- Key words: Dictation, repetition, fluency, interaction, discussion
- Learner English level: Novice - High and above (ACTFL scale)
- Learner maturity: Junior high school or higher
- Preparation time: 20-30 minutes
- Activity time: 30-40 minutes
Materials: A video clip, preferably a 5-7 minute complete story without dialogue, such as animated short films produced by Pixar studios (e.g., Presto, For the Birds, Geri’s Game, etc.). A short narrative that describes what is happening in the video. A classroom with video capabilities to show the completed narrative and the video. Lastly, a worksheet to guide discussion (see Appendix B for an example worksheet).
Learners complete a dictation from verbal input, group discussion, and video. The primary purpose is to draw learners’ attention to grammatical functions and deepen fluency through discussion and video. Students will mainly use listening and writing skills, in addition to speaking for interactive portions of the activity.
Step 1: Locate a suitable video (YouTube and Vimeo offer a wide selection) and divide it into two to three minute segments. It is important to choose something that the students find relevant and have interest in. Next, create a narrative for each segment that is appropriate to the level of your learners (an example can be found in Appendix A). Choose appropriate target language, vocabulary, sentence length, and overall script length.
Step 2: Prepare a laptop and projector to show the video to students.
Step 3: Print copies of the worksheet that will be used to guide dictation (an example can be found in Appendix B).
Step 1: Lead in with brainstorming about childhood stories or the video’s setting and storyline.
Step 2: Introduce the story. Tell students that they will transcribe the narrative in full.
Step 3: Distribute the worksheet to students
Step 4: Read the narrative to the students at a natural pace with natural pausing. Students only listen. Once finished, elicit words that the students understood and write them on the board.
Step 5: Read again while students take notes. Students will only be able to write short phrases. After the reading finishes, students will compare notes and hypotheses concerning the content of the story in pairs.
Step 6: Remind students that it is their responsibility to understand the content and complete the dictation. In this final reading, the students are allowed to use pre-taught phrases to control the teacher. For example, as the teacher reads, the students can interject with “Could you speak more slowly?”, “Could you repeat number ##?” or “How do you spell ________?” Once you reach the end of the story, reading is finished.
Step 7: Display the narrative script on the projector. Students check their scripts against the model. Differences should be marked in red to draw the students’ attention to common errors.
Step 8: Ask students some comprehension questions to confirm they understand the story. Follow up with some inference questions about what they think will happen next. Time should be made for discussion before taking answers.
Step 9: Lastly, present the video to the students. The teacher may decide to narrate the video as it plays.
Step 10: Have students complete the follow-up questions on the worksheet and discuss them in plenary.
Alternative Activities and Alterations
As a fluency development activity, students can also try to narrate the story in pairs as the video plays. Over several rounds, the speed of the video could be increased for an additional challenge.
With the inclusion of technology, group work, clear goals, and a degree of autonomy (controlling the teacher), it has been my experience that this activity intrinsically motivates students to focus on meaning and listening fluency, while maintaining the attention to linguistic form that is inherent in dictation activities. Also, using multiple segments over several classes can be useful for providing opportunities for discussion through the use of inference and review.
The appendices for this article are available below.