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!

Where’s the Instruction Manual for your Job?

Have you ever looked? The truth is, there really isn’t one. Perhaps there are some guidelines here, some unstated expectations there, some standards written in a course book, too — but otherwise, you’re pretty much on your own.

Like it or not, that means one big thing: you are the one who writes the rules, and you are the one who decides what kind of teacher you’ll be.

Will you be a teacher that tries to deliver the same unsuccessful English language program they have taught (with modifications) for the past 30 years?

Or will you take advantage of the new opportunities before you (i.e. more English classes, a big push for more English in the classroom) and start work on writing  your own manual?

Doing so allows you to discover your own ideas and strengths. It is the way you can bring meaning and purpose to your work. It is the way you can start delivering high-quality education to your students that actually teaches them to speak English.

You can sit around waiting for someone to finally give you the instruction manual. Or you can write it yourself and be better for it.

Come on! — Getting students to speak English in a Loud Voice

Knowing that classes are most fun and useful when students have the confidence to repeat modeled sentences in a loud voice, I have been experimenting over the months with different techniques to encourage students to speak English in a loud voice. This is a technique I adapted from a teacher I know. I have been using it with junior high school students with the best results in first grade classes. Check out the audio file below to see the amazing effect this technique has on students:


Tips on getting this trick to work:

1) Have students repeat the word or phrase twice before shouting “Come on!” to encourage them to shout the word or phrase as loud as they can.

2) A good reaction to their loud response is key. The reaction might be genuine if the students truly knock you over with a loud chorus, but if you have a sort of falling over reaction when they shout the phrase at you, the students can laugh and enjoy this activity a bit more.

Note: Believe it or not, in this example it was the first time I tried this technique on the class. I’ve found that I don’t even have to explain to the students what I want (i.e. for them to shout the word/phrase as loud as they can). I just sort of jump into it and use a beckoning gesture when I shout “come on!” and the students seem to clearly understand my expectations. It’s amazing how simple this technique is considering how big of a result you can get from the students.

Connecting with JHS Students through “English Kyushoku”

Kyushoku. Photo cred: Andrea McGovern 2011

Submitted by Ed Fec, Sakata City

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” The first line of “A Tale of Two Cities” is pretty much what comes to mind when I think about having school lunch at JHS. As a JHS/ES ALT, I almost always eat with students and sometimes it’s great fun, while other times it’s like being in a library. Occasionally it’s simply frustrating. Still, I’m glad I do it since it gives me a chance to talk to students more outside of class.

I’m now in my 8th year as an ALT and no longer on JET, of course. When I first came here, students pretty much had to speak to me in English as my Japanese wasn’t very good. Now, however, they all know that I can speak Japanese and it’s much harder to get them to talk to me in English.

Whether I should speak to them in English or Japanese during school lunch is a moot point because personally I think that as long as we are communicating, the language used isn’t as important. What I’ve noticed, though, is that in many classes there are usually at least 1 or 2 students who want to practice their English, but don’t get the chance to — either because I don’t sit with their group when I do go to their class, or because they are too shy to speak in English in front of other students.

To remedy this problem I have recently been doing “English Kyushoku” at some of my schools (I have 4 junior high schools). Instead of eating in the classroom with the whole class every day, I eat my lunch in a separate room (a spare classroom or meeting room) with volunteers from the class who want to speak with me in English. I limit the number of students to 6 and I get the JTE to organise it in advance so that both the homeroom teacher and I know how many students will come.

So far the results have been positive. I’ve had some great conversations and spoken to some students whom I’d never really spoken to before.

So, if anyone else at JHS is suffering from “silent kyushoku syndrome” or any other similarly debilitating lurgies, feel free to try this remedy!

Ed Fec, (Sakata City)