Dictation exercises can be useful for low level ESL students by enhancing fluency and accuracy in the four areas of language learning: listening, speaking, reading and writing. However, traditional dictation can also increase boredom and lack of motivation in students, as these exercises are usually more traditional and teacher-centered. As a way to improve fluency and accuracy in the four areas of language learning, and to avoid boredom and increase motivation, this lesson is designed as a series of student-centered exercises. Additionally, the level of the language being used will be of a simple and practical nature, fostering a sense of success as the students master some basic vocabulary. If implemented properly and with varying (and, over time, decreasing) levels of support, students should begin to develop mastery in all four areas of language learning.
Initially, students should be grouped in pairs. Each student will need paper, a writing instrument, and a set of flashcards. 20 cards can be divided between the two students. Each card should be double-sided, with the vocabulary word printed on one side and a picture representing that word on the opposite side. Each set of cards should be related by subject matter, e.g. foods, sports, body parts, etc. Students should take turns reading and writing. The reader must determine the word being used, with support from the instructor, using the picture clue on the back. The reader then reads the word, and the writer records what is read. For scaffolding, the writer can also look to the picture clue on the back of the card to assist with comprehension. As the writer achieves more mastery, this picture clue can be removed. For the sake of practice and consistency, the reader should dictate several cards to the writer. Pairs of students can begin be reading two in a row, then five, then all ten. Students can also trade stacks of cards when the first sets have been mastered. Additionally, the number of cards that each student dictates can be increased, again depending on the level of mastery. After each student has read and written, responses can be checked against the cards, corrections being made as needed.
As students begin to increase vocabulary, the cards can be made to reflect simple phrases using previously mastered words. For example, "apple" can be adjusted to the simple phrase "I like apples." The complexity of the phrases can also be adjusted. This exercise can begin as a focal point of a language lesson, then be adapted to a warm-up or review exercise over time, depending on the level of mastery achieved by the students.
The student giving the dictation will develop reading and speaking skills, while the student taking the dictation will develop writing and listening skills. The teamwork involved in the exercise will increase student motivation and confidence, while the student-centered nature of the activity will enable the teacher to provide more support during the exercise.