(I thought it might be helpful to readers and myself if I described some of my favorite activities from time to time.)
This is a fun way to get students to dictate sentences to each other and focus on the nitty-gritty details of writing. It also gets students up out of their seats.
This activity is not a quick one. For a quick activity, just dictate sentences to your students and have them copy them down. They tend to love plain old dictation, by the way.
What you need: a sentence on a piece of paper taped just outside the classroom.
Here’s an example of how I used a Dictation Relay to review dates in my Level 1 class.
Modeling: Note that you will need to do a lot of mock-running for lower level classes to be sure that they understand the instructions.
I separated my class of 16 into four groups of four. I held up a folded piece of paper and said, “I have a secret.” I then made a show of taping it to the wall outside the classroom. (The secret was, “Today is Wednesday, September 8, 2010.” We had just worked on this earlier in class.)
I named the groups A through D. I said I needed one student from each group to run and walk. One student from A will run, one student from B will run…. you get the idea. I had the runners stand in the front of the room.
The runners will read the secret. They will remember the secret. They will run to their group and tell the secret. (I play-ran out the door and back in again.) The other students will write the secret.
If they forget, they can read again and again. (Yep, I ran right back out the door again and then back in).
All students will write the secret. It must be perfect, 100% correct to win.
Runners, no pens and no paper. You cannot write. Writers, does everyone have a pen and paper? On your mark, get set, go.
I had to remind runners not to write just a couple of times. After a few minutes they were ready for me to check their work, and it often had little mistakes. I told them when they were close and what words they spelled wrong or how many commas they forgot. When one team won, we all applauded.
Other content possibilities:
- spelling – put some hard-to-spell words you’ve encountered recently into the dictation sentence. It’s great practice.
- vocabulary review – be sure to meaningfully use at least one vocabulary word in each sentence.
- grammar – make sure the sentence includes relevant grammar, particularly if that grammar involves picky spelling rules (i.e. plural endings are either -s or -es)
- pronunciation – have your sentence be a tongue-twister to focus in on a sound or two your students struggle with (i.e. The fish has a thin fin.)
- reading – use a sentence straight from the day’s reading. Make sure that the writers know not to just copy it from the story, but to listen to the runner. Do this to review the reading. Alternatively, pick an interesting sentence and use it to introduce the reading. You can also have students scan the reading to locate the dictation sentence.
- low-beginning – just write a vocabulary word and have the runner spell it to the writers.