The situation is all too familiar. Your students do well on their weekly spelling tests. However, a week or so later they misspell some of those same words in a writing assignment. You thought they mastered the concepts from last week’s amazing grammar lesson about commas. Their writing papers show otherwise. What can you do to help?
Sentence dictation offers several benefits for improving writing skills. Now you may be thinking that sentence dictation is old-fashioned. Wasn’t that something that teachers did when your grandparents went to school? Maybe. The concept certainly isn’t new to teaching, but it doesn’t seem to be emphasized as much in our 21st century classrooms. Implemented in the right way, writing dictated sentences can be very effective for improving spelling and grammar.
There are 4 basic steps to sentence dictation:
- Read the sentence to your students. This should be at a regular speaking pace – not too slow or too fast.
- The students repeat the sentence.
- Students write the sentence as they continue quietly repeating it to themselves.
- Students proofread their work to look for spelling errors, capitalization, and punctuation.
Here are a few good reasons to give sentence dictation a try:
- Strengthen listening and memory recall skills. When sentences are dictated, students must listen carefully to hear the sentences and work to recall what was said.
- Spelling words are used in context. Rather than memorizing a long list of words – often grouped into word families with similar spellings – sentence dictation allows students to work with words as they occur naturally. This helps students have a better understanding of their meaning.
- You get a more accurate picture of your students’ spelling and grammar skills. When students apply these skills in the context of sentence, you are able to easily identify and address misconceptions.
Ways to incorporate sentence dictation in your classroom:
- Use sentence dictation as a growth assessment at different points throughout the year. Maybe your school sends home report cards 4 times per year. You could create 4 different sets of sentences that include all of the main concepts taught that year. Dictate one set of sentences each quarter. Use them as a benchmark to show progress.
- Include sentence dictation in your weekly spelling assessment. Dictate sentences that include the weekly spelling words along with other easier words from previous weeks. This method holds students accountable for words from previous weeks. They don’t simply memorize a word list and forget it in a week or so.
- Sentence dictation can be part of a grammar activity. Dictate sentences that focus on a particular concept (or more if you choose). Then have students correct their own work. There is no need to collect or grade these. This activity provides daily practice that helps students improve both spelling and grammar concepts.
Students can use any regular paper for sentence dictation. It helps me stay organized when I have specific papers for specific purposes, so I created a set of pages you can use for sentence dictation. They are available to download for free.