Author: Deb Avery | Published on 1 April 2023


Read what a teacher says about this activity:

Not all my learners work at the same speed or have the same level of confidence and knowledge. Some learners find dictation more difficult than others. Others find it boring.  This type of dictation is not boring and it allows all my learners to succeed. Sometimes learners choose how difficult they want the task to be. At other times, I decide who should work at each level.

Stage 1: Instructions

Write these three options on the board: 

  1. Choose the correct word
  2. Fill in the missing words
  3. Write the whole story 

Say: ‘Today I will read a story and you will write it down as I read. You can choose how you want to do the dictation. You can either: One, choose the correct word from two alternatives. Two, fill in the missing words yourself. Or, three, you can write the whole story.’

Point to the options as you say them.

Stage 2: Model

Option 1: Write a sentence with choices for some words on the board, for example: 

This is Anansi the spider/soccer. 

Select a confident learner to help you.

Say: ‘As I read the sentences, choose the correct word. This is Option 1’.

Help the learner to circle the correct word (spider). 

Option 2: Write this sentence with a missing word on the board, for example: 

He has eight _______________.

Select a confident learner to help you fill in the gaps.

Say: ‘As I read the sentence, fill in the missing word. This is Option 2

Assist the learner to fill in the missing word (legs). 

Option 3: Say: ‘When I read the story, write down what I say. This is Option 3. 

He has a fat body.

Select a confident learner to write the sentence as you dictate it slowly and clearly.

Stage 3: Dictation

Have three piles of paper at the front of the classroom. 

  • The first has the complete text copied out with word choices.
  • The second has the text copied out with lines for missing words.
  • The third has blank sheets of paper.

Say: ‘Come and choose which option you want to try today.’ Allow learners time to choose. 

Now read the dictation to the class, and they do the activity. 

Stage 4: End activity

Say: ‘Find a partner and swap papers. I will read the dictation again. Check your partner’s work.’

Say: ‘Well done! Next time you can try a different way of doing dictation.’

This activity can be adapted to any level by varying the text. Younger learners will need help with choices, but give older learners the freedom to make their own choices without comment. If you are unable to make copies of the text, write options two and three on the board before the lesson. Learners can choose which version to copy.


Dictation: the action of dictating words to be typed, written down, or recorded on tape.