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  • Writer's pictureAbigail

Making Dictation Fun

Often, parents find that their child can write a word in isolation (e.g. in a spelling test), but then they forget the spelling when writing a sentence.

This is because writing a sentence involves thinking about punctuation, ideas, vocabulary and grammar (and more!) alongside the spelling. The brain is a lot busier, and therefore there is less room for focusing on the spelling.

Once a spelling has been mastered in isolation, it’s important to practise it within sentences to further promote automaticity and truly master the spelling. However, reading out sentences to write down can get pretty dull, particularly for children who often find writing quite difficult. Here are some ideas to gamify your dictation practice. Most of the games simply add a little competition or fun to the concept of listening to a sentence and writing it down, and you will need some prepared sentences. As children become more confident, the Dictations Board Game promotes both creating and writing sentences.

Fill the Flower Dictation

Each player gets a flower template with 5 colours.

fill the flower dictation
Download DOCX • 42KB

Put out enough coloured counters to fill each player’s flower.

Write simple dictation sentences onto cards, and label each one with a colour. I recommend 15 short sentences, 3 of each colour. Put them face down so the colours can’t be seen.

Pick a sentence for your partner. Read it to them, and they have to write it down. They then collect a counter of that colour and place it on their flower.

If you get a sentence and already have that colour, you still have to write it, but you don’t pick up a counter for that turn.

First player to fill their flower wins.

Dictation Board Game

Once printed, this game can be used over and over. Simply create a numbered list of 10 spellings and go!

All instructions are in the game.

This is slightly more difficult for children, as they have to make up sentences for each other!

Spelling dictations board game.
Download DOCX • 20KB

Dictation Spiral

Spiral for dictations
Download DOCX • 33KB

Prepare some sentences for dictation. They could link to animals which you display, or numbers. Player 1 picks an animal/ rolls a number.

Player 2 reads the relevant sentence.

Player 1 writes one word per square of the game board.

Repeat, switching roles.

The first player who gets to the centre of their spiral is the winner!

If your sentences aren’t long enough, simply see who got the furthest. I like to make some extremely short and some extremely long sentences to add to the drama!

Silly dictations

Prepare some sentences for dictation. Then, choose a silly noun and randomly replace all of the nouns with the new word. You can also replace verbs. Make sure that you don’t end up replacing all of the spelling patterns you are intending to practise though!

Let’s say the sentence was ‘The train had to stop in the rain.’

You could say ‘The train had to dance in the rain!’

Can the writer guess the original word?

Running Dictation

This works well with two children taking turns and it uses lots of memory skills. Place the sentences/ paragraph to be written on a wall or surface away from the work area.

Player 1 runs to the paper and reads in their head. They remember as much as they can, and then return to the work space. They dictate as much as they can remember, and player 2 writes it down.

Then, player 1 takes the paper and pen and player 2 runs to the sentences/ paragraph. Player 2 works out where they were up to, and reads on. They return to the work space and dictate to player 1, who writes it down.

At the end, take the original paper and see how accurate you were.

This works best if you start with short, numbered sentences to help children track their place. As they get older and more confident, you can work with short paragraphs. If children are struggling to remember, try to theme the sentence around a visual image (e.g. a dog) and put a picture trigger next to each sentence.

Caption Dictations

Display a series of pictures. Dictate a caption for the picture, and the child has to find the picture and write the caption. Twinkl has some great picture-caption matching games which can be easily adapted for this, and many of them are organised by phonics phase.

Collecting Words

Write down ten sentences for dictation. If two children are playing with an adult, simply number the sentences. If there is only one child with an adult, cut up the sentences and turn face down.

Adult + 2 players

Player 1 picks a number. The adult dictates the sentence, and player 1 writes it down. They get one point for each word spelled correctly.

Player 2 then takes a turn.

Repeat until all sentences have been used, and add up points.

2 players

Player 1 picks up a sentence and reads to player 2. Player 2 writes it and collects one point for every word spelled correctly.

Switch roles and repeat.

The winner is the person with the most points at the end.

I like to make up some really short sentences and some extra long ones for this game, as it makes it a lot more exciting if you might get 15 points for one sentence. It is also a good way of encouraging children to write longer sentences!

Build a funny face dictation

This game also works with any sticker book which motivates the child you are working with.

Allocate each sentence a type of sticker (e.g. nose, eye, mouth…)

Pick a sentence and write it. When complete, pick a sticker and add to your funny face. Keep adding parts until you have finished all of your sentences!


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