By Tarun Patel
Dialogue dictations as communicative activities: A four skills task
By David Ockert
Key words: group work, large group, dialogue, dictation, four-skills
Learner English level: All
Learner maturity level: All
Preparation time: 10-15 minutes
Activity time: Depends on number of students and materials
Materials: Print of a reading text or passage
This activity works great with large groups because it requires the use of all four language skills in an exciting, interactive, and low-pressure competition. Furthermore, this activity works great with managing large groups of false-beginners (Norris, 1993). Research shows that Japanese learners of English like to work in groups (Ockert, 2005), but may have feelings toward the efficacy of the task that may differ from the teacher’s (Burden, 2005). However, recent research shows that male students of specific majors prefer moving about the classroom while completing tasks (Ockert, 2006). This task works best in a classroom where tables and chairs can be moved.
Step 1: Choose a short reading text, one that preferably works as a review lesson before a quiz, as this activity recycles vocabulary, grammar, reading, and listening skills.
Step 2: Since students will be working in groups of three or four, create enough copies so that each group gets one copy of the chosen text.
Step 1: Divide your class into teams of three. Each group should consist of one reader/speaker (RS), a listener/speaker (LS), and a listener/writer (LW). If it is not possible to have exactly three students per team, double up the LW role.
Step 2: Review phrases necessary to carry out the activity. For example:
How do you spell that?
What does that mean?
Would you say that again?
You’re talking too fast.
Step 3: Instruct all of the teams to stand up and arrange the room to have the same number of desks and chairs along opposite walls, as there are teams. For example, if there are nine teams, there should be nine desks and chairs on one side of the room and nine desks and chairs on the opposite side.
Step 4: Have the students position themselves around the room as follows: The RS sits at a desk, the LW sits at an opposite desk, and the LS waits in the center of the room between them.
Step 5: Have all of the LWs get a piece of paper, an eraser, and a pen or pencil.
Step 6: Distribute the reading print to the RSs and assign each team a different part of the text. This prevents each team from working on the same material.
Step 7: Explain and demonstrate what the activity involves: It is the LSs’ job to listen to the RS, and as quickly as possible get to the other side of the room and repeat what he remembers to the LWs, taking as many turns as necessary to complete the task. Remind the students that the LS may not read the material that the RS reads from. It is the task of the RS to read clearly so as to be understood, and the task of the LS to remember and repeat to the LW as accurately as possible. Any communication problems must be worked out at the place where it occurs. For example, the LWs cannot communicate directly with the RS if they do not understand; instead, they must work with the LS (and yes, they will shout across the room, especially if they see their classmates progressing more quickly). The goal of the task is for the LWs to complete the process of getting an accurate transcription of the original text.
Step 8: Once all of the teams have transcribed their section of the text, it is time to change roles: the LS become the RS, and the RS changes places with the LW.
Step 9: After the roles have been rotated, assign each team a new part of the text to transcribe.
Step 10: Repeat the activity as described in Step 7.
Step 11: Continue rotating group roles and sections of the text until each group has had a chance to transcribe it completely. For larger classes that require more than one student in the LW role, continue changing as often as necessary to complete the activity.
By taking advantage of students’ natural desire to be active and intellectually engaged human beings, this activity harnesses that innate energy and directs it toward a clear goal utilizing solid pedagogical foundations: the four skills, pragmatic speech acts, fluency, pronunciation, a bit of time pressure in which to express themselves, and a boisterous “real world” atmosphere. It works great with large groups because it helps manage the students in a goal-oriented activity that uses all four-language skills in an exciting, interactive, and low-pressure competition. Give it a try; your students will love it!
David Ockert was born in Michigan, USA. He has a dual-major BA in Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy (PTCD) and East Asian Studies (Japanese) from James Madison College, Michigan State University, and a MEd in Curriculum, Instruction & Technology in Education from Temple University. He is the author of An Introduction to Academic Writing (ISBN 4-9902048-4-0) and An Introduction to PowerPoint Presentations (ISBN 978-4-9902048-5-3) and several journal articles. His research interests range from student motivation, motivational orientations, learning strategies, and their relationships between specific classroom activities, either traditional or communicative task-based, to educational system development. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Burden, P. (2005). The castor oil effect: Learner beliefs about the enjoyment and usefulness of classroom activities and the effects on student motivation. The Language Teacher, 29(10), 3-9.
Norris, R. W. (1993). Using creative dictation to manage, motivate, and activate
large groups of false beginners. Fukuoka Women’s Junior College Studies, 45, 71-82.
Ockert, D. (2005). Substantive scale verification: A Likert scale analysis and critique of university student pedagogical activity preferences. JALT Hokkaido Journal, 9, 48-64.
Ockert, D. (2006). Survey results: Learning about language learners’ learning styles. In K. Bradford-Watts, C. Ikeguchi, & M. Swanson (Eds.) On JALT2005: Sharing Our Stories (pp. 330-339). Tokyo: JALT.
Communicative Activities , ELT Activities