February 19

Different Dictation

I did quite a fun activity with a couple of groups today – it’s a mish-mash of a dictagloss and a circle activity which a former colleague, Richard Whiteside, once told me about…here’s the activity…


Divide the class into groups of 3-5 students and give each group a piece of blank paper and a pen.  Explain that the activity is like Pass the Parcel, but instead of music, you’re going to be speaking; and instead of opening the present, they have to write a sentence*.  The students start passing the paper and pen round and you repeat the first sentence of the dictation, perhaps 4 or 5 times.  Then stop and the students write it down – the rules are that only the person with the pen can write that sentence, but anyone in the group can help.  Keep doing this until you’ve dictated the whole text.  Then nominate students to read out each sentence and do whole group feedback; students could also check their answers with another group first, or swap papers and correct another group, etc.

Although at times students are so fixated on passing the paper that they don’t really listen to the sentence, it is interesting to see what they pick up and how they transform the original.

*OK, so perhaps don’t tell them it’s like Pass the Parcel as you’ll get their hopes up only to dash them to smithereens!

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March 24

An Ode to Munchbucket

This is a writing activity which Nina Lauder presented at the recent FECEI conference in Madrid.  Instructions on writing your own ode are below.





Fluffy, grey, on the sofa


Sitting – snuggly, quietly, strokably

On the sofa

Fluffy, grey, cute, mine





To write an ode…

1. What/Who the ode is for

2. Two adjectives to describe it

3. Where is it?

4. Repeat 1

5. What’s it doing?

6. Three adverbs of how it’s doing the activity

7. Repeat 3

8. Repeat 2

9. Two new adjectives

10. Repeat 1

March 17

Song dictation

Here’s another great activity from Catherine Morley’s TESOL-SPAIN workshop…

Type up the lyrics to part of a song and stick them on the wall outside the classroom.  Put students into pairs and then explain that student A has to go outside, read and remember part of the text and then come back in and dictate it to their partner who writes it down.  This works well if you put a line halfway through the song so that the students swap roles.  Remind students that they can’t shout and (depending on space) can’t run.  When students have finished, check the lyrics for spelling mistakes and then play the song for them to follow.

I did this activity with a Primary group the other day, using one of the songs from their coursebook – as you know, I’m always looking for ways to exploit those songs!  They really enjoyed the activity – it was competitive but very inclusive: the stronger students perhaps did it a little quicker, though they still made some mistakes, and for weaker students it was an opportunity to use the skills they have, but which are sometimes afraid to show when doing group or whole class activities.  And even though there was a competitive nature to the activity, there was no “reward” for doing the activity faster.

March 15

A 2 Day in 5

This is a great activity I picked up from Catherine Morley‘s workshop on Dictation at the TESOL-SPAIN conference.  It’s similar to the Wacky Web Tales site, but uses a simpler story which students will find easy to understand.  You can find a downloadable version of the activity in the Games section on my Activities for your Classsroom page.

First, ask your students to write the following items in there notebook with the number next to it.

1. Favourite colour

2. Adjective to describe the weather

3. Favourite male (actor / singer / celebrity)

4. Boy’s name

5. Month

6. Type of transport

7. Animal

8. Food

9. Place (city / country)

10. Item of clothing

11. Place in a town (shop / building)

12. Activity (in the -ing form)

13. Object

14. Drink

15. Adjective to describe emotion

Then, tell them you are going to dictate a story to them and that when you say a number, they should complete the gap with the corresponding word.

It was a (2) day in (5).  I was in (9) and I was drinking some (14).  Suddenly, the phone rang.  It was (3) and his friends.  They were (15) because I was late.  So I put on my (1) (10) and picked up my (13).  I made sure that (4) the (7) had some (8) and left.  I quickly went by (6) to (11).  When I arrived I was surprised to see my friends were (12) there.

Students can then compare their stories.  For homework, they can decide what happens next.

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March 9


I’m going to try a dictogloss this afternoon with my PET class.  I don’t think I’ve done a dictogloss before, so I’m quite excited, though a little apprehensive as well.  I’m excited because it’s a new way to introduce the texts which are in Part 1 of the Reading Paper – rather than just handing them the texts, I’ll dictogloss the first one.  I’m apprehensive because I can envisage some interruptions and requests for me to repeat words and sentences and the Brit in me hates ignoring such things, even if I have explained before the activity starts that I won’t repeat anything.  Well, let’s see how it goes and if the students enjoy it 🙂

For those of you that don’t know how a dictogloss works, here’s what it involves:

  • Read a short text at normal speed and ask students to write down as much as they can, which will normally be the key words.
  • Students work in pairs to try and reconstruct the text
  • Read the text again so students can try and fill in any parts they’ve missed
  • Show them the complete text