Using the Dictogloss Strategy for EAL Learners

Dictogloss uses all four skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking. You can read about the strategy on my classroom resources page here. 

It is a whole class strategy that you can use at all levels of language learning and proficiency.  It is ideal for using in the classroom when you want learners to reconstruct a piece of writing and integrates content and language in a meaningful context.  For a dictogloss to work effectively your learners would need some knowledge of the text you want them to construct. For beginners you could support them by providing them with some of they keywords or language structures to listen for when you are reading the text.  Of course, also including vocabulary or language structures that will not be read.  This makes them active participants and they can then use the vocabulary and language structures when they collaborate with others.  For more advanced learners it is a great opportunity to teach academic language and more advanced grammatical structures. I have used dictogloss in a variety of mainstream and intervention lessons and it can be used for a number of purposes including:

  • Modelling how to answer GCSE / exam style questions. This is through the modelling of the language needed to answer a question, highlighting academic language and the structure and organisation of an answer.
  • To model how to write in a particular genre. Again by modelling structure, vocabulary and language features.
  • To build background knowledge of a concept that you will be teaching your learners.  You can read a couple of sentences or short paragraph from the content you are teaching and have your learners recreate the text.  Then you could look at the vocabulary they have used and how similar of different it is.  
  • In writing, reading or understanding maths problems.  Read a simple Maths problem and then have your learners reconstruct it.  They could then solve the problem before looking at the model that you have read out to them.
  • Use it to teach poetry.  You could read a short poem and have your learners reconstruct it paying particular attention to any specific figurative language technique you are investigating with the class.  After writing their example they could compare it to the original and then identify the figurative language techniques that are used.  Possibly suggesting alternative techniques that help to keep the meaning of the poem the same.

There are numerous possibilities to use the dictogloss strategy in the classroom and it is a great way for learners to collaborate on a piece of work.  

Comparing learners text to the original is a fundamental part of the process and you should take time to do this.  At first learners compare in their groups before feeding back to the whole class.  In this way, you are building their understanding and the class is sharing the kind of language, vocabulary and structure that is needed.  

Use a dictogloss to build a set of success criteria of how to write in a particular way.  This success criteria is created through collaboration of groups and the whole class.  Language features are highlighted and the kind of vocabulary needed is referred to and written down for successful writing.

Although it might seem quite a complex task, I have never found a group of learners have a problem with reconstructing the text that I read out to them.  Through collaboration they are able to work together.

I highly recomend using the dictogloss strategy in the classroom.

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