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My Simple Keys to a Successful Dictado

Do your students learn a dictado and then never apply the learning in their own writing?  When I first started learning about bilingual education and the importance of dictado for Spanish literacy, I never understood why my students were not internalizing my language lessons related to each dictado.  I tried a lot of different things over the years in my dictados slowly learning how to successfully get my students to internalize the learning and apply it.  Now 6 years into really focusing on dictado, I have found a few simple keys to a successful dictado.

5 Keys to a Successful Dictado

What a Dictado Should NOT Be

When I first started, my dictados were essentially just spelling lists.  Kids practiced writing the words each day, and on Fridays they did the final one and handed it into me.  I KNEW that if kids practiced writing those words and we looked at the spelling patterns that they would be able to apply it independently.  I mean, they wrote down the words.  I gave some great lessons about the spelling patterns.  There was NO reason that they wouldn’t be able to apply the dictado lessons to their own writing.


Successful dictados are not

  • spelling lists
  • words out of context
  • silly phrases comprised of only words with a certain spelling pattern
  • La Cartilla Fonética

What Are the Keys to a Successful Dictado?

The idea for a dictado is that they are sentences meant to teach how the Spanish language works through spelling, syntax, grammar, morphology, etc.  I’m going to tell you, though, that that is only half of it.  In addition to being sentences, they need to be in context whether that be related to science, social studies, literacy or math.

Key 1: Keep it IN CONTEXT

I know you’re likely smarter than me, but it took me awhile to figure this out.  I would spend all week trying to explain my strange sentences to students while still fitting in my language lessons.  Then, at the end of the week, my kids still wouldn’t understand what the sentence was about.

Our kids won’t internalize our language lessons if they’re using most of their brainpower just trying to comprehend the dictado.

Pull your dictados from a read aloud book, a mentor text, a science reading or an article you’ve read, and you already have a common context!

Key 2: Don’t teach too much

Your dictados could have a lot of teaching points.  I mean, we’re teachers, we know a lot about the Spanish language, and our kids still have a lot to learn.  When I first present a new dictado, my students usually comment on any number of things in the sentence(s).

I try to honor some of the things that my students notice, but when I present a dictado, I always have a few teaching points in mind.  I keep it to 2-3 good teaching points per dictado.  Any more than that, and my students don’t really get a good chance to practice their new learning.

Before I write my dictados, I start with a Dictado plan that highlights things students may notice as well as possible teaching points depending on how my students do on their dictado.

Key 3: Stick to a routine

As in most things in our schedule, it really helps our students to stick to a routine.  It helps me too.  I post my weekly dictado routine, and the kids really make sure I stick to it.  They give me a hard time if I ever make a change.

What does my week of dictado look like?

  • Monday: Present the new dictado and the Talk-Through, students write and correct the dictado
  • Tuesday: Teaching Point 1, students write and correct the dictado
  • Wednesday: Teaching Point 2, students write and correct the dictado IN PAIRS
  • Thursday: Teaching Point 3, students write and ADD ON to the dictado and correct
  • Friday: Final dictado, students write and teacher corrects

Key 4: The Talk-Through

This one was a real game-changer for me. This is my secret sauce for a successful dictado.  I read about this and heard Kathy Escamilla at a NABE Conference talk about the Talk-Through.  The Talk-Through is done on the first day after your students have written the dictado for the first time.  Together as a class you write the dictado asking for student input on how to write each part.

This takes some time, but it has completely changed my dictados since I started implementing it.  Before, I would have the dictado written down on chart paper for my students to self-correct.  Now that I talk through writing the dictado with my students on the first day, my kids are far more metacognitive and notice the language components much more.

In terms of getting my kids engaged in dictado, this has definitively been the key.  Kids get to see and hear that others also struggle to write the dictado correctly.  Before, I had students that didn’t even want to try because they would say that so and so always does it perfectly and they’ll never learn how to write.  Now, even my most reluctant writers come to the Talk-Through on Monday excited to share what things they noticed when writing the dictado.

Key 5: Record your dictado

When I first started with dictado, I would say each dictado over and over and over and I’d have most of the class finished while my slower writers would still be on the fourth word.  The kids who were done would get antsy, my struggling writers would get frustrated, and it was CHAOS.

Now I just record my dictados.

I’m lucky enough that my school is 1:1 with iPads, and I was able to record.  I record my dictado, and my students can listen to it as many times as they want!  My fast writers can do it as quickly as they want and start working on another task and my slower writers don’t feel pressured to finish. 

On top of all that, I only have to say it once all week, and I’m freed up to work with students, pull a group, or any number of other tasks.  Dare I say, I can also run off to use the bathroom if the need arises.

Did I miss anything?  What makes you have a successful dictado?  Let me know in the comments!

Want some awesome FREE dictado materials including free planners connected to mentor texts and forms for your students to write their dictados?

My Simple Keys to a Successful Dictado Pin 1

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