A teaching method commonly used in English lessons is dictating. I have to admit, I don’t do it much myself for two reasons; I hate the sound of my own voice (that Coventry twang really starts to get on your nerves after 23 years), and also my employers generally want to maximize student talking time (I think they’re actually just being very polite about telling me to shut up).
What is dictating?
For those of you fortunate enough to work in classrooms where the teacher is allowed to speak, dictating is probably a regular activity in your lessons. It involves reading a text to your students who are required to write down what you say. Sounds simple. There are some important rules to follow to make it beneficial, though:
- Choose a text that is suitable for your class in terms of ability and content
- Speak naturally and clearly
- Don’t allow the students to cheat by looking at their neighbor’s work
The traditional method for a dictation exercise is as follows:
- Read the entire text at normal speed
- Instruct the students to write down what you say, focusing on listening and content, not handwriting or spelling
- Read the text once more with a more deliberate allowance for writing time (i.e. pause at the end of each sentence)
- Read the text once more at normal speed (during which time the students can check their work)
- Check the content as a class or in groups, or finally handout a copy of the text to each student so that they can check their work
A better way to dictate
Some much more useful and interesting methods can be found in Mario Rinvolucri’s book ‘Humanising Your Coursebook’. Fortunately, cos we’re all too tight to buy a copy and make Mario a very rich man, some of his methods can be found online.
Some of the basic tips to making a dictating activity flow a bit more include:
- Rather than writing entire sentences of phrases, get students to fill in blanks
- Use the text as a way to enter a discussion
- Get students to make questions based on the text
There are, of course, advantages and disadvantages to this type of lesson, but most people will agree that dictating is a valid learning method when used correctly. Dictating is useful because it:
- Improves listening
- Improves handwriting and spelling
- Helps the students to think in English (by using the logical word/tense etc.)
- Keeps the class quiet and active for an entire lesson
- It’s easy to prepare (benefit to you)