A letter to the teachers of English: 70Dictation for developing listening skills [Archives:2005/804/Education]

January 6 2005

Dr..M.N.K.Bose ([email protected])
Associate Professor of English,
Faculty of Arts, Ibb

Dear Fellow teachers,

In my last two letters I have discussed how to develop the listening skills in our learners, mainly in schools. The listening activities I have suggested in my last letter (letter 69), however, are useful in the college classes also. In addition to what I have said, you can use dictation for developing the listening skills in your learners. Let us discuss the use of dictation in this letter.

Dictation is traditionally considered as a test for the listening skills. The procedure conventionally followed is as follows: the teacher dictates a few words, chosen from the lesson taught in the previous class and the students write them; then the teacher checks the spelling of the words written by the students; dictation has mainly been a test of spelling. But it is interesting to note that dictation has greater potentialities and can be used as a very good test for testing the students' abilities to communicate. It has been found that dictation involves not just listening, as traditionally thought, but other language skills such as writing, knowledge of vocabulary as well. It has gained importance recently as one of the good communicative tests.

Dictation can be used at all levels. At the preparatory level, dictation of words chosen from the lessons taught already can be tried out. You can inform the students in advance and give dictation in the following class for about ten or fifteen minutes. You should be careful while giving dictation. The recommended steps are as follows: read each word slowly once or twice, ask them to write the word and then read the word once for confirmation. Do not read the word while they are writing. At the end of the year, you can also choose a few simple sentences for dictation, say sentences with not more than four or five words.

At the secondary level, you can start with words, words taught in the previous lessons, but should include sentences, sentences with more than five words. When you dictate sentences, you should read each sentence slowly once or twice and then at normal speed once before asking them to write it. Care should be taken not to read the sentence word by word, which makes your reading unnatural and awkward. After their writing it, you should read it once for confirmation. Some of us wrongly stick to three times while dictating, which is not a strict rule. At the end of the year, you can use small passages taken either from the lessons taught earlier or some magazines, the latter used occasionally.

At the tertiary (college) level, dictation of words can be occasional and dictation of sentences and passages can be frequent. Words chosen for dictation can be those which are difficult for the students to pronounce or spell, especially the key words in a lesson taught. You can read each word once or twice and not more that that. Sentences chosen should be from the lessons taught or from popular magazines; they can also be proverbs or quotations from books. Passages can also be chosen from the lessons taught, but unknown passages taken from some newspapers or stories can make the task challenging. You should be careful to keep the difficulty level minimum so that they do not lose interest in the task. Read the passage once slowly, then at normal speed for them to take down; once again at normal speed after they have written it for confirmation. If you select interesting news items from a newspaper and give dictation regularly, it will develop an interest in them to read the newspaper as an extra reading material; this will help develop good reading habit in them. Try this. Good luck.

Yours fraternally,