Dictogloss for listening

A couple of weeks ago in Episode 26, BVP answered a question about dictees. (I know there should be an accent on the first of those es but can’t figure out how to get it there. I don’t teach French.) He said they don’t contribute to language acquisition. He mentioned that something called a dictogloss was a much better choice in language classes. It’s not new; EFL teachers have been using it for years, as in this blog.

It’s the end of the year. I didn’t have time for research. But I’d just found a great set of podcasts for learning Russian, and I told my kids I was trying out something new. They’re used to that. They claim they are guinea pigs at least once a month. I pointed out that these podcasts would help with their finals.

I played a podcast once for them to listen to it. We talked about the subject (how do you divide up the chores when guests are coming). As when we had teens at home, I was astounded to find out my students saw no reason to prepare for guests, except for ordering pizza. That discussion led to a grudging search for infographics and charts about who cleans in households around the world. Searching infographics in English yielded data on where men help the most with housework, but searching in our target language yielded information on how to clean and how often and statistics on who earns the most and who’s considered the “head” of the family. Then we considered whether the English-language results were stereotypical, or possibly “politically correct,” and wondered who had created the infographics, for what purposes. We did find a lot more infographics on how young people spend time, so once again we argued about whether time in which students do their homework is “free time.” Russians say yes, American teens disagree.

Because of our research tangents (some of which I had gathered in advance), the second time they listened to the podcast was a couple days later. In the meantime, we’d heard and used a lot of the vocabulary, so I don’t know whether I can claim that results were based on the new trick. We played the podcast section a third time, and then students worked in pairs to try to reconstruct it.

If I had more year left, I’d add this technique to my bag of CI tricks. Here’s a CARLA article on how to proceed. I obviously didn’t do it exactly as directed. I always want my kids to feel prepared for any task and make it part of a whole.

I don’t like giving students much time to “free talk” in Russian because they aren’t the best language models for each other, but in this case, I could hear all sorts of phrases coming out of their mouths directly from the podcast. They were very engaged and almost competitive in how much they tried to remember. It was fun for me to listen to. A groan went up when I called time. Then we listened to the podcast, sentence by sentence, and they raised one hand if they had the idea of the sentence, two if they got most of it. “Can we do it again?” Love those words.

In oral finals, I heard several constructions we’d heard in the podcast, used correctly. I need more time to research this idea, but now other teachers are the ones who have to do it. We’re out! I think you could do this sitting outside with notebooks on the lawn though…no smartboard technology required, once kids are trained. Let me know if you try.

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10 responses to “Dictogloss for listening

  1. What level are these students??

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    • They were level 2 and up. The fact that they were in mixed groups helped. The lower levels were hearing the vocabulary and the upper levels were hearing constructions.

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  2. While the dictado may not technically “contribute,” in my world it can bring quiet focus to a class spinning into chaos. THEN when they’re settled, I can deliver CI. I don’t use these daily, but they sure come in handy for a new-to-the-district teacher who attempts to pioneer CI in a place that has never heard of it.

    I will check out the dictogloss though. Always learning 🙂 Thanks Michele!

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    • Jen, I totally agree. Dictees have saved my sanity on numerous occasions. They bring quiet to a room that needs it, they do not need advance planning, and they give me a chance to calm my inner grammar nerd. But I like these a lot better for “real” listening practice. If you were using a movie that had target-language subtitles, you could add the dictogloss idea with certain parts for a final viewing of appropriate sections. But I can’t try that now! (A wail of sadness … but summer is here! Has to be good, right?)

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    • I learned a twist on dictado from Martina Bex that I love! Dictado Incorrecto. It’s great to do after reading a chapter in a class novel, or after a story. Read sentences loaded with the structures you are teaching, but make the information incorrect somehow. Then, they have to listen, figure it out, and write the sentence with the corrected information. Great for lots of input and goes way beyond just spelling and accents. Love it!

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  3. I have been trying to work in more activities designed to make my heritage speakers notice the connection between form and meaning, but this quote worries me: “…when students co-constructed an incorrect solution, they tended to be inaccurate on the post-test given a week later”. The overview sheet (prepared by Diane Tedick) suggests that teacher feedback may counter this problem, but when I look at the pitiful impact of feedback on my heritage speakers writing I wonder if the teacher has to be part of the original conversation within the activity so that students do not co-create an incorrect solution in the first place.

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  4. Do you mind me asking what set of Russian podcasts you were using.

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