dictation 3

This is the third post on the series of dictation. I will be using the same list of fifteen words and expressions that I included in the previous posts as an example. You will be using your own. I find that ten to fifteen items is an adequate number for this type of activity. Dictate this list of words and expressions at normal speed just once and wait about four or five seconds in between items. This time, unlike in the previous posts, the students will be taking the words down as they hear them. Here is the list:


-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

Before you dictate the words tell the students to draw three columns in their notebooks on on their pieces of paper headed this way:


Explain that you will be dictating 15 words and expressions that they have seen in class recently. They should be taking them down as they hear them under the relevant heading according to whether they are sure they know them, not sure or they don’t. If they can identify the language item in terms of meaning but they are not sure about the spelling, they should write it under “Not Sure”. If they can’t identify the language item but they can spell it, it should go under “I don’t know”. If they can’t identify the language item and they can’t spell it either, they should still make an educated guess towards spelling it according to the sounds they hear and it should go under “I don’t know” as well.

Here’s a possible outcome.


Students can check lists with their peers and ask about the words and expressions they don’t know or couldn’t identify or spell correctly.

Then have a student read out the complete list of words and write the tricky ones on the board to make sure everyone has it. Review these words and expressions focusing on possible word combinations (to cook from scratch, to learn how to play an instrument from scratch, to learn a language from scratch, to start from scratch, etc.).

There are many other ways in which you can ask the students to write words under headings in terms of dichotomies. For instance: useful vs not useful or easy to remember vs difficult to remember or I like the sound of it vs I don’t like the sound of it.

Here is a variation of this type of dictation (in fact, my favorite). Dictate the words (no table with headings at this point yet) and then have the students decide how they would group these words under categories. It’s OK to leave out some words (but not too many) uncategorized. This is a possible arrangement.


Give the students time to decide how they would group the language items and then encourage them to compare lists with peers and justify their choices. They may include a language item under more than one category if they wish. For instance, “to get a refill” might make reference to an extra drink at a restaurant or to get more of the same medication. “It threw me off” might indicate someone didn’t like the smell of a certain meal and was discouraged to eat it or it could simply go under the category of informal expressions.

The whole idea is to make the language memorable and come alive  by allowing the students to make choices and use their creativity with a critical mind.


3 thoughts on “dictation 3

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: