Saturday, March 6, 2010

Using Dictation of Questions to Teach English

Hello Fellow ESL Teachers and Tutors,

Thank you for coming to ESL Teacher today! We are going to discuss using dictation to improve students listening comprehension, writing and speaking.

Dictating questions that include the vocabulary and grammar that you are teaching on a regular basis will give your students a way to measure their progress. It helps them understand what they need to improve on and what words they need to practice writing when them go home. In addition, it gives students a chance to see if they can understand the English they just covered, even if they do not have the book to use as a crutch.

The Method

1) Choose a list of 3-8 appropriate questions. The should incorporate the vocabulary and the grammar that you are covering in class.

For example:
1) What time is it now?
2) What time do you wake up on weekdays?
3) What is your favorite time of day?

Use less questions for beginners, and more questions for intermediates.

2) Tell your students to take out paper, pen/pencil and to number their paper. Tell them to write the questions that you say/dictate.

3) Read the questions. Always read the question at normal speed first. Then, depending on your level of students, you may only read it one more time at regular speed (advanced). Or you may read it a couple of times slower, and then again regular speed (intermediate). Or you may read it slowly many more times, ending with the question at regular speed (beginners)
DO NOT SPELL OUT THE WORDS OR HELP THE STUDENTS WRITE THE WORDS! It's ok if they don't write anything, or if they make mistakes. This is their opportunity to measure their own abilities.

4) Ask the students what the questions were, one at a time, and write them as they tell you the question they wrote down. This allows them to be involved, show off their talents if they did well, and keeps the students alert and involved in the class. It also allows you to hear any common mistakes that the students make, that you can then focus on and help them correct.

5) Have the class read the questions with you in unison.

6) Have the class ask you the questions, and answer them. Write your answers to the questions on the board next to the appropriate question. Your answers will be the model for the students when they answer the questions themselves.

7) Pair up students and have them ask each other the questions. Walk around and listen to the pairs. Are they asking the questions correctly? Are they answering the questions correctly? Help correct their grammar and pronunciation.

8) Have the class close their notebooks, then look at you and say the questions in unison. See if they can say them from memory. If need be, break the question into smaller parts.

9) Congratulate your students for their hard work! They practiced listening, writing and speaking all in one exercise!


  1. I like using questions to teach...

    But I personally feel that the teacher should
    teach the students how to make questions first
    then utilize the concept by going over them...

    Unless they study by themselves and already know how to mkae questions... : )

    Haha, what do I know? I'm still just a student. ^^;

  2. Hello anonymous,

    Thanks for your comment!

    Making questions is a great activity! However, it is a much harder level activity. It is also a different activity than this one.

    I think it's a good idea to teach students how to make questions before doing the activity as well =)