The two main versions of dictogloss as I've used them as regular coursework applications... The basic/intro version for lower levels at top and the more intensive (2-page) version for later levels below.
I first came across the "dictogloss" in the early noughties when I was researching ways to facilitate more focus on form for learners I was teaching in a content-based/immersion-style curriculum (if you're in Europe, think CLIL). I came across a great article by Merrill Swain on the topic and application, and after initially wondering whether it was about glossy dinosaurs or dictation performed on glossy paper, realised it would be a great method to use in my classroom.
I became so impressed with it, in fact, that by the mid-noughties I was featuring dictogloss as a regular weekly activity in the in-house curriculum and course materials I was responsible for maintaining in a school with close to one thousand learners. The results have always been impressive.
Here's how I use it:
1. Take a text that the learners have already read and discussed. This could be a portion of text from a coursebook passage or dialogue, a composition by one of the students (which has been shown to the rest of the class), or (most effective in my experience) something like a live reading text that has been previously generated in class. This text is going to become the script for the dictogloss activity (but don't announce it in advance to the students unless you want them to go away and memorise it).
2. Give the students notepaper or an activity page like the ones I've presented above (also available for download below). Inform the students:
(a) You are going to read the text aloud three times.
(b) Pens should be on the table while the text is being read aloud. Concentrate on listening and understanding and remembering.
(c) After each reading, you'll have about five minutes to write down what you can recall from the text. There are columns for you to write in after each reading. Following your recall/writing time, you'll have another 5-10 minutes to compare your notes with a classmate and collaborate to improve the notes on both your papers.
(d) Following the three readings, note taking stints and collaborative editing, you'll have 15-20 minutes to work with a partner and your overall notes to reconstruct the text you heard. It doesn't need to be exactly the same as the original, but it needs to cover the same essential content and be written with accurate use of grammar and vocabulary.
(e) Compare your text reconstruction with the original. Note down some of the key things that are different.
Okay, so that is a lot of "informing" to take on board, especially for a lower-level group who has never tried the activity before!
Hence, it tends to work a lot better if you just work through it with them step by step. As in:
- Listen but don't write.
- Write down what you can remember in the first column.
- 5-10 minutes to improve your notes with a classmate.
(Repeat above three times, until all three columns have been completed)
- Now use your notes to rewrite the text. It doesn't need to be exact, but as close as possible to the original text you heard (and read a while back).
The first couple of times you apply this, it will be hard for the learners. It can help to start with very limited amounts of text (say 30-50 words) and gradually work your way up (I rarely use texts that are more than 200 words in length).
But it's also worth being patient and sticking with it, because the dictogloss has enormous benefits for language development. Here are a couple of things I've noticed:
- It's a great way to recycle and review texts.
- The intensity of the listening and remembering process here super-charges it as input.
- There is an emphasis on collaboration and discussion amongst students.
- There is integration across reading, listening, speaking and writing.
- It is one of the best methods I know in terms of creation of deeper grammar awareness.
- After 2-3 tries at it, using manageable amounts of text, learners actually become much better at it than they ever figured they'd be able to.
- (Added bonus?) Applied regularly, learners catch on that they could be doing themselves a favour by re-reading any texts from class before the "dictogloss day" arrives that week!
- (A more peripheral bonus, perhaps) For upper levels, it is an absolutely brilliant method of honing intensive listening skills and 'coping strategies' for learners preparing for listening passages on tests like TOEFL and IELTS.
Anyway, if you want to try the dictogloss and like the formats I've presented at the top of the post (based on how I used to present them in my in-house coursebooks), here's the download featuring both versions:
Dictogloss Templates A and B (PDF Download)
There are quite a few other posts and articles around the Internet covering the dictogloss application, so do go ahead and do some further exploration.
One in particular I liked was by David Dodgson, as it showcases how to scaffold the activity a little more for younger learners. Ceri Jones also has a great post on the topic which I highly recommend you check out.
Have fun with the glossy dinosaur!