Vol.3. No.1, April 2003
Combining Dictogloss and Cooperative
Learning to Promote Language Learning
describes dictogloss, an integrated skills technique
for language learning in which students work together
to create a reconstructed version of a text read
to them by their teacher. The article begins for
explaining the basic dictogloss technique, contrasting
it with traditional dictation, and citing research
related to the use of dictogloss in second language
instruction. Next, dictogloss is situated in relation
to eight current, overlapping trends in second
language teaching. Then, in the key section of
the article, a description is provided of how
the literature on cooperative learning enables
teachers to better understand how dictogloss works
and to use dictogloss more effectively. Included
in this section is a rationale for using dictogloss
with global issues content. Finally, eight variations
on the basic dictogloss procedure are presented.
Dictation has a long history
in literacy education, particularly second language
education. In the standard dictation procedure,
the teacher reads a passage slowly and repeatedly.
Students write exactly what the teacher says.
Dictation in this traditional form has been criticized
as a rote learning method in which students merely
make a copy of the text the teacher reads without
doing any thinking, thus producing a mechanical
form of literacy. Ruth Wajnryb (1990) is credited
with developing a new way to do dictation, known
as dictogloss. While there are many variations
on dictogloss - we will be describing some of
these later in this article - the basic format
is as follows:
1. The class engages in some discussion
on the topic of the upcoming text. This topic
is one on which students have some background
knowledge and, hopefully, interest. The class
may also discuss the text type of the text, e.g.,
narrative, procedure, or explanation, and the
purpose, organizational structure, and language
features of that text type.
2. The teacher reads the text
aloud once at normal speed as students listen
but do not write. The text can be selected by
teachers from newspapers, textbooks, etc., or
teachers can write their own or modify an existing
text. The text should be at or below students'
current overall proficiency level, although there
may be some new vocabulary. It may even be a text
that students have seen before. The length of
the text depends on students' proficiency level.
3. The teacher reads the text
again at normal speed and students take notes.
Students are not trying to write down every word
spoken; they could not even if they tried, because
the teacher is reading at normal speed.
4. Students work in groups of
two-four to reconstruct the text in full sentences,
not in point form (also known as bullet points).
This reconstruction seeks to retain the meaning
and form of the original text but is not a word-for-word
copy of the text read by the teacher. Instead,
students are working together to create a cohesive
text with correct grammar and other features of
the relevant text type, e.g., procedure, or rhetorical
framework, e.g., cause and effect, that approximates
the meaning of the original.
5. Students, with the teacher's
help, identify similarities and differences in
terms of meaning and form between their text reconstructions
and the original, which is displayed on an overhead
projector or shown to students in another way.
Dictogloss has been the subject
of a number of studies and commentaries, which
have, for the most part, supported use of the
technique (Brown, 2001; Cheong, 1993; Kowal &
Swain, 1994, 1997; Lim, 2000; Lim & Jacobs,
2001a, b; Llewyn, 1989; Nabei, 1996; Storch, 1998;
Swain, 1999; Swain & Lapkin, 1998; Swain &
Miccoli, 1994). Among the reasons given for advocating
the use of dictogloss are that students are encouraged
to focus some of their attention on form and that
all four language skills - listening (to the teacher
read the text and to groupmates discuss the reconstruction),
speaking (to groupmates during the reconstruction),
reading (notes taken while listening to the teacher,
the group's reconstruction, and the original text),
and writing the reconstruction) - are involved.
Further potential benefits of the technique are
discussed later in this paper.
The article is divided into three
sections. The first section situates dictogloss
within current trends in second language teaching.
The next section provides ideas on how ideas from
cooperative learning can help teachers understand
how dictogloss works and enhance its impact. The
third section presents a number of variations
on dictogloss. Our purposes for writing this article
are to encourage more teachers to use dictogloss,
to use it more effectively via insights from cooperative
learning, to link dictogloss with global issues
content as one way of making language learning
more meaningful, and to experiment with variations
on the standard dictogloss procedure.
Section 1: Dictogloss
and Current Trends in Second Language Education
Dictogloss represents a major
shift from traditional dictation. When implemented
conscientiously, dictogloss embodies sound principles
of language teaching which include: learner autonomy,
cooperation among learners, curricular integration,
focus on meaning, diversity, thinking skills,
alternative assessment, and teachers as co-learners.
These principles flow from an overall paradigm
shift that has occurred in second language education
(Jacobs & Farrell, 2001).
In this section, we discuss each
of these eight overlapping trends with reference
to dictogloss. The Steps referred to below are
the five steps in the standard dictogloss procedure
described in the Introduction section above. For
explanations of the variations from the standard
dictogloss procedure mentioned in the current
section (Section 1), please refer to Section 3
of this article.
1. Learner Autonomy. Learner
autonomy involves learners having some choice
as to the what and how of the curriculum and,
at the same time, feeling responsible for and
understanding their own learning and for the learning
of classmates (van Lier, 1996).
In dictogloss, as opposed to traditional
dictation, students reconstruct the text on their
own after the teacher has read it aloud to them
just twice at normal speed (Steps 2 and 3), rather
than the teacher reading the text slowly and repeatedly.
Also, students need to help each other to develop
a joint reconstruction of the text (Step 4), rather
than depending on the teacher for all the information.
Furthermore, Step 5 provides students with opportunities
to see where they have done well and where they
may need to improve. Swain (1999) believes that,
"Students gain insights into their own linguistic
shortcomings and develop strategies for solving
them by working through them with a partner"
(pp. 145). Ways to add other dimensions of learner
autonomy to dictogloss are students:
- (a) asking for a pause in the
dictation (Variation B)
- (b) choosing the topics of
the texts, selecting the texts themselves, and
taking the teacher's place to read the text
- (c) elaborating on the text
- (d) giving their opinions
about the ideas in the text (Variation G).
2. Cooperation among Learners.
Traditional dictation was done as an individual
activity. Dictogloss retains an individual element
(Steps 2 and 3) in which students work alone to
listen to and take notes on the text read by the
teacher. In Step 4 of dictogloss, learners work
together in groups of between two and four members.
Additionally, in Step 5, they have the opportunity
to discuss how well their group did and, perhaps,
how they could function more effectively the next
time. We will go into greater detail later in
this article on how to improve group functioning
3. Curricular Integration.
From the perspective of language teachers, curricular
integration involves combining the teaching of
content, such as social studies or science, with
the teaching of language, such as writing skills
or grammar. As in traditional dictation, with
dictogloss, curricular integration is easily achieved
via the selection of texts. For instance, if the
goal is to integrate language and mathematics
in order to help students learn important mathematics
vocabulary and grammar, language teachers (in
consultation with mathematics teachers and, perhaps,
students) can use a mathematics text for the dictogloss.
The discussion prior to the readings of the text
(Step 1) helps students recall and build their
knowledge of the text's topic. As Brown (2001,
p. 2) points out, "Writing this information
[what students know on the topic] on the chalk
board allows the students to notice the wealth
of information they have as a collective."
In addition to promoting integration between language
education and other curricular areas, dictogloss,
as noted earlier, also promotes integration within
the language curriculum, as all four language
skills - listening, speaking, reading, and writing
- are utilized.
4. Focus on Meaning.
In literacy education, the focus used to lie mostly
on matters of form, such as grammar and spelling.
In the current paradigm, while form still matters,
the view is that language learning takes place
best when the focus is mainly on ideas (Littlewood,
1981). Dictogloss seeks to combine a focus on
meaning with a focus on form (Brown, 2001). As
Swain (1999) puts it, "When students focus
on form, they must be engaged in the act of 'meaning-making'"
Perhaps it is appropriate that the term 'diversity'
has a few different meanings. One of the meanings
particularly relevant to dictogloss is that, due
to differences in background and in ways of learning
(Gardner, 1999) different people will attend to
different information. This is reflected in the
variation in the notes that students take in Step
3. Working in a group in Step 4 allows learners
to take advantage of this type of diversity. A
second meaning of diversity suggests that different
students will have different strengths (Cohen,
1998) which may lead them to play different roles
in their group. For instance, those with larger
vocabularies and greater content knowledge in
the topic of the text can help with that part
of the reconstruction, and those whose interpersonal
skills are better developed may often help coordinate
the group's interaction.
There are a number of ways of
using diversity to facilitate each student being
a helper (the star) in their group, rather than
always being the one receiving help from their
more proficient partners. One, we can use a range
of topics, striving in particular to read texts
on topics which less proficient students know
about. Two, students can create visuals to illustrate
their text reconstructions (Variation D). In this
way, those students whose illustration skills
are currently better than their literacy skills
have a chance to shine.
6. Thinking Skills.
The definition of literacy has been expanded beyond
being able to read and write to also being able
to think critically about what is read and about
how to best frame what is written. The discussion
that takes place during Step 4 of dictogloss provides
learners with chances to use thinking skills as
they challenge, defend, learn from, and elaborate
on the ideas presented during collaboration on
the reconstruction task. Thinking skills also
come into play in Step 5 as students analyze their
reconstructed text in relation to the original.
We can challenge students' skill at identifying
main ideas by asking them to write summaries rather
than text reconstructions (Variation E) and to
elaborate on the texts read (Variation F).
7. Alternative Assessment.
Assessment measures in second language education
have been criticized for a focus on measuring
language acquisition out of context, e.g., by
testing proficiency via single words or isolated
sentences rather than whole texts (Omaggio Hadley,
2001). In response to these criticisms, a range
of more context-based alternative assessment procedures
have been developed, including think aloud (Block,
1992), peer critique (Ghaith, 2002), portfolios
(Pierce & O'Malley, 1992), and dialogue journals
Dictogloss offers a context-rich
method of assessing how much students know about
writing and about the topic of the text. The text
reconstruction task provides learners with opportunities
to display both their knowledge of the content
of the text as well as of the organizational structure
and language features of the text (Derewianka,
1990). As students discuss with each other during
Steps 4 and 5, teachers can listen in and observe
students' thinking as they about a task. This
real-time observation of learners' thinking process
offers greater insight than does looking at the
product after they have finished. In this way,
dictogloss supplies a process-based complement
to traditional product-based modes of assessment.
Furthermore, students are involved in self-assessment
and peer assessment.
8. Teachers as Co-learners.
The current view in education sees teachers not
as all-knowing sages but instead as fellow learners
who join with their students in the quest for
knowledge. This knowledge can pertain specifically
to teaching and learning, or it can be knowledge
on any topic or sphere of activity. Dictogloss
may be of use here in at least two ways. First,
as mentioned in the last paragraph, we can observe
students and apply what we learn from our observations
in order to teach better. Second, during Step
1, we can share with students our interest in
the topic of the dictogloss text and some of what
we have done and plan to do to learn more about
it or to apply related ideas.
Section 2: Cooperative
Cooperative learning, also known
as collaborative learning, is a body of concepts
and techniques for helping to maximize the benefits
of cooperation among students. Various principles
for cooperative learning have been put forward
in the literature on cooperative learning (e.g.,
Baloche, 1998, Jacobs, Power, & Loh, 2002,
Johnson & Johnson, 1999, Kagan, 1994, and
Slavin, 1995). In the current section of this
paper, we discuss eight of these cooperative learning
principles and how they can inform the use of
1. Heterogeneous Grouping.
Forming groups in which students are mixed on
one or more of a number of variables including
sex, ethnicity, social class, religion, personality,
age, language proficiency, and diligence is believed
to have a number of benefits, such as encouraging
peer tutoring, providing a variety of perspectives,
helping students come to know and like others
different from themselves, and fostering appreciation
of the value of diversity.
Thus, in forming groups for dictogloss,
we might want to look at our class and make conscious
decisions about which students should work together,
rather than leaving the matter to chance or to
students' choice. The latter option often results
in groups with low levels of heterogeneity. Furthermore,
when we opt for heterogeneous groups, we may want
to spend some time on ice breaking (also known
as teambuilding) activities, because, as Slavin
(1995) notes, the combination of students that
results from teacher-selected groups is likely
to be one that would never have been created had
it not been for our intervention.
2. Collaborative Skills.
Collaborative skills are those needed to work
with others. Students may lack these skills, the
language involved in using the skills, or the
inclination to apply the skills during dictogloss.
Some of the collaborative skills relevant to dictogloss
include: asking for and giving reasons; disagreeing
politely and responding politely to disagreement;
and encouraging others to participate and responding
to encouragement to participate. The overlap between
collaborative skills and thinking skills can be
seen in particular in the first two pairs of skills
just mentioned, i.e., those involving reasons
3. Group Autonomy.
This principle encourages students to look to
themselves for resources rather than relying solely
on the teacher. As Wajnryb (1990, p. 18) notes:
Classroom organization in the
form of group work allows for the development
of a small learning community … . There
is also the factor of group responsibility for
the work produced. … The creation of small
learning communities means increased participation
and learner co-operation. This injection of 'democracy'
into the classroom allows learners to complement
each others' strengths and weaknesses.
In Step 4 of dictogloss, while
students are working in their groups to reconstruct
the text, and in Step 5, while students are comparing
their text to the original, it is very tempting
for teachers to intervene either in a particular
group or with the entire class. We may sometimes
want to resist this temptation, because as Roger
Johnson writes, "Teachers must trust the
peer interaction to do many of the things they
have felt responsible for themselves" (http://www.clcrc.com/pages/qanda.html).
4. Simultaneous Interaction.
In classrooms in which group activities are not
used, the typical interaction pattern is that
of sequential interaction, in which one person
at a time - usually the teacher - speaks. For
example, the teacher explains a point, asks a
question to check students' comprehension of that
point, calls on a student to answer the question,
and evaluates that student's response. In traditional
dictation, the teacher is the only person who
speaks, unless the teacher calls on individual
students to read back what has been dictated.
When group activities are used,
one student per group is, hopefully, speaking.
In a class of 40 divided into groups of four,
ten students are speaking simultaneously, i.e.,
40 students divided by 4 students per group =
10 students (1 per group) speaking at the same
time. Thus, the name: simultaneous interaction
(Kagan, 1994). If the same class is working in
groups of two, we may have 20 students speaking
We encourage simultaneous interaction
in Step 4 of dictogloss, and the smaller the groups
(pairs too are groups), the more students are
interacting simultaneously. Simultaneous interaction
is also relevant at Step 5 of dictogloss. Many
teachers may want to have one group then another
read or show their reconstruction or some part
thereof to the class, via overhead projector,
visualizer, or other means. When this happens,
we are back to sequential interaction.
Many alternatives exist that maintain
simultaneous interaction. For instance, one person
from each group can go to another group. These
representatives explain (not just show) their
group's reconstruction to the other group, solicit
feedback, and pass on that feedback to their original
group. Of course, simultaneous and sequential
interaction may be usefully combined in Step 5.
5. Equal Participation
(Kagan, 1994). A frequent problem in
groups is that one or two group members dominate
the group and, for whatever reason, impede the
participation of others. Cooperative learning
offers many techniques for promoting equal participation
in groups. Some of these may be useful in dictogloss.
a. The fact that everyone has
written potentially different notes during Step
2 provides some impetus for everyone's ideas to
be sought. The group might accentuate this by
deciding on a division of labor during the note-taking,
e.g., one person is mainly responsible for the
first half and the other for the second half.
b. Everyone can have a designated
turn to read their notes.
c. Each group member can have
the main responsibility for one part of the reconstruction.
d. Each person can have a role
to play. Roles should rotate. Examples of roles
- Facilitator who looks
to see that the group's reconstruction has the
characteristics of the text type, e.g., explanation,
which is the language focus of the lesson.
- Checker who checks
to see that everyone in the group can explain
all the group's choices in creating their reconstruction.
- Conflict Creator
who disagrees in order to generate debate.
- Recorder who writes
down the group's ideas.
- Language Monitor who
checks that the group is using the second language
when appropriate (teachers and students may
decide that the first language is sometimes
Furthermore, speaking in a group
rather than to the entire class and the teacher
may create an atmosphere in which students feel
more comfortable about participating and taking
the risks that speaking up involves. Wajnryb (1990,
p. 18) believes, "Group work reduces the
stress on the learner (as well as the teacher)
by moving interaction away from the public arena.
… allows for the phenomenon of 'exploratory
talk' among peers, something which is rendered
impossible by the size, power asymmetry, and lack
of intimacy of the full classroom."
6. Individual Accountability.
Individual accountability is, in some ways, the
flip side of equal participation. When we try
to encourage equal participation in groups, we
want everyone to feel they have opportunities
to take part in the group. When we try to encourage
individual accountability in groups, we hope that
no one will attempt to avoid using those opportunities.
Techniques for encouraging individual accountability
seek to avoid the problem of groups known variously
as social loafing, sleeping partners, or free
These techniques, not surprisingly,
overlap with those for encouraging equal participation.
Some further ideas that are relevant to dictogloss
a. As mentioned under simultaneous
interaction, group representatives can go to another
group to get ideas from other groups during Step
4 and to report what their group has done in Step
5. This representative should be selected at random,
rather than being a volunteer or a nominee of
their group. This encourages all group members
to be ready.
b. After doing dictogloss in groups,
the class can do dictogloss working alone using
a text of the same text type and the same or related
c. In Step 4, groups can confer
but then individual members write their own reconstruction.
d. In Step 5, the teacher can
call on group members at random to explain their
group's reconstruction decisions.
7. Positive Interdependence.
This principle lies at the heart of cooperative
learning. When positive interdependence exists
among members of a group, they feel that what
helps one member of the group helps the other
members and that what hurts one member of the
group hurts the other members. It is the "All
for one, one for all" feeling that leads
group members to want to help each other, to see
that they share a common goal. Wajnryb (1990,
p. 18) observes, "As a group pools its resources
to perform the task of reconstruction of the dictogloss
text, they assume common ownership of the version
they are creating. This inevitably generates a
certain pride of ownership and increases learners'
commitment to their energy investment."
Johnson and Johnson (1999) describe
nine ways to promote positive interdependence.
Five of these are discussed below in regard to
a. Environmental positive interdependence:
Group members sit close together so that they
can easily see each other's work and hear each
other without using loud voices. This may seem
trivial, but it can be important.
b. Role positive interdependence:
In addition to the roles mentioned above, there
are also housekeeping types of roles, such as
Timekeeper who reminds the group of the time limit
for Step 4 and Sound Hound who tells the group
if they are being too loud in their deliberations.
c. Resource positive interdependence:
Each group member has unique resources. Ways that
students can control such resources in dictogloss
- Individual members enter Step
4 with the notes they took while listening to
the teacher read the text.
- If some students' current achievement
level suggests that they will not be able to
take any useful notes, and we are worried that
this will affect their relationship with groupmates,
we can assist such students, e.g., letting them
read the text the day before, giving them a
note-taking scaffold, or providing them the
text in the form of a cloze passage (Davis &
- Each student can have a different
reference book, e.g., different dictionaries,
grammar books, encyclopedias, or other sources
of content information, or computer access to
internet versions of such resources.
- Information gained by talking
with other groups about their reconstructions
constitutes another resource. Group members
can be designated to visit other groups to gain
- In Step 5, one group member
can be given a copy of the text read by the
teacher and can lead the group in comparing
their reconstruction to the original.
- In Variation C students take
turns reading aloud to their groupmates.
d. External Challenge positive
interdependence: When the same group stays together
over a period of time - this is recommended by
most books on cooperative learning partly as a
means of allowing groups to work to improve their
group dynamics - students can aim to improve on
past performance in dictogloss.
e. Reward positive interdependence:
If groups meet a pre-set goal, they receive some
kind of reward. Rewards can take many forms: grades,
sweets, certificates, praise, the choice of a
future activity the class does, the chance to
do their team cheer or handshake, or just a feeling
8. Cooperation as a Value.
This principle means that rather than cooperation
being only a way to learn, i.e., the how of learning,
cooperation also becomes part of the content to
be learned, i.e., the what of learning. This flows
naturally from the most crucial cooperative learning
principle, positive interdependence. Cooperation
as a value involves taking the feeling of "All
for one, one for all" and expanding it beyond
the small classroom group to encompass the whole
class, the whole school, on and on, bringing in
increasingly greater numbers of people and other
beings into students' circle of ones with whom
One way of expanding the scope
of the positive interdependence felt by students
is the use of texts with global issues content.
Global issues connect with such areas of education
as peace education, environmental education, human
rights education, and development education (TESOLers
for Social Responsibility www.tesolers4sr.org).
Specific topics that the authors have used for
dictogloss include hunger, nuclear weapons, vegetarianism,
and reducing use of disposable products.
Section 3: Variations
We have used several variations
on dictogloss. These are described in this section.
No doubt, others exist or await creation.
Variation A: Dictogloss Negotiation
In Dictogloss Negotiation, rather
than group members discussing what they heard
when the teacher has finished reading, students
discuss after each section of text has been read.
Sections can be one sentence long or longer, depending
on the difficulty of the text relative to students'
(1) Students sit with a partner,
desks face-to-face rather than side-by-side. This
encourages discussion. After reading the text
once while students listen, during the second
reading, the teacher stops after each sentence
or two, or paragraph. During this pause, students
discuss but do not write what they think they
heard. As with standard dictogloss, the students'
reconstruction should be faithful to the meaning
and form of the original but does not employ the
(2) One member of each pair writes
the pair's reconstruction of the text section.
This role rotates with each section of the text.
(3) Students compare their reconstruction
with the original as in Step 5 of the standard
Variation B: Student-Controlled
In Student-Controlled Dictation,
students use the teacher as they would use a tape
recorder. In other words, they can ask the teacher
to stop, go back, i.e., rewind, and skip ahead,
i.e., fast-forward. However, students bear in
mind that the aim of dictogloss is the creation
of an appropriate reconstruction, not a photocopy.
(1) After reading the text once
at normal speed with students listening but not
taking notes, the teacher reads the text again
at natural speed and continues reading until the
end if no student says "stop" even if
it is clear that students are having difficulty.
Students are responsible for saying "stop,
please" when they cannot keep up and "please
go back to (the last word or phrase they have
written)." If students seem reluctant to
exercise their power to stop us, we start reading
very fast. We encourage students to be persistent;
they can "rewind" the teacher as many
times as necessary. The class might want to have
a rule that each student can only say "please
stop" one time. Without this rule, the same
few students - almost invariably the highest level
students - may completely control the pace. The
lower proficiency students might be lost, but
be too shy to speak. After each member of the
class has controlled the teacher once, anyone
can again control one time, until all have taken
a turn. Once the class comprehends that everyone
can and should control the teacher if they need
help, this rule need not be followed absolutely.
(2) Partner conferencing (Step
4 in standard dictogloss) can be done for this
variation as well. Student-Controlled Dictation
can be a fun variation, because students enjoy
explicitly controlling the teacher.
(3) Another way of increasing
student control of dictation is to ask them to
bring in texts to use for dictation or to nominate
Variation C: Student-Student
Rather than the teacher being
the one to read the text, students take turns
to read to each other. Student-Student Dictation
works best after students have become familiar
with the standard dictogloss procedure. This dictogloss
variation involves key elements of cooperative
learning, in particular equal participation from
all group members, individual accountability (each
member takes turns controlling the activity) and
positive interdependence as group members explore
meaning and correctness together.
(1) A text - probably a longer
than usual one - is divided into four or five
sections. Each student is given a different section.
Thus, with a class of 32 students and a text divided
into four sections, eight students would have
the first section, eight the second, etc. Students
each read the section they have been given and
try to understand it. If the text is challenging,
students with the same section can initially meet
in groups of three or four to read and discuss
(2) In their original groups,
students take turns reading their section of the
text as the teacher would for standard dictation
while their groupmates take notes.
(4) Students work with their partners
to reconstruct the text, with the students taking
the role of silent observer when the section they
read is being reconstructed.
(5) For the analysis, Step 5 of
the standard procedure, each student plays the
role of the teacher when the section they read
is being discussed. Every group member eventually
plays the role of teacher.
Student-Student Dictation can
also be done by students bringing in the own texts
rather than using a text supplied by the teacher.
Variation D: Dictogloss Summaries
While in the standard dictogloss
procedure students attempt to create a reconstruction
of approximately the same length as the original,
in Dictogloss Summaries, students focus only on
the key ideas of the original text.
(1) Steps 1, 2, and 3 are the
same as in standard dictogloss, although to encourage
summarizing rather than using the words of the
original text, the teacher might ask students
not to take any notes.
(2) Students work with a partner
to summarize the key points of the text. Here,
as well as in other dictogloss variations, we
can provide visual cues (sketch, flow chart, photo,
mind map) that represents some elements of the
story. This aids comprehension and may help students
structure their reconstruction. Additionally,
students can create visuals to accompany their
reconstructions, as another means to demonstrate
comprehension and to promote unique reconstructions.
Variation E: Scrambled Sentence
Scrambled Sentences is a popular
technique for teaching a number of language skills.
Scrambled Sentences Dictogloss employs this technique
to raise the difficulty level of dictogloss and
to focus students' attention on how texts fit
(1) The teacher jumbles the sentences
of the text before reading it to students.
(2) When students reconstruct
the text, they first have to recreate what they
heard and then put it into a logical order.
(3) When analyzing students' reconstructions,
the class may decide that there is more than one
possible correct order. This fits with the overall
spirit of dictogloss, i.e., that there is no one
correct way to achieve a communicative purpose,
although there are certain conventions that should
be understood and considered.
Variation F: Elaboration Dictogloss
In Elaboration Dictogloss, students
go beyond what they hear to not just recreate
a text but also to improve it.
(1) This dictogloss method may
be preceded by a review of ways to elaborate,
such as adding adjectives and adverbs, examples,
facts, personal experiences, and causes and effects.
(2) After taking notes on the
text read by the teacher, as in Step 3 of the
standard procedure, students reconstruct the text.
Then, they add elaborations. These can be factual,
based on what students know about the topic of
the text or research they do, or students can
For instance, part of the text
read by the teacher might be:
Today, many students use bicycles.
Students could simply elaborate
by adding a word or two:
Today, many Japanese college students use
Or, a sentence or two could be
Today, many students use bicycles. This reduces
air pollution and helps students stay fit. However,
bicycle riding in a crowded city can be dangerous.
Variation G: Dictogloss Opinion
In Dictogloss Opinion, after students
reconstruct the text, they give their opinion
on the writers' ideas. These opinions can be inserted
at various points in the text or can be written
at the end of the text. If student commentary
is inserted throughout the text, it promotes a
kind of dialogue with the original authors of
Variation H - Picture Dictation
Dictation does not always have
to involve writing sentences and paragraphs. Instead,
students can do other activities based on what
the teacher reads to them. For instance, they
can complete a graphic organizer. Another possibility,
described below, is to draw.
(1) The teacher finds or writes
a description of a drawing. The description should
include a great deal of detail. Relevant vocabulary
and concepts can be reviewed in the discussion
that occurs in Step 1 of the standard dictogloss
(2) Students listen to the description
and do a drawing based on what they hear.
(3) Students compare drawings
with their partners and make one composite drawing
(4) Students compare their drawing
with the original.
(5) Alternatively, students can
reconstruct the description text read by the teacher,
as in standard dictogloss, and then do a drawing.
The first section of this article
described how dictogloss fits with current trends
in language teaching. Among these trends is the
use of student-student collaboration. Key principles
for understanding and facilitating this collaboration
were discussed in the second section of the article,
including the principle of cooperation as a value
and the use of global issues content as one means
of operationalizing this principle. Variations
on dictogloss were explained in the final section.
Dictogloss is, of course, just
one of many innovative language teaching techniques
that embody the current paradigm in education,
that are well-suited to cooperative learning,
that can benefit from their use with global issues
content, and that lend themselves to a host of
variations developed by creative second language
teachers. The current paradigm is not just about
how we teach and how students learn. It is just
as much about why students learn and why we teach.
It is about seeking to create an atmosphere in
which students are self-motivated and take an
active role in their own learning and that of
their classmates and teachers. Furthermore, as
can be seen in this article in the choice of topics
for dictogloss, part of this classroom atmosphere
can include a desire to understand the world and
to make it a better place.
teaches courses on cooperative learning,
language teaching, and English. Among his
recent books is "The Teacher's Sourcebook
for Cooperative Learning: Practical techniques,
basic principles, and frequently asked questions,"
published by Corwin Press. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
is a global issues educator teaching at
Kumamoto Gakuen University in Japan. He
has three textbooks, Nature Stories, Global
Stories, and Inspiring Stories which utilize
dictogloss. All texts are non-profit www.karmayogapress.com