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MP3 Dictation

Dictation fell out of favour with the acceptance of communicative language teaching. It was felt that dictation doesn’t fulfill a communicative purpose and further it was boring (and usually too hard) for students. However, dictation can provide an effective way to check what students are hearing and can also be made more fun. MP3 dictation is engaging as it puts the students in control of the teacher.

MP3 dictation


1: Draw symbols on the whiteboard which resemble the buttons on a typical MP3 player, including ‘play’, ‘pause’ and ‘rewind’. Elicit from students what they mean and provide the correct words and drill them.

2: Tell students you will read a text and they should write what they hear. Instruct students that they can control your dictation by using the commands ‘play’, ‘pause’ and ‘rewind’.

3: Ask students whether they are ready. Wait for one of them to say play before beginning. Read the text at normal speed (or for lower levels, a slower than normal but continuous speed), and don’t stop until students say pause or you reach the end. When students say pause, stop speaking. If they say rewind, go back a short way.

4: Once students have copied the dictation, have them check against the original. They can swap writing and check a partner’s work.


T: My name is John. I was born in Lancashire in northern…
S1: Pause!
S2: Rewind!
T: I was born in Lancashire in northern England. I have…
S3: Pause!

Follow on:

Have students write a similar paragraph. I often use this activity to do diagnostic writing with new groups by first dictating a paragraph or two about myself, then asking students to produce a similar piece of writing about themselves.

Example Text:


My name is John. I come from Lancashire in Northern England, but now I live in Spain. I am an English teacher. I have a wife and two children. I like playing football and drawing pictures. I don’t like bad weather.

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photo credit: wuestenigel Woman’s hand holding green ipod via photopin (license)

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