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Dictation

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by spsmith45, Nov 13, 2010.

  1. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter

    Here's something I wrote on my blog today. I'd be inetersted to hear other angles on it, especially from French teachers.
    "OK. I start from the premiss that dictation is a very useful activity
    when you teach French. It has clear educational value and is very easy
    to prepare. We should have happily dropped the notion that dictation is a
    bad activity because it is not authentic or not like real
    communication. "Running dictation", when you get children to work in
    pairs, with one partner "fetching" the text pinned up somewhere in the
    room and delivering to their scribe partner, is quite fashionable at the
    moment. I use it from time to time. I also use traditional dictation,
    each phrase read twice, punctuation given, with a final read-through for
    checking.



    Which is better?



    In favour of traditional dictée:



    1. Pupils hear a better model of French.

    2. Concentration of pupils is good for long periods.Good for class discipline.

    3. Point 1 means that pupils develop a better notion of the relationship between sounds, spellings, morphology and syntax.

    4. Pupils often quite enjoy it.



    Against:



    1. It is very passive. Some pupils do not like it particularly.

    2. Although it involves listening and thinking, there is no speaking.



    In favour of running dictation:



    1. Pupils are speaking as well as listening.

    2. They get quite excited and competitive about it. It's fun for them.

    3. It's physically active. Good for restless children.

    4. Pupils help each other e.g. they spell in French to each other.



    Against:



    1. Pupils hear poor models of pronunciation so may develop a poorer sense of sound/grammar/spelling relationships.



    My conclusion:



    I use both depending on whether I wish to emphasise the fun side or the
    "hard work" side. If I wish to calm a class, I'll use formal dictée. If I want to excite the class, we do running dictation.



    Of course, there are other ways of doing dictation, including simple
    paired dictation at the desk (which could be in the form of taking a
    phone message, to make it a little more fun.)



    Paul Davis and Mario Rinvoluci wrote a book called Dictation (Cambridge
    University Press, 1988). One idea a colleague of mine used, which
    appears in the book, was to do dictation with the whole class, but let
    them decide when you pause or "rewind". Never tried it. Sounded too
    chaotic for my taste. I guess you could do whispered dication in pairs.
    Could be fun, but would devalue a key element in the process, namely
    hearing French.



    Here is one idea from the Davis and Rinvoluci book:





    Give students a sheet marked rather like this:



    _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ . _ _ - _ _ _ _ _ _? etc etc. This gives them more clues when doing the piece.



    Also, there is nothing wrong with single word dictation for beginners who are having trouble getting spelling sorted out."

    http://frenchteachernet.blogspot.com
     
  2. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter

    Here's something I wrote on my blog today. I'd be inetersted to hear other angles on it, especially from French teachers.
    "OK. I start from the premiss that dictation is a very useful activity
    when you teach French. It has clear educational value and is very easy
    to prepare. We should have happily dropped the notion that dictation is a
    bad activity because it is not authentic or not like real
    communication. "Running dictation", when you get children to work in
    pairs, with one partner "fetching" the text pinned up somewhere in the
    room and delivering to their scribe partner, is quite fashionable at the
    moment. I use it from time to time. I also use traditional dictation,
    each phrase read twice, punctuation given, with a final read-through for
    checking.



    Which is better?



    In favour of traditional dictée:



    1. Pupils hear a better model of French.

    2. Concentration of pupils is good for long periods.Good for class discipline.

    3. Point 1 means that pupils develop a better notion of the relationship between sounds, spellings, morphology and syntax.

    4. Pupils often quite enjoy it.



    Against:



    1. It is very passive. Some pupils do not like it particularly.

    2. Although it involves listening and thinking, there is no speaking.



    In favour of running dictation:



    1. Pupils are speaking as well as listening.

    2. They get quite excited and competitive about it. It's fun for them.

    3. It's physically active. Good for restless children.

    4. Pupils help each other e.g. they spell in French to each other.



    Against:



    1. Pupils hear poor models of pronunciation so may develop a poorer sense of sound/grammar/spelling relationships.



    My conclusion:



    I use both depending on whether I wish to emphasise the fun side or the
    "hard work" side. If I wish to calm a class, I'll use formal dictée. If I want to excite the class, we do running dictation.



    Of course, there are other ways of doing dictation, including simple
    paired dictation at the desk (which could be in the form of taking a
    phone message, to make it a little more fun.)



    Paul Davis and Mario Rinvoluci wrote a book called Dictation (Cambridge
    University Press, 1988). One idea a colleague of mine used, which
    appears in the book, was to do dictation with the whole class, but let
    them decide when you pause or "rewind". Never tried it. Sounded too
    chaotic for my taste. I guess you could do whispered dication in pairs.
    Could be fun, but would devalue a key element in the process, namely
    hearing French.



    Here is one idea from the Davis and Rinvoluci book:





    Give students a sheet marked rather like this:



    _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ . _ _ - _ _ _ _ _ _? etc etc. This gives them more clues when doing the piece.



    Also, there is nothing wrong with single word dictation for beginners who are having trouble getting spelling sorted out."

    http://frenchteachernet.blogspot.com
     
  3. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter

    I forgot to include that dictationcan be tailored very precisely to the class in front of you and is excellent for revision, once vocab and structures have been taught and practised.
     
  4. noemie

    noemie Occasional commenter

    I'd never done a proper dictée until a couple of months ago with Y11, when a previous poster criticized it as an example of poor, boring teaching. I suddenly realised that with written controlled assessment, it made sense to use it to reinforce proof-reading, particularly with French past tense verb endings, with so many sounding the same. I made up a text to do with the topic we were studying, trying to get as many tricky grammar points as possible. I think my pupils got something out of it, but aside from teaching proof-reading tips, I haven't really used it. They liked it because it was different, in the same way that they liked the homework of correcting a text with a set number of mistakes (which I actually got from your website!). Anything that gets them to understand that proof-reading is a valuable use of their time is a bonus in my mind.
    I did running dictations a few years back with younger bottom sets as a way of getting them to write vocabulary down in a more fun way, but it does take more time for a generally poorer result, as often the spelling is inaccurate (or more so than if they'd copied from the board; sometimes I put the text upside down for the fun factor, works just as well).
    I liked dictations when I was at school, it was an easy way of getting good marks. Maybe I'll include a question on it in my pupil survey this year, to find out what they think...
     
  5. Dictation is crucial in learning French. I learned a lot from doing a weekly dictée when I was at school in the 1950s. You can't write dictated French correctly unless you understand French grammar. German is easier because the spelling system is almost phonetic.
    Native French speakers enjoy the challenge of a dicteé. See Les dictées de Bernard Pivot at the TV5 website:
    http://www.tv5.org/cms/chaine-francophone/Langue-Francaise/p-7174-Langue-francaise.htm
    Dication exercises can easily be delivered by computer. A variation is the "total Cloze" dictation. Using my Fun with Texts package I got my students to reconstruct texts having listened only to recorded versions of them. The recordings can be delivered at any speed you like. Mine were recorded at normal native speaker speed, but the students could listen to them as many times as they liked.
    Graham
     
  6. PierreImport

    PierreImport Administrator

    My classes do regular dictations...usually peer marked...and they are the most useful of exercises on so many levels.
     
  7. That's a fantastic post - many many thanks.
    I've always loved dictation - especially in French.

    Reading this thread should count as CPD / INSET.
     
  8. henriette

    henriette New commenter

    Do you create them yourself, or have you got a good book/source you can recommend?

    H
     
  9. mlapworth

    mlapworth Occasional commenter

    It's really easy to set up dictations with ICT, as Graham says, using programs such as Fun With Texts and TaskMagic. You can record yourself and add that as a sound file. Or you can use the sounds which accompany your textbook. It takes a matter of minutes to do, and the result is multiple listening and dictation activities of varying levels, over which the student has control ie. to start, stop, pause, repeat the audio.
     
  10. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter

    Just to respond to the criticism that dictation is an example of boring teaching... Well, they can be a bit dull to deliver (though you can have a bit of fun demonstrating accents - try cocking your leg for a cedilla), but the key to any class activity is what the students actually DO. With dictation they are all active, thinking, listening, constantly making decisions, developing an eye for detail. I can't see too much wrong with that.
     
  11. noemie

    noemie Occasional commenter

    Oh, absolutely, I don't for a second think it's boring. As I said, I liked the challenge when I did it, and I imagine the pupils I use it with do too.
     
  12. noemie

    noemie Occasional commenter

  13. curlyk

    curlyk New commenter

    I also enjoyed doing dictation at school in the early seventies, but only because I was good at it ! I do some basic practice with my year sevens ,getting them to focus on listening and accurate spelling ,by using the dictation games on Linguascope at beginner level. They can work at their own pace ,independently and get immediate feedback, using an on screen keyboard which reminds them they may need to use accents and provides them with a selection of accents to choose from.
    The need to proof read work has to be emphasised to students from as early an age as possible in the language learning process ,if they are to go on to do well in controlled assessments at GCSE level. But then, who is to say what the current crop of year sevens will be doing in their GCSE language examinations in 4 years time ,or if any of them will be doing language examinations !!!.
    I am not feeling hopeful at the moment, after attending a training course on controlled assessments last week. The future of language teaching and learning just seems to get grimmer ,especially in the state sector. As someone has mentioned in another post , we seem to be going back to an era when languages were the preserve of the middle classes and the private sector and let the rest go hang.
    When I came into teaching in 1979 ,things were changing rapidly, languages acquisition was seen as an important way into Europe and a chance to develop our economy. Language labs were in use, students went on exchange trips,every school had a foreign language assistant if they wanted one and all pupils had access to an appropriate exam, A level ,O level, modular CSEs, language ladder certificates. Evening classes for adults flourished. It wasn`t a Golden Age but it sure feels like it ,thirty years on. I try to incorporate as many new techniques as possible into my teaching but the old ways,be they dictation,chanting of verb tables,songs, regular spelling tests or choral repetition are still as valid as tools to teach and inspire as they ever were. Language teaching is dogged by the conviction that the latest fad will provide the answer to all our needs. We need to use all the weapons in our armoury, if we are to ensure language teaching continues the way we want it to go and not the way of the QCA ,the government, or any other highjacker of language teaching orthodoxy Aux armes, mes citoyens !
    Ok ,that last bit was over the top but with 3 years left to retirement I don`t want to go quietly into the night ,when I see all the best bits of language teaching being thrown out with the bath water of the new GCSE examination.
    Sorry for high jacking this thread but ,having vented , I now move on . This week was hard,Monday -GCSE course , home by 7 pm ,Tuesday -5 lessons and an Open Evening till 8pm, home by 9 pm,Wednesday- Ofsted called at my first school,Thurday-Lesson observation by SMT in my second school.Friday- data sticks needed to be completed for years 5- 8.At 54years of age ,my energy levels are not what they were.!! Work/ life balance !!!
    Next week ,my classes will spending a lot of time in the ICT suite.! Bless you Linguascope and Languagesonline. Sunderland schools mfl site, I love you.! You provide so much quality material at every level, as does TES resources. Thank God for generous language teachers everywhere, who share their resources with us lesser mortals.
    PS. I have tried to proof read this but ourBorder Collie puppy is trying to eat the coal from the fire ,so I am a little distracted. Please excuse spelling nd punctuation errors and don`t grade me too harshly !
     
  14. Can you please explain what a "running dictation" is, or in other words, how it actually works? Sorry if this may sound stupid, but although I am French and grew up with "dictees et analyses grammaticales" every Saturday mornings for two years, when I was in "CM1" and "CM2", I have never heard of a "running dictation" and I am not sure I understand from your post how it's actually done. Merci bien.
     
  15. Random175

    Random175 New commenter

    Running dictation can be done in many ways. I now call it a team dictation as the children become far too excited if they think they can tear around the classroom. One member of each team comes to me I have the sentence written out and I say the sentence over and over again so that they are reading and listening to me for about one minute. They then dictate to one other member of their team. The next one from each team comes up and we repeat they return and dictate to another member. I usually do four sentences for a four member team. They are given a little time to see if it makes sense and to make corrections. I often ask them to translate in a team or use the text in other ways such as reorder the sentences etc.
    I also do mini dictations with mini-whiteboards - these are great for nailing the past participle endings and infinitives, just plain spelling or different forms of agreements with verbs and adjectives. Groups who hate writing will practise in this way happily. It has the advantage of me seeing what the children are writing straight away and tackling errors as soon as they have written them. I have yet to do a longer dictation but I will never do the 30 minute dictations we were made to do as I can still remember thinking my arm was going to drop off and how much my brain hurt!
    It never fails to amaze me that people judge an activity as being boring if the children are silent and just writing with the teacher talking. The brain activity that goes on in a dictation is immense, and surely that is what we are aiming for? Not what looks good to an observer at the back of a classroom.
     
  16. Geekie

    Geekie New commenter

    Have just rediscovered this thread while looking for ideas for a phonics presentation. I used a simplified form of dictation with my KS2s to practise Spanish vowel sounds and to avoid the usual choral repetition to learn new vocab.
    I gave them a list of new animal words with all the vowels removed. Then I dictated the words and they filled in the vowels. We checked it together, and then they had to match up the resulting words with some pictures that I gave them. They remember these animal words just as well as those that we learned in the more traditional "listen and repeat" way.
    I've included it in a blogpost if you want to read about it a bit more http://changing-phase.blogspot.com/2011/04/ser-detective.html
    [​IMG]
     
  17. jubilee

    jubilee Star commenter

    That sounds like a recipe for chaos but I suppose that the pupils have lots of fun, so why worry about accuracy!
    What is the point in one pupil taking dictation from whatever another pupil can remember after running around the room? What value is there in one pupil working from the wrongly pronounced MFL of another?
    Why do they have to run around in the first place? Why waste that class time?
    It can't be easy deciding which team has won as one will finish first but may have completely garbled MFL on paper.
    Why not take the simple path and have someone who can pronounce the language properly giving the dictation to everyone. That has the whole class on task at the same time instead of most of the class screaming encouragement (in English, no doubt) to their team and a maximum of 4 pupils doing 'work' of dubious pedigree at once.

     
  18. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter


    Quote:
    "It never fails to amaze me that people judge an activity as being boring
    if the children are silent and just writing with the teacher talking.
    The brain activity that goes on in a dictation is immense, and surely
    that is what we are aiming for? Not what looks good to an observer at
    the back of a classroom."
    I agree.

    Quote:
    "That sounds like a recipe for chaos but I suppose that the pupils have lots of fun, so why worry about accuracy!
    What
    is the point in one pupil taking dictation from whatever another pupil
    can remember after running around the room? What value is there in one
    pupil working from the wrongly pronounced MFL of another?
    Why do they have to run around in the first place? Why waste that class time?"

    It's not at all chaotic in fact, though I imagine it depends on one's relationship with the class. They don't actually run and I mentioned the advantages and disadvantages of the task in my earlier post. The obvious advantage is that they are speaking as well as listening and that they enjoy the competitive nature of it.

     
  19. jubilee

    jubilee Star commenter

    Traditional dictation is competitive too. The pupils are competing as individuals instead of in teams. We've become afraid, in UK education, of putting individuals in a pecking order, which is how the game format has become ubiquitous in the classroom. It's OK for a team to come first though.
    The speaking is questionable if it isn't corrected before being foisted on the next pupil. If the scribe is listening to faulty language, there's a danger that they'll internalise the errors.
     

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