Number one for English language teachers

Teenagers: Writing: Dictogloss

Type: Reference material

An activity with a focus on communicating meaning and using correct grammar.

This is a type of dictation, but I find my students don’t groan when we do it like this!

  • Choose an interesting or amusing passage, with grammar and vocabulary items that your students are quite familiar with. Some unknown vocabulary is actually good, as they need to try to make sense of the ‘whole’ meaning.

  • Read the passage out at normal speed twice. The first time students just listen, the second time they can make notes.

  • In pairs or small groups, students have to share what they remember and attempt to write a version of the passage that remains true to the original’s meaning and has correct grammar, but does not have to be exactly the same.

I get students to write their versions on OHTs and we all look at them together and decide if they are similar in meaning to the original and if we think the grammar is right.

They do not worry about content, as this is provided, but concentrate on the communication of message and good grammar.

This is a passage I use with teenagers and adults around FCE level. It is a true story, which adds motivation to listen:

A few years ago, at the Seattle Special Olympics, nine contestants, all physically or mentally disabled, assembled at the starting line for the 100-yard dash.

At the gun, they all started out, not exactly in a dash, but with a relish to run the race to the finish and win. All, that is, except one little boy who stumbled on the asphalt, tumbled over a couple of times, and began to cry.

The other eight heard the boy cry. They slowed down and looked back. Then they all turned around and walked back. Every one of them. One girl bent down and kissed him and said, ‘This will make it better’. Then all nine linked arms and walked together to the finish line.

Everyone in the stadium stood, and the cheering went on for several minutes.

Some interesting discussion on the nature of competition and cooperation may come out of this. Choose a passage that you feel your students will respond well to. I have also chosen gruesome newspaper stories to grab the attention of those rather macho teen boys!!

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