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!

Self-intros – Using multi-media in High Schools

Take your ideas and put them into action. Use multimedia. Draw from your experience and let your creativity do the rest. Photo credit: via Baubauhaus

By Amanda Horton, Shinjo, Yamagata Ken

I teach Senior High Schools and was given a whole lesson for my self-intro in both schools.

In my base school I made a PowerPoint presentation, which allowed me to add way more photos that I would have used otherwise. I also added sound effects, music clips and dotted the presentation with questions to make the whole thing like an interactive pub quiz.

I gave the students a hand-out with simple questions on it (Where is Amanda from? and 4 choices, etc.), for the students to fill out as we went along. I also made them guess things like my hobbies (which involved me acting out horse riding), countries I have visited (which involved me describing stereotypes of those countries) and anything else I could think of (What is Manchester famous for? Do you know a famous band from Liverpool? *play music*) At the end of the presentation we went through the hand-out questions.

I wanted my presentation to be fun, so I punctuated it with jokes. (“This is my boyfriend” *show picture of David Beckham*, “This is my house *show picture of a mansion*). It definitely worked to get the attention of the students.

After the presentation I played a Spice Girls’ song whilst the students wrote 3 questions to ask me. Then I played a popular up-beat Japanese pop song. Whilst the music was playing my elephant teddy was passed around the class. When the music stopped, the person who was holding the teddy had to stand up and ask me their question. This continued until the end of class (about 10 minutes usually).

At the other school I visit I couldn’t use my presentation, so I printed off and laminated a selection of photos. I kept the basics of the presentation the same, including the jokes and asking them to guess, but I either acted out the clues or drew them on the board. My drawing skills suck at the best of times, so the students had fun trying to guess what I was drawing. (My horse looked like a cow, my cow looked like a hippo/dog; you get the idea). At this school, I wrote out 10 basic questions on individual slips of paper, folded the up and put them into a bag. When I played my “Pass the Elephant” game, when the music stopped, the student had to pick one of the slips of paper and read it out. Again, I drew my answer (badly) on the board, and the students had to guess what it was. e.g. “What is your favourite book?” “My favourite book has magic (draw wand), wizards (draw hat)” by this time shouts of Harry Potter are persistent “no, not Harry Potter, it has a ring (draw circle) and an eye (draw eye)” and so on and so forth.

I was very worried about my young age when I first came, I’m only a few years older than my students after all, but decided to use that to my advantage and let them know how much I loved Japanese things, like Aikido, manga and Godzilla. I think it really helped the students warm up to me because after every class I always had a group of students staying behind to ask me questions (usually on my favourite manga).

The teachers I work with were happy to let me do a whole lesson about me and get the students to write their own self-intros in the following lesson, they basically gave me total freedom, but I did talk through my lesson with all the teachers involved beforehand. Of course I had to adapt it slightly to it the students, so my san-nen-sei didn’t need any translation, but ichi-nen-sei took a little longer and a little help from the JTE to work it out. I wanted the students to tell me the answer on their own, so I had to omit some parts of the self-intro to give ichi-nen-sei time to do this.


My main advice is don’t be afraid to try something new, and don’t be put of if something goes wrong. My last self-intro class was miles better than my first, my next one will be better still. Use your JTEs, they are infinite sources of wisdom, but don’t rely on them. This is a class about you, so make sure you can be yourself in it. My last piece of advice is, make it fun. This is one of the few lessons where the students aren’t required to sit and copy from the blackboard. Get them involved, it will keep them interested and they will love you forever.