Running dictation for pronunciation practice

Duncan Minett-Westwood, Westgate Corporation


Quick guide

  • Keywords:Dictation, pronunciation, listening, emergency language, groupwork, peer correction.
  • Learner English level:Beginner and above
  • Learner maturity:Elementary and above
  • Preparation time:20 minutes
  • Activity time:20-30 minutes
  • Materials:Printed copies of dictation


Running Dictation is a versatile activity thatbecame more widely known following the publication of a book called Dictation (Davis & Rinvolucri, 1988). In my experience it generates a lot of excitement and encourages whole class participation with each student fulfilling a variety of roles. I have found it useful for language skills practice following the study of a specific language area, such as a pronunciation or grammar point.


Step 1:Create a text that contains words which you have taught the pronunciation of and others which are similar. If you have practiced difficult consonant and vowel sounds in class, then examples of minimal pairs could be used. For Japanese speakers l and r are perhaps the most difficult sounds to perfect and examples of minimal pairs include red/led, read/lead, wrong/long, and right/light. There are numerous websites listing minimal pairs and some are created for Japanese speakers, (see below for example websites, and Appendix A for a text that I have created to practice the l and r differences).

Step 2: Print enough copies for your teams and for yourself.


Step 1:Divide the class into groups of between three and five students.

Step 2:Explain that students will have to copy a text that will be placed at the back of the classroom (or outside the class if possible). Although it is a race, they must correct any mistakes before they can finish. There will be one runner, one writer, and one or more observers at any one time, but they will change roles often. Only one student can go to read the text at a time (the runner). They should try to remember about five words (this can vary according to level) from the text, and say them to another student who copies them (the writer). Remind students to focus on their pronunciation. Students can use “emergency language” to help (e.g., “Can you repeat that, please?”), but not Japanese! Other students observe and help if they can. If the runner forgets their words they may go back and read them again.

Step 3: The writer now becomes the runner, the observer becomes the writer, and the runner becomes the observer.

Step 4: The groups repeat step 3 until they have copied the whole text. They ask the teacher to check their text. The teacher tells them how many mistakes have been made. Teams must repeat step 3 until all the mistakes have been corrected.

Step 5: Record the order in which teams finish. As some teams will complete the task faster than others, you can ask questions to check comprehension, so using an interesting story or topic for the text is a good idea.

Step 6: Follow the task with a feedback session on the pronunciation. Highlight any words thatgave students a lot of trouble, and comment on the overall quality of the pronunciation.

Step 7: When the class is over, students should leave in the order in which their teams completed the task. This is a simple reward thatencourages participation in the task.


This activity can also be used with homophones. Though this is not pronunciation practice, it does teach students that they must focus on many things (e.g., parts of speech, comprehension) when listening. See Appendix B for a sample text that I have created using, there, they’re, and their.


In my experience, this activity helps to put pronunciation activities in a positive and interesting light. I have also found that it helps to give students situations in which they will need to use emergency language. This activity can be repeated a number of times in a semester as new words are learnt and reinforcement is required.

Useful websites


Davis, P. & Rinvolucri, M. (1988). Dictation: New methods, new possibilities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Appendix A


The sky was red in the morning when he led his dog on a walk. The dog was trying to lead him when he was trying to read his paper. He went along with the dog, but took a wrong turn right at the light, so he went the long way home.

On the long way home he saw an arrow on a low bridge that pointed right with a sign in red that read “Dog for sale.” So he went along, saw the red dog and gave its belly a rub. But he couldn’t leave because his dog was in love. So he bought the red dog and they both led him home where he read his paper at last.

Appendix B

There they are! They’re running out of the bank with bags in their hands! Their car is just there and they’re getting in. They will take the gold to their hotel where they will change their car and go to their houses over there in the hills.

Quick, call the police! They’re going to catch them! They will get in their cars and chase them to their hotel to stop them from going to their houses over there in the hills. Then the robbers over there will have their hands in the air. They’re not going to get their way!