A short dictation for listening and vocabulary building.

This exercise can be adapted depending on age, level or subject. The example below uses general vocabulary and is in the past simple and past continuous.


  • The teacher writes the list below on the board and tells the students to write against each number what applies to them e.g.:
    1. Blue
    2. Snowy
    3. Elvis Presley
    4. etc.
  • Once completed the teacher explains that he/she is going to dictate a story but when a number is read out the student writes in the word on the list that corresponds to that number.
  • The students could have something like this: It was a snowy day in August. I was in the cinema and I was drinking some champagne. Suddenly the phone rang. It was Elvis Presley …
  • The students then read out their versions. Apart from being amusing the teacher can check whether the student has heard correctly. This is why the dictation should not be too long.

The exercise does not work when the students read the piece as they have time to change the word to fit the sentence. The pleasure is in discovering how it can be ridiculous but still respect the grammar and punctuation of the piece.


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


1. Favourite colour
2. Adjective for the weather
3. Favourite actor/singer
4. Favourite boy’s/girl’s name
5. Favourite month
6. Favourite transport
7. Favourite animal
8. Favourite food
9. Favourite place (town/country etc.)
10. Favourite article of clothing
11. Favourite shop
12. Favourite action (in ‘ing’ form)
13. Favourite object
14. Favourite drink
15. An emotion

Extra resources

Jim Scrivener with lots of ideas on using dictation in EFL/ ESL from the Teacher's Tips section.

An article from the Internet TESL Journal on dictation as a language learning device including bibliography: http://iteslj.org/Techniques/Alkire-Dictation.html