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Dictations seem to be an underused commodity. One fun version is to paste the passage to be dictated on the wall outside the classroom door and have the students, who have been put into pairs, pass the information to each other. In other words, one student runs out, views the passage, commits a phrase to memory, runs back in and passes it orally to her partner. The partner transcribes it as best she can. No spelling out of words is allowed, and neither can the messenger look at what her partner is writing and help her correct it. The first team done gets fifty points, the second done gets 47, and so on. Then a point is subtracted for each mistake, so teams have to try to strike a balance between speed and accuracy. Another version is to divide the class into teams, and tape the passage to be dictated on the front board. The first player from each team runs up and gets a phrase from the board, and passes the phrase to the first person in line. The second player passes the phrase to the next, and so on to the end, where the last player in the row writes down what she hears. The same scoring rules apply. This is a notoriously difficult activity, so teams are best limited to 4 or 5 members. Dictations like this exercise a lot of skills simultaneously, so students are easily engrossed in the action. If chosen well, the passage itself can be the source of a follow-up activity. One suggested to me was a (very short) cryptic story that ended with the puzzler, 'Why was John fired?' It could also be a springboard for a discussion on anything at all, which could lead to the introduction of a tense or grammar point, or wherever the teacher wants to go with it.
Name: David Ayer
Location: Toronto, ON Canada
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