If you’re looking for a fun and engaging 4-skills ESL activity, then look no further than running dictation. This ESL dictation activity is ideal for children as well as adults and from beginner to advanced. Try out this fun ESL dictation exercise today.
Let’s get into all the details you need to know about one of the best ESL dictation activities to try out.
Running Dictation ESL Activity
Running dictation is a classic ESL game because it’s fun, covers all 4 skills in a single activity and it also gets students up out of their seats and moving around. It’s like the gold-standard of games! You can use it for adults, university students, kids-whoever!
My variation of running dictation addresses the biggest negative of it—the yelling and cuts it out completely. Don’t worry—no more angry teachers in neighbouring classrooms!
It’s perfect for just about any topic as long as you’re able to have a conversation about it. This covers anything and everything, right? In particular, it’s a nice likes dislikes game or it works well for ESL months of the year.
How to Do Running Dictation
Time: 10-20 minutes
Level: Beginner to Advanced, 8+
Materials Required for this Dictation Activity: Printed sentences, blu-tack
Running dictation requires a bit of prep before students arrive. Ideally, you will have two areas: one for the sentences to be posted, and another for the “secretaries” to sit and write. Runners can only dictate, they cannot write for the secretary. Spelling words out is fine.
You need to emphasize to the runners that they can only whisper to their partners and not speak in a normal voice. If you let students speak in their normal voices, they will start shouting from across the room. I have a one-strike policy—any voice above a whisper and the game is over for that team.
Students should be divided into two main groups: runners/dictators and secretaries. The runners will find the sentence strips/story, and will memorize as much as they can.
Then, they will run back to their secretary and dictate what they remember. They will repeat running and dictating until they have correctly dictated the entire passage.
Then, they have to check with the teacher to make sure it’s correct. I usually have a prize for the first and second teams in this dictation exercise.
Running Dictation Game Variation for Higher and Lower-Level Students
It’s easy to adapt this to whatever level of students you have. Of course, you can always vary the level of the ESL dictation passage that you choose. Beyond that though, there are other ways to adapt this ESL dictation exercise. Here are some of the ways to do that.
For lower-level students, I use individual sentences unrelated to each other, one sentence per strip, using vocabulary and grammar from the lesson. Even 2-3 sentences might be a challenge for some students.
A Bit More Difficult
I make the activity more challenging by using sentence strips which must be dictated, then arranged correctly into a dialogue or story at the end.
Emphasize to students that they need to make sure they have ALL of the sentences (6, 8, etc.).
Even More Difficult
Another way to make the activity more challenging is to post the passage intact, but use a letter or a list, so the runner must dictate the proper layout as well. Students can try to remember as much as they want per reading.
Variation for Multiple Classes
I have even done this activity with multiple classes (ages) at the same time by using different colored paper for the strips. Each team was told which color paper to look for.
I posted the strips in three classrooms, and the secretaries were located in the fourth classroom. I have even hidden some of the strips under desks to make it more like a treasure hunt.
Try out this ESL Dictation Activity for Yourself!
Try out Running Dictation for yourself! It’s the best activity that covers all 4-skills in a fun, active, challenging way. Students love it and it has some serious educational value. There isn’t much not to love.
ESL Teaching Tips for Running Dictation:
- I suggest this activity for ages 8 and up, but really, your students need to be able to write without visually copying. If your students are older than 8, but still are not able to write from dictation, this is not an appropriate activity for them.
- For safety, you should ensure that students don’t actually run. Instead, you can mention that quick walking (or regular walking) is what you expect.
- Make sure that the text is easy to read (24-point font or so works well). But, don’t make it too big that the people sitting down can read it!
- Make a rule that whoever is dictating cannot touch the pen or pencil! They only want they can help their teammate is by talking.
Procedure for the Running Dictation Game:
- Before students arrive, prepare the classroom, by moving the desks into a “secretary area” and leaving an open area for students to run back and forth. In the open area, post the sentence strips or story on the wall.
- When students arrive, divide them into pairs.
- Have one student from each pair sit with a pencil and paper. Have the other run back and forth between the sentence strips and their partner, until they have dictated the entire passage. Emphasize that students must only whisper but not talk or yell.
- You may need to remind students periodically that the runner can spell aloud, but cannot write anything.
- If the sentence strips form a story, have the partners work together to correctly order the sentences.
- Check to make sure it’s correct. If it’s not, the team has to keep working on it. But, I generally make a rule that they can only check with me twice in order to prevent random guessing.
- Finally, have a volunteer read the entire passage while the other groups check their work.
Learn More About Running Dictation
Check out this short video to see one of the best ESL dictation activities in action:
Where to Get ESL Dictation Passages?
If you want to do this activity in your class, you may want to know where to get the dictation passages. Remember that you can use:
- Unrelated sentences
- A conversation
- A story of some kind, sentence by sentence
Generally, I’ll get them straight of the textbook we’re using. There are often conversations or short readings that lend themselves perfectly to this kind of thing.
Otherwise, I’ll write my own dialogue or story in just a few minutes. You can spend time searching around online for a passage, but this is often more trouble than it’s worth.
ESL Dictation Passages: Even More Resources
If you’re looking for dictation passages for ESL, then you may want to consider checking out some of these excellent resources:
ESL Dictation Exercises
Running dictation is a good way to get our students to practice listening, writing, spelling and punctuation skills. However, there are even more dictation ESL exercises, activities and games to consider. Here are a few more ideas:
- Dictating a short story.
- Instead of giving students a list of questions to talk with a partner about, have them dictate them first.
- Dictating a speech from YouTube (and then translate it into their first language?).
- Students dictate the first part of the sentence and then fill in the second half with their own ideas.
Running Dictation Game FAQs
There are a number of common questions that people have about this ESL dictation exercise. Here are the answers to some of the most popular ones.
What is a running dictation game?
Running dictation is a language learning activity where one person dictates a passage to another person, who then runs to write it down.
How is the running dictation game played?
One person reads a passage aloud while another person listens and runs to write it down. The goal is to complete the passage accurately in the shortest time.
What skills does the running dictation game enhance?
Running dictation improves listening, reading, writing, and teamwork skills.
Can the running dictation game be adapted for different levels?
Yes, the difficulty of the passage can be adjusted to suit different language proficiency levels.
What materials are needed for a running dictation game?
You need a passage written on a paper, a space for moving around, and writing materials.
How can errors be corrected in the running dictation game?
Errors can be corrected by re-listening to the dictated passage, collaborating with teammates, and making necessary changes.
What’s the benefit of the physical activity in this game?
The physical activity adds an element of excitement and engagement, helping to reinforce learning through movement.
Did you like this ESL Dictation Exercise?
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 148 Pages - 03/09/2016 (Publication Date)
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Have your Say about ESL Dictation Exercises!
What’s your favourite, 4-skills ESL or EFL activity? Have you tried out this ESL dictation activity with your students? Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts. We’d love to hear from you.
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Last update on 2022-10-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API