Running dictation activity for language classes shared by The Comprehensible Classroom

I got this idea from Michele Whaley, who tells me that it is originally from Jason Fritze, who calls it a “Running Dictation”.

Start with a familiar story; one that you’ve already finished asking in class. Break down the story into basic plot points; between five and eight is ideal. Each of the chunks should consist of one short sentence; something that could easily be read, remembered, and repeated later on. For example:

  • The boy goes to Walmart
  • He buys a swimming pool
  • He brings home the swimming pool
  • He fills it with water
  • His arch enemy comes to visit
  • He slashes the side of the pool
  • The water spills out
  • The boy cries

If you have a complicated story with many important details, I recommend either using just a portion of the story OR using the most basic, main plot points and using the activity extension described later on.

  1. Write or type each of the plot points on strips of paper. The text should be easy to read (size 36 or larger if you type it)
  2. Tape them to a wall in your classroom or in the hallway, scattered and out of order. I like to use the hall, but only do this if you won’t be disrupting other classes with the inevitable noise that arises.
  3. Divide your class into groups of no more than four students. Three is best.
  4. Have each group choose a secretary. He or she needs paper and a writing utensil.
  5. The other team members will take turns running into the hall, reading one of the plot points, memorizing it, and running back to the secretary to recite it.
  6. The secretary records each plot point, asking for clarification on spelling. If the runner forgets what s/he read or isn’t sure of spelling, s/he must continue running back and forth between the wall and the secretary until it is correctly transcribed.
  7. When all plot points have been recorded, team members put them in the correct order and present them to the teacher for approval. The first team finished wins!

Have students add in details and/or missing plot points. So that they have some direction, you could tell them that #3, #6, and #8 are missing, for example, so that they know which parts of the story you want them to add.

Another more artistic extension is described here.

Leave out some of the words in the plot points that you post, so that students have to fill in the blanks as they transcribe the story.

36 replies on “Running Dictation Relay Race

  1. Martina, this is a great twist on Jason Fritze’s invention of “Running Dictation.”

    I love the part where the kids have to put these in order, as well as the extensions.

  2. I have to say, sometimes I am really thick! I have seen this activity before, I even participated in a variation last weekend… but I didn´t really “get it” until I read your extension with the pictures. Before I just saw students memorizing snippets of text without showing comprehension, but the quick illustrations are brilliant.

    I´m going to use this tomorrow!

  3. tried this. and LOOOOOVED this! My students were so enthused and speaking so much Spanish! Thanks for sharing!

  4. I tried this with my class today with the “illustrations extension” and the students were super engaged. I also put the plot points in different places outside the building so that students had to go find them and run around a bit. It was a great way to keep a bunch of restless students on task!

    1. Hi,
      Having lived in Ecuador, this activity made me think of the Chasquis. They were the messengers in Incan times who ran relay-style from village to village with a message for or from the emperor. If anyone is interested in a power-point introducing the Chasquis, and the rules to running dictation, just email me.

      1. Dana, I would be interested in your Power Point introducing the Chasquis and the rules you use.
        Thanks. Anne White

      2. Hola, Iosod,

        Me dio cuenta que hace casi cuatro anos desde Ud le ofrece tu power point de los Chasquis, pero si no es demasiado tarde, lo quisiera. Que buena idea…una actividad CON cultura.

  5. Another variation that I use in my class… I have the story typed up on a single piece of paper and they students work in pairs. Both run and write. Partner A is ready with a paper and pencil. Partner B runs to the story, memorizes as much as he can, runs to partner A and dictates it while Partner A writes it down. Then Partner A passes the paper and pencil to Partner B, and Partner A runs to the story. Partner A has to read and figure out where Partner B left off, memorize as much as she can, then run back to Partner B to dictate it. Then Partner A takes the paper, Partner B runs to the story…
    This way they’re both reading and re-reading to figure out where the last person left off.

  6. One of the things I do so all students practice reading, writing, listening and speaking is just to rotate the roles. I love this activity.

  7. Do you do this before you have them volleyball read a story or after? Or is there not any volleyball reading just seeing what they can rememeber? Is all the vocab new or some old? Sorry! I’m trying to be more CI and I still have so many questions! Thank you!

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