After sharing so much tech-related information, I thought it might be time for a short break. In this post I’ll just explain a fun tech-less classroom activity called Running Dictations that I learned from one of my coworkers in China. It works for most levels and ages which makes it an ideal activity to share with you. Running Dictations is a great activity, especially for early morning or night classes where students might have low energy levels, because students practice a wide variety of language skills and have fun too!
Running Dictations is fairly easy to prepare, explain, and setup, plus it is very adaptable. For Running Dictations in its simplest form, the teacher has to prepare just two short paragraphs, each taped to a wall, divide students into pairs with one student being Student A and one student being Student B, explain the directions, and begin.
For this version, tell students that Student A is the writer and Student B is the runner. The runner must run to the board where the first paragraph is displayed, read the text, run back to his or her partner, and repeat what he or she read. The writer’s job is to listen to Student B and write down what is said. Usually it takes many trips to and from the board for the runner to relay the entire paragraph to the writer. When most groups are done, the writer can check the passage against what is displayed, and then roles are reversed and paragraph two is used. Students practice reading, speaking, listening, and writing; have to work together; and are even responsible for checking their own work.
In my classes, I simply print out the paragraphs and tape one copy to the board. (I made the mistake of using too large a font the first time and then the writers in pairs closest to the board were able to just read the paragraph from their seats, so don’t make the same mistake I did!) If you are concerned about having students running in your classroom, you can place a number of copies of each paragraph around the room so that they are more accessible to students and require less movement. You can develop the activity into a focus on vocabulary, a specific theme, a grammar point, or even use it as a model to scaffold a later speaking activity.
Running Dictations can be adapted in a number of ways. Here are some of the ways I have successfully adapted this activity:
- Write two or three questions per paragraph on the board so that the runners have to read and search for the answers to the questions and just relay those answers to the writers rather than the entire passage.
- Cut up a paragraph into sentences posted randomly around the room so that once students have all the sentences written down, both the writer and runner have to decide what the order of the sentences should be.
- Prepare three paragraphs and assign the roles of “runner,” “writer,” and “checker,” where the checker not only looks for mistakes at the end but also while the writer is writing, serving as an assistant.
I’m sure there are even more ways to adapt this, so leave a comment if you think of any or if you know this activity by another name. I hope you and your students enjoy Running Dictations. If something is unclear, ask me!