Tuesday, October 02, 2007

A Dictation Lesson

I have been giving dictation exercises to my nine year old daughter. Interestingly enough, after just six weeks, not only has her spelling improved, her ability to focus and pay attention to instructions has increased dramatically. I was concerned at the beginning of the school year because, unlike her older siblings, this child's ability to recall a passage was pretty poor. She could devour a chapter book in an hour if I let her but couldn't explain most of what she had just read. I realized that due to her personality-active, hands on, flighty, easily distracted- she was unable to focus upon the readings. Much of what she read just flew by. Or maybe, she was the one flying away.

Anyway, I decided to strictly apply CM's dictation method every week and have been amazed at her increased powers of attention. I thought I'd share what a typical lesson looks like in hopes that it will take away some of the mystery of dictation. It is really quit simple.

Note: you'll have to pretend there are quote marks for the following conversation.
Mom: Would you like to have a dictation lesson today from your Beowulf book or Madam How and Lady Why? (notice I choose from books that will have some more challenging vocabulary. If my child was a really, really poor speller, I would choose something a little easier.)


Mom:Okay. Write the date in the right hand corner of your page. Then write Dictation and under that write Beowulf.

Mom: Alright, let's look at the chapter you read this week. Here. Look over this first paragraph very carefully. Do you see any words that you think you may have troubles spelling? (I skimmed the chapter looking for a short paragraph that didn't have quote marks because those can be frustrating at this stage. I looked for one with some new vocabulary that I thought would challenge her but not be overwhelming. This took just one or two minutes to find)

And now it came to pass that, across the sea in far Gothland, the songs of Grendel and his wrath were sung, until to Beowulf the Goth the tale of woe was carried. And Beowulf, when he heard of Grendel's deeds, cried that he would go across the waves to Hrothgar, the brave king, since he had need of men to help him.

9DD: I am not sure about Beowulf and Hrothgar.

Mom: Okay, let's write them on the board and take pictures. Look at the first word very carefully. Picture it in your mind. Now close your eyes. Can you still see the word in your mind? Great. Let's make sure. Spell Beowulf out loud. Wonderful! Now let's take a picture of the next word.

Mom: Now go over the rest of the passage by yourself. I want you to notice the capital letters and all the punctuation- that is all the commas and periods. Remember where they are. Read the passage quietly to yourself and learn it. Then I will choose a sentence from it for you to copy as I read it out loud, but you won't know which sentence it will be.

9DD: 2 minutes later... I'm ready.

Mom: That was awfully fast. I don't think you looked at it carefully enough. Spend some more time looking for commas.

9DD: 4 minutes later... I'm ready this time. I'm sure.

Mom: Listen very carefully and do not speak at all. I will read part of the sentence to you only once. If you don't listen well, you will miss it because I will not repeat it. Here we go.

And Beowulf, when he heard of Grendel's deeds,

9DD: ready

Mom: ...cried that he would go across the waves

9DD: I like this part. Beowulf is very...

Mom: Shh. No talking.

9DD: Was it sea or waves?

Mom: I'm sorry but I can't repeat it.

9DD: But I can't remember it.

Mom: Just do your best.

9DD: ready

Mom: ...to Hrothgar, the brave king,

9DD: ready

Mom: ...since he had need of men to help him.

9DD: done

Mom: Go over your paper and check your punctuation and capitalization. Make sure you dotted your i's and crossed your t's too.

Now, look at the passage in your book, find any errors you made and correct them by crossing out neatly with your pen and writing the correct word above it. I want you to see if you can find all the errors by yourself.

9DD: I get to be the teacher? Yippee!
... I just found one mistake. I wrote sea instead of waves.

Mom: That's because you talked while you were writing. That's not a good idea. Let me see if you missed finding any more errors. Oops. you didn't cross your 't' right here. (I put a tiny red dot under the mistake and she corrects it. ) I'm proud of you.

Lesson over.

My daughter enjoyed this lesson and learned a gentle lesson about paying attention.

Now wasn't that easy?

one step at a time...



  1. Delightful. Thank you for sharing your dictation experience with all of us and giving us a glimpse into how your family does dictation.

    Barb-Harmony Art Mom

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I have needed to see this and I missed your previous post on dictation. After reading both, I feel so much better. Just this year, we have started using dictation for our spelling. I have different level spellers and nothing seemed to be sticking. My older ones could spell alright but my 8 year old just wasn't getting it. She is feeling so much better and my olders like spelling much more! Thank You!


  3. Betty2.10.07

    This makes it more clear, Lindfay. This was very helpful. Some of the mistakes I made were I didn't give the kids a choice on the book. I think I chose too lengthy of a passage (2 sentences but they were long). I tried to make it easier by writing the passage on the dry erase board and then leaving certain words blank that I would dictate to them. But it didn't really work. They really disliked the experience and I was so surprised! My 11yod, on the other hand, loved the experience and did well. Okay, you've given me the inspiration and tools to try again!

    Thanks again, Lindafay!
    Grace & Peace,

  4. I loved reading this! It really does help me, just starting out, to read how you gently and firmly correct your child. And letting her correct herself worked well ... reinforcement and review of the lesson!

  5. Thank you for the "ah-ha" moment I had after reading your post today. I learned alot when we actually had a dictation lesson today. This is one area I was not addressing.

  6. After a quick peek into your blog I know that I want to set some time aside to really be able to read here.
    Thanks for the investment of your time to help other homeschoolers.
    As a veteran homeschooler and President of our County Homeschool Organization we get requests regularly for advice and helps. This seems to be a wonderful resource to send them to.
    Becky K.

  7. I enjoyed reading this! I learn so much better when I can "visualize" or in this case, "overhear" your conversation, so thank you for sharing.

  8. I really enjoyed this. Thank you for the insight. I was always horrible at dictation.

  9. My children are writing dictation sentences as well. We use their spelling words for the week. It is always hardest to get them NOT to talk! I always have to ssshhh them when I hear "How do you spell...?"

    God bless,

  10. OK, maybe I have misunderstood dictation. I thought it was the child re-telling what they just read or heard in their own words. Here it sounds as though it is word-for-word. Which is it?

  11. I also do dictation in my home. with my 13 y/o. She is a fast reader and often cannot narrate back what she has read. She has gotten better since doing dictations. I will also start my 8 y/o next year, once his vocabulary is broader.Thanks for stopping by my blog.

  12. Charity Grace,
    I think you are confusing DICTATION with NARRATION. You can read more about narration by clicking on that category on my sidebar. Scroll down to the bottom for the earlier posts.

  13. I do not like leaving unrelated comments, but I couldn't access your email address.

    I wanted to let you know I have awarded you the Nice Matters Award. It can be found at http://reflective.homeschooljournal.net/a-nice-blog-award/
    Your love shines through your blog. You truly do have "beautiful feet."

    If you would like to participate, please copy your badge and pass it onto seven other bloggers. If not, know that I appreciate your thoughts.

  14. I do want to start this in the next year or so. My dd is only 6 so we have a ways to go. Thank you for the documentation!

  15. Linda,

    You make everything so easy to understand! I printed off the dialogue between you and dd and studied it to feel comfortable doing dictation!

    I have a few questions anyway, though. ;)

    My 9yo dd does not seem to do so well with the word photography. She studies words from the passage, closes her eyes, and I know she is not picturing them, she's sounding them out in her head. She has always sounded out words to learn them. (e.g. Missouri--she will say "miss our i" quietly to herself before spelling it). She continually misspelled that word until she used the trick of sounding it out.

    I read your post on word photography and read that Miss Mason says it is a habit; how do I help her become visual instead of auditory? Will frequent dictation sessions help her? What do I say to her to help her visualize the words? (She won't sound them outloud now, but I know she's still doing this in her head.)

    She was unable to sound out the spelling of "reign" today, so she had to visualize it, but I'm not confident she'll remember the spelling on Friday if I ask her.

    I had her visualize a few words earlier this week from a passage, she wrote them correctly on her paper during the dictation session, and when I asked her to recall the spelling today, she misspelled them.

    Do you review words from time to time that previously gave your children trouble?

    There are other questions, but I'll try to figure out answers on my own...

  16. Sarah,
    I'll address your question in a post, okay?

  17. Linda,

    Another post would be very helpful, I'm sure, and I know it will be worth waiting for. :)

    I am not in any way discouraged by what my dd is doing or not doing at this point, just a little befuddled. I'm learning this dicatation business right along with her. I want to make it as effective as I can from the start.

    Btw, I had to 'eat my words' concerning 'reign'--she did spell it correctly today. ::gulp::

    Have a wonderful weekend!


  18. Thanks so much for such a good example! I am not as intimidated to do it anymore!

  19. I'm about to quit blogging and use my computer time just to read your posts ;)

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience with applying Miss Mason's methods, Linda. This is where I come to read when I'm feeling short-sighted and tired :)