Dictation: Everything You Need to Know

Dictation occurs before writing, and during this process, the child desires to write but doesn’t yet possess the developmental capacity to do so. Therefore, the child dictates what they would have loved to write down, and the adult tries to capture what the child has dictated as the child watches. After this is done, the adult reads out what has been written to the child’s ears. It is a method of scaffolding. For an adult, dictation provides an opportunity to model different writing behaviors, including sentence formation, matching sounds-to-letters to spell words, and handwriting.

Dictation gives the child a chance to learn by watching the adult write using several writing conventions, such as punctuation, letter formation, word spacing, letter spacing, and more. An adult can also model listening to a sound, after which he’ll write the associated letter. The use of dictation lets the adult model that speech can be written down and subsequently read back.

There are different activities that an adult can use for dictation. For instance, he can ask the child to draw a picture of something familiar (a tree, house, or fruit) and say a sentence about it. Then, he can write the child’s words below the picture and encourage the child to read the sentence. Dictation can also be used to record a child’s findings in science, say steps to care for a pet or plant. The adult may even encourage the child to tell a story while acting it out. This activity is likely to need a bit of nudging from time to time where the adult could ask questions to get the child back on track to finish his story. Creating templates as visual prompts to help the child identify possible settings and characters for his stories too could help in dictation.

When using dictation for a group of young learners, second language learners, or children with varying reading skills, an adult should use differentiated instructions. This means he should vary his expectations for the length of dictation based on a child’s age and language skills. Such strategies would help children from other cultures open up and share their different experiences with their peers. He may even use group stories for shared dictations to help enrich the other students’ experience. Thus, dictation can be a joyful way to teach early learners by supporting their storytelling, but it needs careful planning and execution to be effective.

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