How to Use Online Dictation Exercises with ESL Students

If you are a teacher or tutor teaching English to ESL learners, you will be familiar with using dictation exercises in your class. However, in addition to in-class dictation where you read passages of text to your students, huge steps forward in technology means that online dictations now provide a powerful and exciting dictation alternative particularly suited to remote learning and homework.

What Are Online Dictations for ESL Learners?

Online dictation exercises for ESL learners are just as the name suggests. They are pre-recorded passages of text which students can listen to online. All they need is a computer or device connected to the Internet and they are good to go!

However, modern online dictation websites, such as Ringo Lingo, offer so much more than the single robotic or badly recorded voice of old! Updates in technology means that students have a much more exciting experience when working with online dictations.

Advanced Listening and Play-Back Controls

One massive benefit of online ESL dictations is that students have control over how they listen to the texts. Many online dictation services such as Ringo Lingo provide controls which allow students to vary the speed of the dictation passages, rewind to different points to relisten to the text and even look up words they are not familiar with. This level of control means that students are likely to be more engaged in the exercise as they are empowered to play the dictation in a way that ensures they are likely to succeed with the passage, rather than give up because they have fallen behind.

Choose From Different Voices

ESL students can choose from a range of different voices. Listening to different accents and voices is so important for English language learners, however if they just have the one ESL teacher, it can be particularly difficult for beginner learners to get exposed to different accents in a way that is suitable for their level. This is useful even for more advanced learners as hearing different accents better prepares them for English in the real world.

How To Use Online Dictations for ESL Learners

Online dictations are a great resource when setting homework or home study exercises for students.

One way you might use the dictations are to simply give some URLs to the students to work through. As many online dictation platforms such as Ringo Lingo allow self checking, this is a handy complete exercise for students. However, there are some interesting variations of this.

Translate Into Their Own Language

One simple way to extend the benefit of the online dictation exercises is to ask students to translate the text into their own language, they may need to look up words they are not familiar with. This is useful as it helps students build their vocabulary and grammar. However, importantly, being relatively short texts, these are quite quick for students to translate and this helps to build their confidence.

Make Notes

Encourage students to do dictations with a notebook in front of them so they can make a note of things they are not familiar with, for example words they don’t know. Depending on the level, students can then independently research and answer to their questions or bring them to you for an explanation at the next class. This is useful as it encourages students to think about the text in front of them and not just simply write down the words.

Show Listen and Tell

With dictation texts covering so many topics, from Pyramids to Idioms, there are plenty to interest your students and plenty of variation for your class. Why not invite your students to do a dictation at home and then tell you about the topic they covered in your next class? This is also a great way to check on a student’s comprehension and also gives them a reason to research more about a topic or look up additional vocabulary related to the topic.

Dictation Challenges

We’re all familiar with challenges of different types, so how about running a dictation challenge?

Challenge students to complete a dictation a day for a month (or start off simple with a 5 day challenge). You can choose whether a student does a different dictation a day or whether they replay dictations they have previously completed to improve their score.

Do you use online dictations with your students? If so, how do you use them?