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Using Different Dictation Techniques

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    Using Different Dictation Techniques

    article focuses 
    on Dictation and asks….

    a) What are the beliefs about second language learning
    that underlie the techniques known as
     Dictogloss and Running Dictation?

    b) For what purposes could a traditional dictation
    technique, where the T. reads a few words at a time while Ls write down
    exactly what was said,
    be used?


    a) Beliefs underlying the Dictogloss/Running Dictation  techniques

    1. Belief: They are consonant with a constructivist approach which  believes learning occurs not through passively
    taking in information provided, but by working actively on
    assimilating and
    (Piaget) new
    knowledge – in the case of language learning and dictogloss by formulating the
    language needed to reconstruct the text either verbatim or paraphrased  (or possibly on elements of discourse such as
    organisation of information, the use of topic sentences etc.)


    2. Belief
    These techniques promote 
    "noticing" (Schmidt)
    - ie conscious attention to form, use organisation etc, which increases the
    depth of cognitive processing of the language and leads to more effective
    understanding and retention.
    Learners have
    to read or listen attentively rather than just letting the language "wash over
    them", and at the end, if shown the actual text,  should ideally  “notice” the gap between what they know they
    understood but have difficulty reproducing in English.

    3a. Belief : In order to become
    effective learners, Ls need to develop
    higher order critical
    thinking skills
    (Bloom) – particularly in Young Learners’ classes where
    fostering these is a major educational aim. Dictogloss in particular is a collaborative activity which involves
    learners in critiquing and improving on each other’s ideas to come to the best
    reformulation they can.

    This eg
    allows weaker learners to learn from stronger ones or learners with different
    L1 interference problems to point out errors made by others  – eg a Romance language speaker might point
    out to an Arabic speaking partner the need to include the copula BE in a

    3b: Belief:
    Collaborative learning emphasises to the Ls that they are responsible for their learning and promotes an
    active approach to learning which again increases the depth of cognitive
    processing of the language and leads to more effective understanding and


    4. Belief
    Learners will learn best if tasks are “doable” at their own level.   Dictogloss allows for differentiation of
    performance and final product dependent on the learner’s ability. It is not a
    memory test but learners are asked to reformulate the text in their own words
    and what they produce may be more or less complex.
       Eg: if
    the text includes a ”third conditional” like
    If he’d understood the danger he wouldn’t have done it
    , stronger learners
    may enjoy the challenge of reproducing it, while weaker ones, who have the
    structure in receptive competence but are not yet confident with it, may simply
    say : He did it because he  didn’t understand it was dangerous

    5. Belief
    Collaborative learning  can create a
    positive classroom dynamic and rapport between Ls, establishing an atmosphere
    of co-operation and criticism of ideas rather than of people.
    will enhance learning effectiveness in all classes as, in Krashen’s terms, it
    will “lower the affective filter” associated with the learning process.  However, it may be particularly
    important in YLs classes where the students are developing social and life
    skills as well as “just” learning the language.  


    6.   Particularly when using dictogloss, when discussing the accuracy and appropriacy of
    their formulation of the text, learners have to restate rules of form and use,
    principles of organisation etc . Belief : This "metatalk" may also
    help to internalise those rules (Swain).

    7. Running dictation gives a chance for movement to be added to the lesson. Belief: This is particularly important for kinaesthetic learners or those with special needs such as Attention Hyperactivity Deficit Disorder. However, it also helps break up a long lesson for all learners, giving them a chance to have a break from sitting still. This is liable to help refresh concentration levels.

    b) Purposes of “traditional” dictation

    8. Purpose : To recycle
    structure or lexis met previously: Stevick emphasised the need for
    “massed” then “distributed” practice of language  to consolidate it firmly in the Ls’ minds – ie
    the language must be met several times in the initial lesson, but then constantly
    recycled. The Lexical Approach, with its emphasis on lexical chunks
    (collocations, idioms, polywords etc) makes conscious recycling even more
    essential. A dictation can be created or chosen to do this. 

    Eg : If the new language has initially
    been met in a text, as is common in many current coursebooks, an extract from
    the text can be dictated in a later lesson in order to contribute towards that
    recycling. (Obviously, the two techniques described above could also be used for the same purpose).

    9. Purpose : To practise
    writing with learners who are learning the Roman alphabet for the first time.
    They  may benefit from traditional
    dictation activities in order to practise “writing down” the script – practising
    letter formation, spelling, punctuation and capitalisation.

    10. Purpose : To practise
    spelling : Even if the learners do use the Roman script, the non-equivalence of
    sound and spelling of words in English may cause problems – just as it does for
    native speakers learning to read and write. The T. can “collect” a number of
    examples of words that have been misspelt by Ls in other activities, or which
    are generally difficult because of eg silent letters and build them into a
    dictation – again, either a connected text or individual sentences.

    11. Purpose : To focus on
    bottom up decoding of phonological features. Eg (1) : Although dictation lacks
    construct validity as an overall test of listening, it can be
    used in a test-teach-test format to focus on specific features of connected
    speech such as elision. In the initial “test” section, the T. could dictate a
    short passage, or a number of individual sentences containing the chosen feature. In the follow
    up (the “teach” section) they would then focus on them, explaining any
    comprehension problems that the Ls had due to the feature. The final “Test”
    section would consist of the dictation of another passage or group of sentences
    containing the same feature.  Eg (2):  Similarly if learners have problems
    distinguishing between specific phonemes, sentences containing minimal pairs
    can be used – eg for Japanese learners or others who have difficulties distinguishing
    between  /l/ and / r/: She gave a long answer / She gave a wrong


    12. Purpose : As well as being
    used to teach the features of language and discourse described above, it can
    also be used to test them.

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