Using dictation in craft activities with young learners

The word ‘dictation’ doesn’t usually make people think of interactive communicative activities. Images of bored kids, listening to the teacher might spring to mind. However, there are lots of ways of conducting dictation activities that are far from boring. Dictation can be used in a fun and dynamic way that promotes active engagement and communication. In my classes, I use a range of different dictation techniques during arts and crafts activities. The aim is to give kids more repeated exposure to the English I want them to acquire, while keeping them engaged.

In this article, I’ll share the most common engaging dictation techniques I use to teach English in the preschool and primary classroom.

A lot of the ‘crafts’ I do with my young learners are simple and paper-based. I usually try to incorporate an element of finding and sticking items. The main reason for this, is to create a need to do something in English before they can move on to the next stage. They might have to listen out for the key vocabulary, or they might have to ask for the pieces they need. If I think that they are still in the beginning stages of acquiring the key vocabulary, I’ll conduct the craft using a dictation technique. Beyond providing more exposure to the key vocabulary, I use the opportunity to help them acquire other phrases and structures.

Dictation techniques with young learners

  • Giving instructions – Point to the ___; Colour the ___; Find the ___; Touch the ___
  • Asking questions – Where’s the ___? Can you find the ___? Have you got a ___? Do you have a ___?
  • Making statements – I can see a ___; I’ve got a ___; There’s a ___;
  • Describing the item – It’s got 4 legs; It’s got sharp teeth; It lives in the jungle; It eats meat; It’s a carnivore; It’s green etc.
  • Recycling story / song language – Incorporate useful phrases from the story or song the craft is based on. Even if the craft is independent of a story or song, you can take the opportunity to recycle a song you are learning. Some examples are: ‘There was an old lady who swallowed a ___. I don’t know why she swallowed a ___’; ‘Walking through the jungle, what do you see? Can you hear a noise? What could it be? I think it is a ___’; ‘Help! Help! Who can help? A ___ goes to the duck’; ‘No, no, no! That’s not my mum. That’s a ___’
  • Retell the story – If the craft is based on a story, re-tell it and pause at key points for the children to colour / stick or collect each target item.
  • Playing ‘I spy’ – e.g. ‘I spy with my little eye, something with (wings)’.

Examples of find and stick crafts made with dictation techniques

You can find more information on the English learning benefits of arts and crafts and practical ideas for activities to do pre, during and post craft in our article, How to teach English through arts and crafts.


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