like “raw fish”, “having raw fish”, “ate raw fish”, “raw vegetables”, “raw whisky”, “sleeping in the raw”. If the expression is “to pull a sickie”, the phrase search query may be something along these lines: “pulling a sickie”, “was pulling a sickie”, “pulled a sickie”.

These are some selected tweets from “having raw fish” query.

raw fish

And here are some selected tweets from “pulled a sickie”.


Give each student three slips of paper (or ask them to make cards out of sheet of paper). I always keep a stack of spare photocopies in the classroom for activities like this. They will be doing this for each of the three cards. On one side they must copy down a clear example of a tweet with their chosen word or expression and leave a gap with three dotted lines with the target vocabulary. For instance:

  • I’m thinking on having … marinated in lime juice.
  • I … in year 8 so I didn’t have to go to camp for a week. Also in year 9 so I didn’t have to do some silly exams that don’t count.

On the back of each card or slip of paper they write the missing words (“raw fish”, “pulled a sickie”).

Step 2

Collect the cards from all the students and make groups of 4-5 students. If you have a group of 4 students, give them 12 cards. Groups of 5 get 15 cards. Cards are placed in a stack on top of each other. They have a look at the card on top and have about 30 seconds to figure out the missing words. Even if there are people in the group who can tell right away, they will have to wait to give everyone a chance. When the time is up they can tell and check by turning the card over. They follow this procedure with the remaining cards. When they run out of cards, they can swap cards with another group. Give them 10-15 minutes.

There are many benefits from doing this kind of dictation and the sequence of activities tied into it because it really pushes the students into trying to do things with the language in different ways and therefore it stimulates consolidation and automatisation. There is listening, remembering, comparing lists, sieving through tweets, copying down the tweets and then retrieving the expressions again. It all boils down to repetition and practice but hopefully this is done in engaging and not mind numbing  ways.

A final consideration. You can also ask the students to choose a tweet and try to build a conversation of three interventions in which that tweet can fit it in any of the three lines. Let’s retake the previous examples:

  • I’m thinking on having raw fish marinated in lime juice.
  • Right now?
  • Yeah, I am that hungry.


  • I pulled a sickie in year 8 so I didn’t have to go to camp for a week. Also in year 9 so I didn’t have to do some silly exams that don’t count.
  • That’s nothing to boast about, you know.
  • Well, I just didn’t see the point, that’s all.

All you have to do is select the focal language and dictate it. Short and sweet.


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