I first learned about dictation from the fabulous Martina Bex. She blogged about dictation in various posts (such as this), and her dictation form is free on Teachers Pay Teachers. I had never considered dictation until learning about it from her, and I also really liked the drawing portion she included for comprehension.
So I absolutely loved learning about Long Distance Dictation in the Differentiation in the World Language Class Meeting the Needs of a Diverse Learner Population workshop by Janet Eckerson and Janine Theiler (both of Nebraska). Janet Eckerson has informed me that she learned about Long Distance Dictation from Dr. Maria Carreira and her colleagues at the 2014 UCLA Workshop.
Here is how it works:
1. Have students identify which skill they want to improve on: speaking or writing. I made students write it down so they could not later change answers to simply work with their BFF. The group often split itself 50/50, but I did ask a select few if they could be flexible for me.
2. Students get into pairs. A pair has one who wants to work on speaking and one who wants to practice writing.
3. The speakers receive a sheet of paper. On the paper, I have written 3 short stories in the target language using our target vocabulary. Each of the sentences are about the same length. For Spanish 1 the stories were about 7-8 sentences. I wrote three versions because when we did this at the workshop it was the same text and some teams cheated by listening to the people next to them. Stories were then labeled #1, #2, #3 so they could quickly be assigned.
4. The writers get out their own piece of paper and pencil/pen.
5. We go to the hallway. The speakers are huddled together at one end, and the writers are at the other end of the hallway, lined up across from their partner.
6. The speaker memorizes chunks of the story, runs to the writer, and relays the story orally. The writer in turn writes down what the speaker is telling them.
Students were told there were two goals. First, I told them it was to finish first. I wanted them to feel competitive, and exercise has been shown to improve brain power. The second and most important goal was to have the exact same version written down that I had provided them with.
Once they finished, I had students mark how far they got on the original story. The writers then went through and corrected their work with the help of their partner.
Overall, I think 90%+ liked this activity. Students were smiling. Some students were so into it they were diving on the floor to get to their partner. While it was scary for me to watch that, it also showed me that the students were dedicated to this activity. One student congratulated me for getting him to engage in physical activity for the first time in months. Others asked to have weekly competitions.
I highly recommend you add this activity to your bag of tricks!