Read what a teacher says about this activity:

‘Dictation is usually a very teacher-directed activity. However, when we play Dictation machine, the learners control the speed of the activity and how many times the text is read. This means learners of all levels can participate.’ 

Stage 1: Prepare 

Prepare a short text. This might be from the textbook, a newspaper or one you wrote yourself. It might have specific vocabulary or grammar you would like learners to practise.  

Stage 2: Explain 

Ask: ‘Have you ever used a CD player, or played music on a phone? How do you make it work?’ 

Display a real machine or a picture of one. 

Write play, pause and go back on the board. Elicit what each word means. 

Say: ‘I will pretend to be the machine. I will “play” a short text. You should write this text in your book as accurately as possible. However, you will control the machine. When you want me to start, shout “play”. If you want me to pause, shout “stop”. If you want me to repeat a sentence, shout “go back”. I will follow your instructions.’ 

Stage 3: Model 

Select a learner to model the activity with you. 

Start when they say ‘play’. Read one sentence while they write and give instructions to pause or go back. 

Check that learners understand the instructions.  

Stage 4: Play 

Check that all learners have pencils and paper. Stand at the front of the class. 

  • Don’t start until a learner shouts ‘play’. 
  • Read at normal speed. 
  • Let the class take control. Stop when someone says ‘stop’. 
  • Repeat when someone says ‘go back’. 
  • Continue until all learners are happy with their text. 

Stage 5: Share and check 

Learners compare texts with a partner. 

Write the original text on the board for learners to correct their own work, or distribute the text to the class.  

Say: ‘Well done! Did you enjoy being in control?’ 

To adapt this to a very large class, select four or five learners to be the callers, or it may become very noisy. Make sure there are some weaker learners in this group of callers. 

You may choose to do this activity in groups. A confident reader dictates the text while the others write it down. 

Make sure you choose texts suitable to the level of your class.


Elicit: How a teacher gets information from learners, e.g. asking questions, prompting. 

Teacher-directed: When the teacher is in control of something (rather than the learners).