ESL Dictations

Dictation Detectives

ESL Dictation Activity - Listening, Speaking and Writing - Elementary - 20 minutes

In this amusing dictation activity, students transcribe a text and replace humorous or nonsense words with the correct vocabulary. Dictate the text to the students who transcribe what you say word for word, including the funny or nonsense words. Repeat the dictation as needed until the students have completed the text. Next, put the students into pairs and set a time limit. Working with their partner, students replace the nonsense words in the text with the correct vocabulary. Afterwards, go through the correct answers with the class. Pairs score one point for each correct target word. The pair with the most points at the end wins.
 

Dictation Player

ESL Dictation Activity - Listening, Speaking and Writing - Elementary - 20 minutes

Here is an engaging ESL dictation activity for young students. In pairs, one student is the 'reader' and the other is the 'writer'. Stand outside the classroom with the text you want to dictate. On the floor in front of you, place five media control symbols: stop, pause, play, fast forward and rewind. The readers run to you, stand on the 'play' symbol and you begin to read the text. When the students have remembered the first sentence, they stand on 'pause', run back and tell their partner who writes the sentence down. When the students are halfway through, have them swap roles. Add in fast forward and rewind sound effects as a bit of fun. You should act like a media player only reacting when someone presses the controls. Hopefully, students will remember to press stop. When the students have finished, go through the text together as a class and have the students check for grammar or spelling mistakes.
 

Dictogram

ESL Dictation Activity - Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking - Any Level - 20 minutes

In this ESL dictation, students work together to recreate a dictated text. Dictate a text to the students three times. The first time you read the text, have the students work alone and listen for the general gist, writing down only keywords. The second time, have the students turn the keywords into phrases. The third time you dictate the text, the students try to write complete sentences. Next, in teams of four, students work together to come up with the complete text. When the teams have reconstructed the text, have them write their sentences on the board. Award one point for each correct sentence. The team with the most points wins.
 

Disorganized Dictations

ESL Dictation Game - Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking Activity - Any Level - 40 minutes

In this student-centered dictation game, students write a text and dictate it in a random order for other students to transcribe and rearrange. Provide an example of the type of text you want the students to produce and review it as a class. In teams of four or five, students then write a similar text. Students then cut up the text so each team member has an equal part. Next, teams take it in turns to come to the front of the class and dictate their text to the other teams in a random order. The other teams listen, transcribe the text, and then race to rearrange it correctly. The first team to put up their hands and read the text in the correct order wins and scores one point. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins.
 

Error Message

ESL Dictation Activity - Listening and Writing - Any Level - 20 minutes

This error correction dictation activity is useful for reviewing grammar or vocabulary recently covered in class. Dictate a text that contains errors to the class. Working alone, students listen and write down what they hear. As they listen, students look out for any errors and make the necessary corrections as they transcribe the dictation. When the dictation is complete, students compare their text with a partner to see if they have spotted the same errors and corrected them in the same way. To review the dictation, have the students read out their corrected versions of the text and review the corrections with the class as they are made. Lastly, dictate the whole text one more time as a final check.
 

Ordering Dictation

ESL Dictation Activity - Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking - Any Level - 25 minutes

Here is a simple but fun variation of one of the most popular ESL dictation activities - running dictation. In pairs, one student is the 'reader' and the other is the 'writer'. The readers run to a part of the text, read a sentence or two, remember it, run back and dictate it to their writer, who listens and writes down what the reader says. Halfway through, have the students swap roles. When the pairs have finished the dictation, they put the parts in the correct order to complete the text. If the text is correct, pairs sit down and answer comprehension questions about the text. If the text is wrong, students continue with the dictation to find and correct their mistakes. Afterwards, review the correct order of the text and answers to the questions with the class.
 

Picture Dictation

ESL Dictation Activity - Listening, Speaking and Drawing - Elementary and Above - 20 minutes

This picture dictation can be used to help students practice describing and prepositions of place. In pairs. one student describes a picture to their partner who listens and draws the picture, according to their partner's instructions. When the students have finished, they compare the two pictures. Afterwards, the students swap roles and describe a new picture.
 

Question Dictation

ESL Dictation Activity - Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking - Any Level - 20 minutes

This fun ESL dictation is ideal for reading comprehension practice. Stick numbered comprehension questions about a text you have given the students in different places outside the classroom. In pairs, one student is the 'reader' and the other is the 'writer'. The reader runs to question number one, remembers it, goes back and tells the writer who listens and writes the question down. The pair then reads the text together to find the answer to the question. Once a pair has the answer, they write it down next to the question and show it to you. If the question and answer are correct, the pair moves onto question two. If not, the pair goes back to find their mistake. This process is repeated until all the questions have been answered correctly. The first pair of students to finish wins.
 

Running Dictation

ESL Running Dictation Activity - Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking - Any Level - 20 minutes

Here is one of the most popular types of ESL dictation. In pairs, one student is the 'reader' and the other is the 'writer'. The readers run to a text which is stuck on a wall outside the classroom, read a sentence or two, remember it, run back and tell their writer. The writer listens and writes down what the reader says. Halfway through the students swap roles. While the students are doing the dictation, write some questions based on the text on the board. When a pair has completed the text, check for any spelling or grammar mistakes. If the text is correct, have the pair sit down and answer the questions about the text. If the text is wrong, students continue with the dictation to find and correct their mistakes. Afterwards, review the text and answers to the questions with the class.
 

Shouting Dictation

ESL Dictation Activity - Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking - Any Level - 20 minutes

This ESL dictation helps students with their communication and listening skills. Students sit in two rows facing their partner. Student A starts by reading the first part of their text to Student B who listens and writes down what they hear. When Student A has finished reading, the two students swap roles and Student B reads their part of the text to Student A. This continues until the text is complete. Students have to listen very carefully to understand their partner as everyone will be talking at once and working at different paces. The activity can get quite noisy, but it's a lot of fun for students. When everyone has finished, have the pairs of students sit together and go through their texts to check for spelling mistakes and misunderstood words.
 

Silent Dictation

ESL Dictation Activity - Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking - Any Level - 20 minutes

In this amusing ESL dictation, students dictate a text to a partner by whispering. Students sit in two rows facing their partner. Student A starts by whispering the first part of their text to Student B who listens and writes what they think their partner is saying. Student A can spell the words in the air for clarity. When Student A has finished, Student B starts whispering their text and so on. This continues until the text is complete. When the students have finished, have them go through their text with their partner to check for misunderstood words and spelling mistakes.
 

Student-Centered Dictation

ESL Dictation Activity - Listening and Writing - Any Level - 25 minutes

This student-centered homework dictation activity provides students with the opportunity to practice their listening skills independently. Provide the students with an audio or video file. This can be an MP3 or YouTube video. Ask the students to transcribe the speech into text for homework. At home, students then work at their own pace to listen and transcribe the speech into text, replaying the file as often as needed. In the next class, review the text with the class and follow up as required.
 

What are the Questions?

ESL Dictation Activity - Listening and Writing - Any Level - 20 minutes

In this engaging dictation activity, students transcribe part of a dialogue where they only hear answers to questions. The students then formulate and write down the questions that were asked to complete the dialogue. Dictate the answers that are given in the dialogue to the students who transcribe them word for word individually. Next, in pairs, students formulate and write down the questions they think were asked. Afterwards, go through the correct answers with the class. Pairs score one point for each appropriate question. The questions do not have to be exactly the same as in the dialogue but should match the answers. The pair with the most points at the end wins. Afterwards, students role-play the dialogue, taking turns to be the person asking the questions.
 
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