I remember doing French dictations at school, with Mrs Robinson's voice echoing in my head, and my own, giving my hand instructions about accents and verb endings. It was a solitary pursuit, essentially involving the setting down of letters one by one in light blue ink in my careful schoolgirl hand.
How different to a dictogloss, where the dictation comes of age in the communicative classroom.
I think I first came across dictogloss under another name, "grammar dictation", in a book of that title by Ruth Wajnryb in the Oxford Resource Books for Teachers series. The method consists of getting learners to reconstruct a dictated text in a grammatically acceptable form. First the learners work individually to take notes. They then get together in small groups to pool their ideas and work towards a final version.
In his introduction to Wajnryb's book, Alan Maley writes: "The approach is especially interesting for the way it reconciles certain apparent oppositions such as the new interest in grammar and the need for interactive learning; and the achievement of accuracy through fluency activities. The final product is important ..., but the individual and group process is integral in moulding and shaping it."
Recently I attended two dictogloss workshops with Rolf Tynan, whose procedure I've drawn on below. If you've never attempted a dictogloss before, I urge you to try it out. It's one of those magic classroom activities that seems to be more than the sum of its parts.
Who it's for:
What it's for:
What you need:
A short article or extract from Spotlight, probably no more than 10 sentences long.
What you do:
Read the text aloud at normal speed, while the students just listen.
Tell the students that they will hear the text again and should take notes on key words and phrases. I suggest that students take a new sheet of A4 paper in order to write their notes double-spaced and with room between words to add more. Tell them that they will later have to reconstruct the text they have heard, but not necessarily using exactly the same grammar, and not on their own.
Read the text aloud a second time, at just about normal speed, but with a couple of seconds' pause between sentences. Don't be tempted to read too slowly, as some students will be able to write at the same speed, which defeats the object of the exercise.
Your students will now no doubt complain that they didn't get much information written down. Put them into groups of three or four, and tell them to rewrite the text together. Remind them that it doesn't have to be an exact replica. It should, however, be grammatically correct and tell the same story as the original.
Give students all the time they need to come up with their version. Listen in, but don't go round and help.
When all groups are finished, one member of each group can visit another group and take a look at their version, and then report back to his or her group.
Rolf Tynan suggests that, at this stage, the teacher can look at the students' versions and mark the number of grammatical errors in each sentence for the students to correct.
After a short break, start the extended feedback round. There are various ways of conducting this: using photocopies, an overhead projector or a board, but whichever way you choose, you'll need to look at each version of each sentence in turn, so make sure you plan in enough time for this.
The students get to see the original only when their own versions have been discussed, either on a sentence-by-sentence basis or in its complete form at the end.