A Double Dictation Challenge

Steve Hampshire, Fukuyama City University

Quick Guide

  • Key words: Simultaneous dictation, listening for / writing specific information 
  • Learner English level: Pre-intermediate and above
  • Learner maturity: 3rd Year Junior High and above
  • Preparation time: 10 minutes 
  • Activity time: 15 minutes per set 
  • Materials: Reader texts / listener’s question sheet (three sets supplied; see Appendices)   

Being able to pick out specific information against a background of often intrusive noise is an important listening skill. The better we are at it the more effective listeners we become. The ‘Double dictation challenge’ is a timed intensive listening activity designed to put these listening skills to the test! Students are arranged into groups of three. Students one and two are tasked with reading out loud continuously and simultaneously (with the aid of different supplied texts) to student three, whose challenge is to listen for and write down specific bits of information to complete a question sheet, all within a pre-set time limit. My students find this ‘dictation with a difference’ challenging, useful and fun. I trust yours will too!


Copy one set of readers’ texts A and B and the listener’s question sheet for each group of three students (see Appendices).                                                                                                                                                                      


Step 1: Divide the class into groups of three and assign the roles of readers and listener / writer.                                                     

Step 2: Give text A to student one and B to student two. Give student three the question sheet.                                                                        Step 3: Explain the task as follows:   

  • Students one and two simultaneously read their respective texts at a steady pace to student three.
  • Students one and two, when reaching the end of their text, begin reading from the top again as in a loop tape. This continues until the time allotted by the teacher is up.
  • Student three listens out for specific information required to complete the question sheet.  
  • Student three is by no account allowed to look at the texts.                                                                                                

Step 4: Give students a minute or so to look at their texts / question sheets, read them through, and check any pronunciation issues or vocabulary issues. 

Step 5: Set a time limit for the dictation (about five minutes for the supplied texts) and conduct the activity.  

Step 6: To conclude the activity, either the listener relays the information they have gathered back to the readers for checking, or alternatively the readers can ask the listener questions based on their texts.  

Optional additions

  • The writer can control the speakers simultaneously by saying “Stop”, “Start” and / or other agreed commands.    
  • This function can only be activated after the first full reading of the texts.
  • This function can only be activated (five) times!   
  • Get all the students to stand during the activity to simulate being in a busy public space. The listener will need something to rest their question sheet on.  
  • Extension: This activity can be repeated if required (see appendices) so all your students have a chance to test their listening skills.
  • Variation: Use competing audio or video sources.


Not only does this activity present an interesting angle on dictation it also provides valuable practice in reading /speaking and listening /writing. ‘A double dictation’ is also a highly flexible activity which can be easily adapted to suit a wide range of learner levels and age groups.  


The appendices are available below.