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teacher reading text for students to practice writing


Dictation is the process of writing down what someone else has said. With young children, dictation offers a way for a parent or a teacher to record a child’s thoughts or ideas when the writing demands surpass writing skills. Dictation provides a chance for an adult to model many writing behaviors including handwriting, matching sounds-to-letters to spell words, and sentence formation.

Key Information



Appropriate Group Size

With small groups

Why use dictation?

  • It allows students to watch as an adult writes using many conventions of writing, such as letter formation, punctuation, spacing between words, and more.
  • Teachers can model listening to a sound and writing the associated letter.
  • It allows us to model that speech can be written down and read back.

Collect resources

Language Arts

Ask students to draw a picture of something of their choice; their family, a house, their pet, or another concept that the child is familiar with. Then ask the child to say a sentence or two about the picture, for example “Our dog is brown.” Write the child’s words on the bottom of her picture and read them back to her. As you write, model a clear sound to letter match. “We read a book about the moon. I’m going to write the word mmmmmmoon. What sound is at the beginning of moon? What letter makes that sound?” Encourage the child to read the sentence too.

Have students tell a group story. Sometimes called Language Experience Charts, group stories benefit from a shared class experience like a field trip or school assembly. Start by brainstorming a title. Write down the children’s ideas. If necessary, prompt a sequence “What happened first? Then what did we do?” and so on. Record the sentences as the children dictate them. As you write, model a clear sound to letter match. “We read a book about the moon. I’m going to write the word mmmmmmoon. What sound is at the beginning of moon? What letter makes that sound?” When the story is finished, read the story aloud with the children. Read it several times, then ask if anyone would like to read it by himself. Give everyone a chance to read. Later, copy the story on chart paper and display it in the classroom.


Children learn to describe and care for plants and animals, recording their findings in science journals through pictures, dictation, or kindergarten-style writing.

Social Studies

Teachers can follow up with a read aloud by asking students to summarize a read aloud on a social studies topic. Teachers can write the student dictations on chart paper. Summaries can be read by the whole class.

Differentiated instruction

For second language learners, students of varying reading skill, and younger learners

  • Teachers should vary their expectations for the length of dictation based on a child’s language and/or age.
  • Strategies such as this enable children from other cultures to bring their different experiences into the classroom to share. Sharing dictations through whatever means will enrich the other students’ experience.
  • Dictations with the whole group in the form of a class story may serve to familiarize students with the strategy.

See the research that supports this strategy

Some of the research done that involves dictation comes from a whole language perspective. We’ve listed some of that research here. Our instructions for using dictation encourage a more explicit approach to using the strategy than what was included in some of the research listed below.

MacArthur, C. A., & Graham, S. (1987). Learning disabled students’ composing under three methods of text production. The Journal of Special Education, 21(3), 22-42.

Stahl, S. A., Miller, P. D. (1989). Whole Language and Language Experience Approaches for Beginning Reading: A Quantitative Research Synthesis. Review of Educational Research, 59, 87-116.

Stauffer, Russell G. (1970). The language experience approach to the teaching of reading. New York: Harper & Row.

Children’s books to use with this strategy

Topics this strategy is especially helpful for