Dictogloss: Team Teaching Demonstration Lesson

By Jessie Giddens

As ALTs, we often see JTEs working busily at their desks, and we wonder how we can help. At the high school where I work, I feel lucky that JTEs often ask me to help them prepare for and participate in English classes.  Recently, my school housed a demonstration where we showed over fifty teachers from around Yamagata a team teaching  lesson. The observers greatly enjoyed our lesson, and I was asked to share it with other ALTs.  I hope our lesson will give you some ideas to use in your own classrooms!

In my school, we use a method of learning English called Dictogloss. Dictogloss is a listening, writing, and speaking collaborative activity. During the lessons, students listen to a short text, jot notes, and speak with others to reconstruct the text. Unlike dictation which requires students to write down words verbatim, dictogloss encourages creativity. This lesson is especially useful as Yamagata transfers to use “as much English as possible” in the classroom. Virtually no Japanese was spoken by we teachers, and students too speak English with each other to reconstruct the text. For months before the lesson, we did practice “classroom English” for many months leading up to the demonstration.  Students learnt words like “make groups,” “pass your papers forward,” “speak louder,” “open to page 25,” and others. Just learning these words gave students confidence in English. The observers said that they were surprised how possible it seemed to speak only English in the classroom.

The text that the students listened to during this lesson was a synopsis I made of a page from the student’s textbooks that they had  studied in a previous lesson. Though many textbooks include a summary in the teacher’s edition, making your own is helpful because you can alter the difficulty. Other preparation for the lesson included making easy English definitions and review questions.

Below is the lesson plan that we used:
Minutes Part Details
10 Review: Pair work and Individual work.
  • Students are given a handout with a copy of the text they had studied in the previous lesson. From the text, a few words are removed. The translation of said words is given. Reading aloud in pairs, students remember the missing words with the help of the translation.
  • Students write down the missing words in English.
  • Students check the original text to see if they spelled the words correctly.
  • Students listen to ALT read the text to prepare for pronunciation practice of the text.
  • Students repeat the text after the ALT, focusing on pronunciation and intonation.
  • Students perform overlapping (which is reading at the same time as the ALT).
  • Students shadow the ALT (which is listening and repeating just after hearing) while only listening, without the help of the text.
10 Warm Up: Group Work
  • Students make groups and are given a new handout. This handout includes easy English definitions to unknown words.
  • The JTE makes a grid-like shape on the board to prepare to give points to groups of students for correct answers.
  • Working in groups, students listen to the ALT read again, hoping to “find the words” for the definitions.
  • The JTE checks their understanding of the definitions and gives points to groups with correct answers.
  • Next each of the groups has one member stand, and the class plays a question and answer game. The JTE reads a question about the text and students strive to answer and earn points. Upon a correct answer, the next member stands.
15 Dictogloss:
Group Work
  • Students listen to the ALT tell a summary of the text they had been studying. The summary is much shorter (only five sentences) than their text, but includes much of the same vocabulary and sentence structures. At first, students listened only (i.e., no pencils!).
  • Next, students take memos while listening to the CD. Rather than strict dictation, students tried to find important keywords.
  • Students listen to the ALT a third time and then share their memo ideas with the members of their group.
  • Group members together begin writing their own versions of the summary.
12 Check
  • Groups are invited to earn points by writing one of their sentences on the board. Each of the sentences are checked for grammar by ALT/JTE.
  • Students repeat the new sentences after the ALT.
3 Self-Evaluation
  • At the bottom of their handout, students circle answers to the questions:
    1. I master the words (perfect // so-so // not good).
    2. I understand the text (perfect // so-so // not good).
    3. I try hard to use English and cooperate with friends! (perfect // OK // so-so // not good).
I hope that you can use ideas from this lesson in your own classrooms. Recommend dictogloss to JTEs, especially those who are worried about using mostly English in the classroom.
If you have questions about the lesson, please let me know!


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3 Comments

  1. This is a great idea! I like how it’s formatted so that there is a summary that is presented in a different light. I find my teachers in Higashi do something similar with sentences. Everyday I teach there I am presented with sentences and more so different ways to say the same sentence and get the same meaning. In speech exact meaning doesn’t seem quite as important. They do this to anticipate the variety of student answers they may recieve. I think you found a way to spin this concept in an oral way. Cheers to that!

  2. Hi! I’m one of Ana’s colleagues in Gunma.

    I was wondering how you and your JTE came up with your Dictogloss lesson procedure. Have you always used it, or did you come to create it through trial and error? It’s a really great lesson idea, involving so many aspects of language instruction and also requiring critical thinking.

    My favorite part of the plan, though, is the self-evaluation. Do you often have students self-evaluate after activities?

    • Hello Terry and thank you for your comments and questions.

      Using Dictogloss in the classroom was initially not my idea. I feel very fortunate to work with JTEs who are forward-thinking and creative about their lessons. This particular JTE is always receiving magazines and reading books about the latest ideas in English language teaching. From her personal interest, she came across Dictogloss. From what I know, Dictogloss has been used greatly across Europe for some time, but it has recently come into light across Asia. Luckily, there is a vast amount of information about it on the internet. Just google “Dictogloss” and you’ll find many results.

      How we incorporated it into our classrooms was indeed through much trial and error, as well as patience. We started from the bare roots of common classroom instructions. We played games involving the vocabulary like: “make groups,” “pass your papers forward,” “speak louder,” “talk with your friends,” etc. Imagine playing
      “Simon Says” for a warm up for several days in a row. Maybe it sounds boring, but seeing the students learning these instructions was exciting for us, as well as gave confidence to the students. We actually had great fun with it!

      Once these classroom instructions were well-known, we began incorporating Dictogloss as well, though in small doses. “Real” Dictogloss uses about 4-5 sentences which students keyword and then rewrite. We started with a sentence or two, as students needed a chance to learn how to make memos. In our culture, we were used to taking notes in class, but my JTE said that students in Japan rarely do this even in their first language. Also, students in Japan are very used to repetition English. In every classroom we always say, “repeat after me,” thus students can rarely be creative with their language. Having students use keywords instead of writing verbatim is another step we had to practice. Eventually, students could understand that writing different words than they hear is encouraged. These small skills all have to be trained and mastered for Dictogloss to work.

      As for the self-evaluation, that was a genius idea of my JTE. All students need goals. Some of our students are self-motivating and driven to learn English, but that is not the case for all of them. She thought that giving students explicit aims like “I use English with my group,” allows students to better know what to work for. We all like to know what is expected of us, and it is surely helpful for students to notice how well they are working towards that goal through their self-evaluation. They can see themselves improving, and then their confidence is greatly increased. I totally recommend using this type of evaluation if you have the chance.

      I hope you are finding yourself well in Gunma. Thank you for your questions. Let me know if you have any others! :-)

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