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Multi-Tasking lessons #1 – Dictogloss

I’ve touched upon the (wonderful) dictogloss before in my post about lesson structures for teachers here , but how is this a multi-skilled lesson, and how does it help prepare students for “real life English”?

  1. Lesson Procedure

The class starts, as most do, with a discussion that introduces the topic (“Activate schemata” or “Engage”). The teacher then explains that they are going to read a text, while the students just listen. On the second reading, they can make notes and then try to reconstruct the text using their notes and existing knowledge of grammar, collocation and discourse. They can do this in groups or alone. Once the text has been reconstructed to the limit of the students’ abilities, the teacher can provide a model.

It’s a very simple lesson structure!

2. Variations / Tweaks

Here are a few variations that I’ve used / seen used in classes.

  • Listening for types – students are only allowed to note down specific types of word. These could be nouns, verbs, adjectives, or “grammar words” – this means that they are reconstructing specific areas of language
  • Robot Teacher – the teacher can repeat the text multiple times, but the students dictate speed and repetition by using the instructions “Stop”, “Repeat from X”, “Spell X” and “Repeat Slowly from X” – this weights the exercise more in favour of listening and less in favour of grammar / vocabulary knowledge
  • Lecture – students record the teacher reading the first dictogloss, and then put headphones in and assume control of the recording in order to reconstruct. They can do this alone or in groups. Again, this is more focussed on listening, but is also incorporating skills required to attend and digest lectures – very useful for students intending to study at British universities.

3. Integrated skills / multi-tasking

  • Listening and writing – mainly through note-taking, but if students are reconstructing in groups, they may dictate their own work verbatim to other students. Note-taking as a skill is useful for meetings and lectures, but also directly helps preparation for exam listening (IELTS and FCE, for example).
  • Listening and speaking – if you use the robot teacher variation, students have to be able to give instructions while listening, at the correct point in order to successfully facilitate task completion.
  • Learner Training – if using the “lecture” method

Is this the finest example of a multi-tasking lesson? It’s certainly one of the favourites. I’d like to hear from people who use further variations.




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Cambridge IELTS 9 Writing Model Answer (Test 1, Task 2)


Background statement – introduction
Thesis statement – introduction

Topic sentence – body
Supporting statements – body
Concluding statement – body

Summarising statement – conclusion
Judgement statement (opinion) – conclusion

Some experts believe that it is better for children to begin learning a foreign language at primary school rather than secondary school.

Do the advantages of this outweigh the disadvantages?

In a world where the concept of physical distance has been greatly reduced due to technological advances and globalisation, it has become increasingly beneficial to be proficient in a second language, especially in the workplace. As a result, there has been some discussion regarding the optimum age for exposure to a second language in schools with many suggesting that earlier is better, a view which, in my opinion, should be supported by education authorities.

Firstly, the idea that children should be introduced to a second language at an early age is supported by the principle of learning speed being inversely proportional to age. There is no doubt that capacity for learning is extremely high at primary education level. Younger children are able to hone pronunciation skills more quickly and in conjunction with their own natural improvement in their first language. Furthermore, fear of failure does not usually manifest itself in 7-11 year-old children, meaning that productive skills can be practised more freely in a low-pressure environment inspired by trial and error, which is proven as an effective language learning method and lends support to second language teaching at primary level. 

On the other hand, there are aspects of language learning that are difficult to study closely at a young age. While grammar is largely acquired naturally in one’s first language, an understanding of a second language is typically more heavily reliant on a mixture of theory and practice, which can be more difficult to encourage in younger pupils with a lower concentration span and less-developed critical thinking skills. In addition, it could be argued that the main focus in primary schools should be on arithmetic and first language proficiency, with the introduction of a second language proceeding the development of these traditional key skills. Accepting other subjects as priorities would naturally delay second language learning, with high school being a natural introduction point for such subjects. 

While it is clear that mathematical skills as well as first language literacy are vital, the importance of speaking a second language surely means that there is more pressure on children to speak two languages at a younger age. As a result, it is my strong feeling that primary school curricula must include an emphasis on encouraging second language exposure as early as possible.