Free EFL/ESL Lesson Plan: Using Dictation to Improve Listening, Spelling and Grammar Skills

Copyright Horia Varlan, Creative Commons License


I’ve used dictation in every EFL/ESL class I’ve ever taught, from beginner level and little kids right up to high-level adult EFL/ESL students. Dictation is a wonderful tool to use to improve your students’ listening, spelling and grammar skills and a dictation lesson plan is easy to prepare and easy to use. This free EFL/ESL lesson plan on using dictation to improve your students’ listening, spelling and grammar skills will show you how.

Lesson Plan Expected Learning Outcome – EFL/ESL students will be able to write down a short passage in English that’s dictated to them, using correct spelling and grammar.

Materials and Resources – Whiteboard markers, whiteboard, (blackboard and chalk), any English book and a photocopies of the passage you dictated

Teaching Procedures

Step One: The idea in using dictation in an EFL/ESL class is to get your students used to hearing English spoken and to be able to transcribe what they really hear, and not what they ‘think’ they hear, down onto paper and have it make sense. So, first of all, you need to choose a passage from a book that has English grammar and vocabulary at the same level as your students. Plus, try to use a book that’s interesting to them.

For little kids, I’ve used the Dr. Seuss book “Green Eggs and Ham” (easy because of basic vocabulary plus the rhymes), for older kids one of the Harry Potter books, and for adult students either a passage from a travel book on Thailand (I live in Thailand) or a passage from a book on the life of the Thai king (Thais revere their king and love to learn about him).

Step Two: Write any vocabulary from the chosen passage your students won’t know onto the board. There’s no point giving them a passage to transcribe using vocabulary they’ve never heard of. That just sets them up for boredom and frustration.

I usually spend ten minutes writing the unknown vocabulary on the board, asking students if any of them know what it means, and writing a definition next to the word. I leave this vocabulary up during the dictation, and point to it as I get to it in the passage I’m reading. (10 minutes)

Step Three: If my students have never done dictation before, I spend five minutes reading two sentences from a different passage in the book, having my students write it down, and then asking two or three of them to come up to the board and write down what they wrote. This gives every student an idea of what’s expected of them in the actual larger dictation. (10 minutes)

Step Four: Now, begin the main dictation. I read each sentence completely through. Then I break each sentence down into four or five word blocks, and read each block several times until every student has written down what they think I am saying. Keep going through the whole passage one sentence at a time.

Read the whole sentence. Read individual blocks several times then, at the end of the sentence, re-read the sentence again. This ensures the students hear each sentence four or five times and have plenty of time to write down what they hear. Also make sure you point to the words they didn’t know on the blackboard as you come to them.

At the end of the passage, tell your students you will now re-read the whole passage slowly and they should follow along with you, checking the spelling they used, the grammar they used and see if it makes sense. Once you’ve finished reading the whole passage through, give them a couple of minutes to finish checking everything. (20 minutes)

Step Five: Now, ask them to exchange their papers with their neighbor and give each student a photocopied handout of the passage. Tell them they should check every word, every spelling and every sentence to make sure
their neighbor got them correctly. Make sure they deduct points for misspelled words, incorrect words, missing capital letters and missing punctuation.

When everyone has finished begin to ask, “Did anyone get no mistakes?” “Did anyone get one mistake?” “Did anyone get two mistakes?” and on and on, until you get at least three to five students who had the least mistakes.

With these top students I either give them a small prize or, if I’m running a points system in class, award them points towards their monthly total. (15 minutes)


1. Students’ understanding of vocabulary, spelling and grammar. 2. Students’ listening ability (did they hear the correct words, or did they write down something that didn’t make sense?), 3. Students’ ability to grade the papers of fellow students and see every mistake.

In every EFL/ESL class I’ve taught, I do a dictation exercise at least twice a month. I notice in every class, students’ listening ability gets better, as does their spelling and grammar.

The reason why dictation works so well is because of the nature of listening, writing and spelling all at the same time, it reinforces the English vocabulary and grammar in their brain, and helps them remember it easier. In fact, most of my child students love dictation and are always begging me to do more.