A short activity that can be used as a warmer or filler to review language that has already been covered in class. Any model of mobile phone can be used for this activity.

Level: Beginner (A1) +
Interaction: pairs, whole class
Aim: To review language and vocabulary via a dictation activity.
Language focus: any
Technology: students’ mobile phones

Before the class

Check whether all your students have mobile phones. This activity is suitable for low-end phones, so the most basic mobile phones can be used. If students don’t all have a mobile phone, put them in pairs for the activity with one phone per pair. If you would like to do the Variation (see below), then check what data plans your students have and whether sending SMS messages is free for them.

Prepare a short text for dictation, based on work you have recently done in class or choose a short text from an earlier unit in the coursebook. Around 30-40 words is ideal. For beginners, around 25-30 words is enough.


1. Tell students you are going to give them a short dictation. Rather than writing the dictation on paper, they will take the dictation in a text/SMS message.

2. Tell students to simply listen the first time and keep their phones in their pockets. Read your text slowly and clearly once. Ask students to take out their phones. Then read the text again, saying each sentence twice and pausing to give the students time to key the dictation into an SMS message on their mobile phone.

3. Show students the dictation text (on the board, on a handout or in the coursebook) so that they can correct their own work in their SMS messages. Once corrected, they should save their SMS message as a draft but not send it. This is to avoid any associated costs with sending SMS messages.

4. Ask students to individually look through the last two or three units from the coursebook and choose a short text of 30-40 words to dictate to their partner. Put students in pairs and ask them to dictate their chosen texts while their partner keys the dictation into a new SMS message.

5. Tell students to check their dictations against the original text in the coursebook and make any necessary corrections in their SMS message. Once corrected, they should save their SMS message as a draft without sending it.

Follow up

If you would like to do some work on texting conventions (or ’text speak’) in English, ask students to work in pairs to transform your dictation from step 2 above into text speak, also in an SMS message. Check with the whole class by eliciting and writing the text-speak version of the dictation onto the board. Students should correct their SMS text-speak dictations and also save these to their mobile phones as drafts.


If your students can send SMS messages for free (see Before the class above), then in step 5 students can send their dictations to their partner. The partner needs to correct the SMS dictation from memory without referring to the coursebook and then send it back. A final check can be carried out by the student by comparing his/her dictation to the coursebook.

Mobile English