About Me

My Photo
I am from Coimbra, Portugal, and am currently teaching in a school in Soure, about 30 km away from Coimbra. I have been a teacher of English for over 20 years and have already taught different levels and age groups. After all this time I can say I love working with adult groups because there are no coursebooks and I can create my own resources. I am an avid reader, a blogger and very curious about free tools and their implementation in the classroom.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


Keeping our learners motivated – no matter how old they are – is a really challenging task. Facing a class of students, with different learning styles (and paces!), with different personalities, is not easy but, as a teacher, I feel I have to cater to all in the classroom, to everyone’s particular needs.

Bearing this in mind and as often as possible, I put different and somehow unexpected language activities into practice – either in the classroom or out. Why not?
Anyway, this time the challenge was a RUNNING DICTATION (running in English as sts mockingly put it). The school year was coming to an end and the weather had been great. Yes, why not? It would be much nicer than sitting still inside the classroom.
After choosing the activity, my concern was now the text, or to be more precise, the song. Some colleagues / friends emailed me some suggestions (Thank YOU), I googled a bit, I saw many youtube videos but I always stumbled over language problems – the texts were far too difficult for them and I feared the final result could be demotivation instead of having fun and learning / remembering some English. So, I finally made up my mind for an old time favourite “Friends will be Friends” by Queen, which is certainly questionable but, being adults, I believed they would also enjoy it but, above all, they would feel pleased for having understood something, for recognizing the text. And it worked! It worked not only with the learners but also with some colleagues I invited to take part in this running dictation.
As for the activity itself, here are the steps I followed:
  • I split the lyrics into two parts and printed several copies in A3 sheets;
  • Not to disturb other classes, I went out and placed the copies at eye level on the school building;
With some extra help, some chairs and desks were placed outside, at some distance but in front of each of the sheets on the wall (ah: each desk already had a blank sheet of paper and a pen);
Now, with the group:
  • I put the learners and colleagues into pairs and for health and/or language difficulties, it was easy to decide who the writers and runners would be;
  • The runners’ task would be to run to the A3 sheet and memorize a chunk of language / a sentence, go back to the partner and reproduce it to him/her; the writers’ task would obviously be to write down chunk by chunk till all the sentences had been reproduced;
  • The winners would be the first pair to complete the task.
Well, no doubt we had great fun but there were no winners or losers, no prizes were awarded… we had previously arranged for a shared meal at school :)
Check for yourself – not only the running dictation but also the meal!!!

Yet that wasn’t the end of it! No, no, no!!!!
Next class, I took a worksheet with the full text / lyrics, we listened to the song and some even sang along (myself included) and we practised some vocab on the topic FRIENDSHIP (always important is to provide an opportunity to use and apply language and knowledge)

Do try a running dictation – it’s a funny activity and it practises the four skills: reading, speaking, listening and writing – not to mention memorizing!
This famous painting by Pablo Picasso can be used to introduce or extend the topic of friendship as well as some cultural data; loose words can be used to make sts look up for the meaning (in case they don’t know them yet) so that they can have lists of vocabulary (English / Portuguese) and lead them to the topic. Ask them to add some more, elicit previous knowledge.
(NOTE: if you wish my materials, please send me an email and I’ll be glad to share)


Cristina said...

I've already done "Runnning dictation" several times, but I've never tried doing it outside - it seems a great idea when the weather is nice.

Clara Luís said...

Well, it sure was a funny way of getting/remembering vocabulary and most of all playing with words and having a different lesson...

And I/we really had to run (not only in English but also in Portuguese hehehe!!!)

Congratulations to you Alex for another excellent activity and to all the participants who so easily forgot all kinds of personal difficulties and involved themselves in the "race"...

I'm looking forward for more!!!

Ana Paula Amaro said...

Dear Alex,
I've never ceased to be surprised by your innovation and creative activities. Do you ever sleep?

Thanks for sharing such motivating and funny activities.

Ana Paula Amaro

Sonia said...

I have already told you that I believe you're an excellent teacher, full of enthusiasm and motivation. Your students are very lucky.
I've tried this activity as a laerner after university. I remember It was really involving and stimulating and I had lots of fun. Then as a teacher, I have often thought of it and wanted to propose to my classes but I was always afraid it would have not been welcomed by my students or it would have been too chaotic( as i have big classes)but now, after your successful experiment...i do want to have a try!!!

Alexandra Duarte said...

Thanks a lot for your support and comments. Isn't sharing fantastic????
A big hug to the four colleagues / friends :)

Anonymous said...

Was very cute video.
The "running dictation" was difficult and tiring. I have little memory, when he reached the colleague did not know what he had read.
Well, that was fun.
Cláudia Diogo ADM

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...