Doing Dictation Remotely

Hello colleagues, In my experience, learners greatly appreciate dictation activities. I wonder how you may have been trying out dictation in your remote classroom. I think it would be fairly easy for a teacher to dictate a text and have students write on paper, the same way we do it in the face-to-face classroom. Students could even take a photo of their work to share with one another and the teacher. 

How about doing peer dictation activities in the remote classroom where learners dictate to one another?

If you've tried out any dictation activities, please let us know how dictation has worked for you.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition CoP


Greetings from northern Virginia.  

I'm so glad Susan brought up the topic of dictation.  I haven't thought about doing one lately and always have adult learners in my high intermediate class who want them.  . A running dictation is always a challenge in the brick and mortar classroom.  In breakout rooms, the running dictation is fun and challenging, plus it adds peer dictation into it.    If you haven't done one yet, students first need to be comfortable leaving breakout rooms and going back into them independently.  It is essential that they are comfortable moving back and forth.  

I start a running dictation by breaking students up into groups of 3 or 4 and opening the rooms.  While the students are out in breakout rooms, I post a slide with numbered sentences of the material I want them to dictate to their peers.  One student (student A) from each room comes back to the main room, memorizes the first sentence and returns to their breakout room.  There, students A dictate the sentence they have memorized to students B, C, and D.    Students B then leave their respective breakout rooms, enter the main room, memorize the second sentence, and return to their breakout rooms for another peer dictation.   The cycle continues until all groups have dictated every sentence to their peer groups.  

It's important to remember that the dictation is a task.  Like other group tasks, a running dictation takes more time than regular dictations or peer dictations.  In one of my first endeavors, I posted 10 sentences.  I stopped the task midway through after about 30 minutes, and that was probably still too long.  

I emphasize a few rules with the students.  They cannot "bring" a pencil or paper with them when they leave the breakout room.  They cannot check what they have written with the posted sentences in the main room.  They cannot take pictures or screenshots of the sentences.  There is no posting to the WhatsApp group during the dictation.  

I hope your students enjoy a virtual running dictation as much as mine have.  



Ellen Clore-Patron, Instructor

Arlington Education and Employment Program (REEP)

Arlington, VA



Hi Ellen --and all, In this morning's remote class, I tried out your idea for running dictation. I'm teaching a transition class for English learners who have tested out of ESL levels. They are all quite advanced. I used a text from Breaking News English about the lack of oxygen for COVID patients in India, which is an issue learners have brought up in class this week.

Some students are still learning how to go back and forth between Zoom and Google docs and from a breakout room to the main room and back. In spite of these challenges, the pairs accomplished the dictation task well!  And they enhanced their digital skills, too.

I borrowed heavily from your rules, Ellen, so thank you! Here's a link to the steps for the running dictation that I shared with the learners. Comments and questions are welcome!

This is why I love LINCS so much! I learn so much from my wonderful colleagues across the country!

Cheers, Susan

Hi Ellen, I've used running dictation often in my in-person class. It's always a big hit. I so want to try this in my remote classroom! The rules you have established make a lot of sense. Thank you for sharing this idea!

I would also like to try Dictogloss in the remote classroom. The learning objective for Dictogloss is for learners to collaborate on reconstructing a text after listening to capture the meaning. The goal is not that they reproduce the text perfectly. Here's a link with a description of Dictogloss.

I'd love to hear more ideas for using dictation in the remote classroom.

Cheers, Susan