Using ESL Library Podcasts for Dictogloss Activities

What is a Dictogloss?

A dictogloss is a classroom activity that incorporates listening, writing, speaking, and reading skills. Students listen to a piece of text a few times and take notes. Then, they get in groups and try to reconstruct the text in their own words. Eventually they compare their versions to the original. It is a fun and collaborative activity that developsĀ learner autonomy.

How does a Dictogloss differ from a Dictation?

The purpose of a dictation is to reproduce a piece of text word for word. Some teachers enjoy using this type of activity, especially with beginners. Other teachers think classroom activities should be more communicative. A dictogloss requires group work. The purpose is not to recreate the text word for word, but to reproduce a similar version with help from peers.

How to use ESL Library Podcasts for Dictogloss activities

On Tuesday, August 26, we published our 225th ESL Library podcast! These podcasts are based on the reading portions of our lesson plans from our growing lesson plan library. While our library is subscription based, our podcasts are free for teachers and learners to use. A new podcast is published every Wednesday on our blog. The podcasts can also be downloaded from iTunes. ESL Library podcasts offer short readings on a wide variety of topics that will interest your students. This makes our podcasts ideal for dictoglosses.

  1. Introduce the topic of the podcast to your students. If you are a subscriber, you can use the warm-up questions from the lesson plan. What background knowledge do your students bring to this topic? What related vocabulary do they know?
  2. Place your students in small groups. Groups of 3-4 students work well for a small piece of text. If you are a subscriber, look at the related lesson plan to see how many paragraphs are in the main reading and consider assigning that many students to each group.
  3. Tell your students to put everything away. (No pens or paper to start.) Play the audio for your students once. Your students should be listening for “the gist.”
  4. Now invite your students to listen again. This time, encourage them to take some notes. Tell your students to jot down key words and chunks rather than full sentences.
  5. Explain the reconstruction task to your students. Together with their group members they will be responsible for reconstructing the text in their own words.
  6. Give your students some time to organize themselves. How will they work together to reconstruct the text? Will each person be responsible for a different part? Will they all work together to reconstruct the whole thing and then compare what they’ve written? If you’re working on a Famous People podcast, will one person work on the early life and another person work on the later life? The first few times you try this activity, the dictogloss will be challenging. Your students will learn some strategies if you use it regularly.
  7. Give your students time to work together to reconstruct the text. You may decide to only use one section of the audio if you are using a longer reading. Or, you may work through a podcast over the period of a week. Your students should eventually come up with one full-length version to hand in or share. (Optional: Have students record their own version of the text and create their own podcast.)
  8. If you are a subscriber, you can provide a transcript of the reading for your students. Have your students compare their version to the original. Did they cover the gist? Did they use key words. Did they miss any important parts?

Dictogloss Tips for Students

  1. Write down key words as you listen.
  2. Listen for chunks of language. Try to use these chunks (words often used together) when you reconstruct the piece.
  3. Assign roles to each group member. Who will be responsible for dates and numbers? Who will write down names?
  4. Take notes, but do not attempt to write out full sentences. You will be reconstructing the podcast in your own words.
  5. Choose someone who has tidy handwriting or quick typing skills to finalize the group work. Pick someone with a good eye to proofread the final copy.

Dictogloss Tips for Teachers

  1. It may get loud! If your students are communicating in English, that’s great! Speaking is an important part of this group activity. This is meant to be a group activity, not a dictation exercise.
  2. Highlight the importance of paraphrasing. Students should not try to write things down word-for-word. You may want to walk around the room to make sure that students are taking point form notes. Remind students that the point is not to reconstruct the text perfectly.
  3. Your students will likely ask you to play a recording “one more time.” If you have access to the Internet in the classroom, you may want to give your students the opportunity to listen to the podcast on their own via mobile devices.
  4. Experiment by doing this activity a few different ways. For example, you could assign roles to each group member. One student could write down key words, one student could write down chunks, one student could remember the introduction, one student could remember the conclusion. One student could be in charge of remembering the gist. One student could be in charge of remembering numbers and names.
  5. Experiment with the length and level of the text. You can tell how long the reading is by looking at the podcast length. Also, you can stop the recording at any time. Start with just one paragraph and see how your students do.

10 Recommended Podcast Episodes to Try

Our Discussion Starter podcasts are suitable for dictogloss activities. They are typically quite short. They are also based on information that your students probably know a bit about. Our Mini Biography, Famous People, and Health Matters podcasts are also recommended. Here are a few to check out.


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