Distance Dictation

Mathew Hollinshead, Kanda University of International Studies

Quick Guide

  • Keywords: Presentation skills, consciousness-raising, pronunciation, dictation
  • Learner English level: Intermediate and above
  • Learner maturity: Any
  • Preparation time: 10 minutes
  • Activity time: 15-20 minutes
  • Materials: Handouts prepared in advance (see appendix)

This activity is a great consciousness-raising activity requiring students to think about what is required to effectively communicate when giving a presentation. It does this by deliberately creating an environment in which communication is hampered. Students are placed at a distance from each other and are then asked to work in pairs to complete an information-gap activity. The students naturally use various strategies to overcome the distance and noise of their classmates. They then reflect on these strategies, eventually arriving at the three key ingredients of ‘eyes, voice, and body’ when giving a presentation.


Step 1: Print copies of handout (see appendix). Teachers can use those in the appendix or prepare their own to suit their requirements. Half of the handouts should be those for “Student A” and the other half for “Student B”. 


Step 1: Students choose a partner and sit together.

Step 2: The teacher gives a copy of the “Student A” handout to one student, and the “Student B” handout to their partner.  

Step 3: Students move the desks so that they are sitting opposite each other but as far away across the classroom as possible. 

Step 4: Explain to the students they have to share the information on their handout with their partners. The information is different but concerns the same topic. While one student reads, their partner must write down what they hear (depending on the class, this could be made into a race. However, students tend to naturally adopt such a mentality on their own).

Step 5: Students complete the activity. The classroom almost always gets very loud and the students enthusiastic. This requires students to use good eye contact and gestures in addition to a loud clear voice. 

Step 6: Students now return their desks to the original position and check their written dictation against their partner’s original text.

Step 7: In groups of four, the teacher asks students to reflect on the strategies they used to communicate with each other. Students share their ideas with their groupmates and then think of three broad categories into which their strategies might be organized. The teacher can decide whether the categories of ‘eyes, body, and voice’ are pre-taught in a previous lesson or introduced for the first time in this lesson.     

Step 8: In a class discussion, the teacher elicits the answers from each group. Although these will obviously vary, it is usually quite easy for the teacher to sort these answers into the target categories. 

Step 9: Finally, the teacher now gives a short presentation on how these categories identify the key skills the students will need to think about when giving a presentation. It is also a good opportunity for the teacher to encourage the students by showing them that they already possess and use many of these skills.    


The above activity is one that students appear to really enjoy. It enables students to focus solely on communication and completing their task before drawing them back to the real-life necessity of skills that they use quite naturally. The realization that they already possess and use many of the required skills has the tendency to remove some of the burden of giving a presentation in English for students. 


The appendices are available below: