8 ESL Dictation Exercises for Students

As an English speaker, you may have had dictation lessons in grade school. This was where the teacher read you a passage, and you had to copy it into your notebook, based on what you heard. Esl dictation is something like that.

8 ESL Dictation Exercises for you to use

1. Repeat a story

All over the Internet, you can find great short stories to dictate. One location is the British Council. They have lots of material, including hundreds of short stories and videos for all levels of ability.

While dictating the stories, you can use different variations. You might include a story that students can rearrange after they have completed dictation and jumble it. Students may also try to guess the last line of the story or leave out some words for other students to fill in later.

2. Ask questions

You can turn a comprehension activity into a dictation activity. You can pre-teach these words and vocabulary before students read the text to find out the answers.

3. Give them discussion sentences

Giving your students discussion questions at the beginning of class is a great way to get their speaking practice going. You could tell them the theme of the class. This also allows them to get a little writing practice.

This is a great starter activity. If you keep the exercise short, your students will get used to the task. Then, they will be able to try longer activities in the future.

4. Go to YouTube for songs and speeches

Use the internet to find a good speech, song, or poem to give to students. You can use YouTube to do this.

Your students can either watch the video and then do dictation. Or, they can do the dictation and watch to see what they got right and wrong. You could then make them try reading and practicing the speech after they have finished writing and listening to it.

5. Use fun games like Rip and Run

This is a great activity for lower grades.

Print out target short texts or sentences and stick them on your classroom wall. Then have them ‘walk’ or ‘run’ to the texts back to their teammates.

The point of the game is that students will have to remember the blocks of the dictation and then run back to their group. They relate the sentence to their teammate, who writes it down.

Then they switch and repeat the process. Winners are those who finish first.

6. Switch things up by having students read the dictation

Let your students be in charge of the class for a change.

Cut up the dictation passage and give out sentences to some of your students. They will read this to the class.

Through this exercise, students learn why pronunciation is important.

7. Complete the sentence

Read sentences that students can complete on their own. This is ideal if you’re practicing a grammar structure you just taught.

8. Solve the blank

Finally, you could explain play a game with students where you remove parts of the dictation passage. You replace those missing words with a sound or blank. Students must complete dictation, by choosing the word that fits the gap.

To Wrap Up: Picking the Best Dictation Passages

Don’t forget that the best esl dictation passages take into account your student’s ability level. It makes absolutely no sense to give them a passage that they are not capable of reading or understanding.

Before you start picking out your materials, take some time and decide what level of reading ability you are working with. The level of a student should help you determine how many difficulties you want to assign the dictation.

Otherwise, you and your students should have fun.

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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