Thursday, January 15, 2015

Adult ESL Thoughts: Dictation

I used to think dictation was a waste of time in my adult ESL classes.  I viewed it as an impractical, unrealistic, purely academic practice that wouldn't help them improve meaningfully.  I've tried it a few times in the last few weeks, however, and my students love it.  I'm really surprised my attitude toward dictation was so bad, and my reasoning was poor.

I've been doing scrambled sentence activities with my adult ESL students for years, even though I could certainly apply the same critique to it that I did to dictation; it is an impractical, unrealistic, purely academic practice.  Yet, I continued doing them.  Why?  Because the improvement I saw in their syntax (both orally and written) was significant, their understanding of grammar improved, and their exposure to content vocabulary was beneficial.
Some students listening to the monologue
The same can be said with dictation, PLUS it has the added benefit of listening practice that so many of my students need.  Even my most advanced students have a hard time hearing the words and sentences separately when listening to English spoken at normal speed by native speakers.  I can relate to that.  I can speak and read quite a bit of Spanish, but when two native speakers are conversing my ears can't discriminate individual words and phrases.

I wish my stubbornness hadn't stopped me from doing dictation more regularly sooner.  The students have really enjoyed it and I believe the results will be seen, especially in listening.

I have been using the dictation activities at EnglishClub.com.  I highly recommend them!

Students check their work 

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