Dictado BackgroundDictado (Spanish for dictation) has helped my students' writing skills grow significantly over the last three years I've been using it. This blog is all about how I implement dictado in my classroom. I am an ESOL teacher, not a bilingual/dual language/Lit2, and this year I have 2 Spanish speakers, 2 Russian students, 1 Mandarin speaker, 1 student who speaks Hmong, and one Dutch speaker! If you want to help your students become more careful listeners, better writers, and better communicators, dictation is for you!
The Goods- Dictado Journal
I used steno pads for our dictado journals for the last 2 years, and they work really well. The size of the page is perfect for one 3-5 grade length dictado. This year, it was going to cost $2/steno pad, and because of budget cuts, I didn't want to cost the school anything extra. Instead, I put the 60 spirals that I got for a penny each to use! I'm also trying out the combination of the ELD (English Language Development) work along with the dictado in one spiral, and we'll see how it goes. My awesome student teacher, Michele, labeled the class set, and then if the kids have extra time they can decorate their journal. Here are 2 shots of the cover of my dictado journal.
I just have two sections for the journal- the front is for random ELD goodness and dictado practice (like the pretest, partner dictado, and other practice) and the back is for dictado post tests only.
Differentiation in DictadoLast year, I saw that some of my students were ready for a challenge, while others were failing every week (these were mostly my students who read/write at a first grade level, so making them write this fourth grade level dictado is unreasonable and unfair). In the official dictado, there is no differentiation for students with different needs. That's just silly. So I made my own differentiation up. This is why I have three groups for dictado- Foundations, General, and Challenge. Foundations are my kids who work just on the first sentence of the dictado- we pour our attention and practice into that one sentence so they can be successful with it by Friday and actually learn something from it (rather than getting frustrated and just giving up). The majority of my students are in the General group, and they do the first two sentences of the dictado. These are my on grade level students. Then there are my Challenge students, who are ready for the third sentence, which is usually high school level in terms of vocabulary and complexity of syntax. To become a challenge speller, a student either has to get 100% on the first three dictado post tests of the year OR get 100% on the Challenge Dictado Week (which is about once every other month). For that one test, every single student tries doing all three sentences, and if they get it right, they get 10 bonus Pioneer Dollars instead of just the normal 1 Pioneer Dollar that they usually get for earning 100% on any test. If they get it, they become a Challenge dictado student and do all 3 sentences for the rest of the year. Of course there are exceptions to all this, so use your professional judgement as you work it in your own classroom.
Here is the run-down on the dictado schedule that I generally follow for each week:
Monday-Teacher administers pretest- The instructor reads the entire dictado (usually 3-4 sentences for 4th grade) aloud fluently. Then the teacher reads the first sentence slowly, word by word, going just fast enough for the slowest writer in the class to just keep up. Next, they read the sentence fluently again. Follow this fluent, word-by-word, fluent pattern for all the sentences. The last thing to do for the pretest is to read the entire dictado fluently one last time. You will need to do a lesson (probably after the first one) about teaching students to listen to your voice to hear pauses (commas or semicolons go there!), all the sounds in a word, etc. This is a perfect time to teach them about capitalizing the title, starts of sentences, & proper nouns. Dictado is the time to teach indentation, homophones, and language patterns. The teacher writes the dictado based upon what the students are struggling with, so it's geared exactly to the class needs.
Mini-Lesson- Once the pretest has been administered, the teacher gives a brief lesson on the focus for the week- capitalization of proper nouns, your/you're/you are, there/their/they're, use of semicolons, how to use quotation marks, how to spell key vocabulary words...whatever your students need! I usually write my dictados about whatever our social studies/math/science unit is so they get content along with the writing lesson.
Students Copy the Dictado- Students write the dictado from the board (I have mine typed up on my SmartBoard and on my class website each week) right below their pretest. I have my students write it in green felt tip pen ("Editing Marker") and I expect them to write it perfectly as they're just copying it from the board.
Students Edit their Dictado- Next, students read through their pretest and correct any mistakes they've made using the editing marks (we have a poster of the editing marks and most of them are already familiar with them)
TuesdayStudents just copy down the dictado on a 1/2 sheet of paper to take home to study from. I sometimes have them body spell the dictado on Tuesday morning to connect with the passage more kinesthetically.
WednesdayPartner Dictado- The students pair up and take turns dictating to each other in the front of their ELD/Dictado Notebooks (write your email in the comments if you want a copy of the instructions I post for students to remind them what a good partner dictado will look like). Then they trade and correct each others work using the correctly written dictado from Monday. This is when I pull my intervention/Foundations group and I dictate it to them while hinting at the language focus for the week. Then I correct each Foundation student's dictado and discuss the results, reteaching if necessary and mostly giving more language pattern tips. I sometimes have my students write something to the effect of, "Today during partner dictado, I was still tricked on _____________. On Friday, I will make sure that it doesn't trick me by remembering ___________________________."
ThursdayDuring school, students write the dictado on a 1/2 sheet of paper to study from that evening. Their homework for the night is to study the spelling words and the dictado, and to turn in whatever they did to study the next morning. I have a long list of different ways to study; leave a message with your email if you'd like them!
Teacher Administers Post Test- The teacher administers the post test in the same fashion that they did on Monday. This time, students leave their dictado open to that testing page and turn it in to the teacher, who grades it. The teacher simply edits the work carefully, and marks how many mistakes (a misspelled word counts as -1, incorrect capitalization -1, forgot to indent -1, etc) there were total. Celebrate the improvement from Monday, and remind students that they can use the language patterns that they've learned in dictado this week in their writing for the rest of their lives!