Spelling dictation allows children to apply the sound-spellings you’ve taught in your phonics lessons. Keep reading to learn best practices for this important activity!
When you hear the word dictation, you might visualize an old-school boss dictating a letter to his efficient secretary, who is madly typing on a typewriter.
But today I’m talking about spelling dictation.
What is spelling dictation?
This is when you dictate words and/or sentences to your students so they can write them on their paper. (Some teachers even dictate sounds, and have their students write the graphemes.)
It’s very important that you have pre-taught all the sound-spellings and high frequency words included in a dictation exercise.
In general, spelling dictation is not a test (although you might use it that way at the end of the week). Instead, you provide immediate feedback so students are sure to spell correctly (even if erasing is required).
Why should you include dictation exercises in your phonics lessons?
Decoding (sounding out words) and encoding (spelling the words on paper) go together.
It only makes sense to tie spelling to the phonics skills we’ve taught.
Otherwise, spelling becomes a memorization game … and we all know how that goes. You always have those students whose diligent parents help them work hard all week to ace the test … and then they proceed to spell the words wrong the following week.
Let’s avoid this all-too-common outcome by tying spelling and phonics together.
How to do spelling dictation
1. Prepare a list of up to 5 words and 1-2 sentences that you will dictate. Make sure the words include the most recent sound-spelling you’ve taught. The sentences should include review words as well.
2. Provide a white board or worksheet for students to record their work. White boards are more fun and less time-consuming, but a prepared worksheet allows you to have a record of student work and encourages proper handwriting. You might want to switch between the two, depending on time constraints. A good practice might be to use a white board every third or fourth session.
3. If you are preparing a worksheet in advance, I recommend doing the following for word dictation: Draw a line for for each phoneme so students can write a single grapheme on each line.
4. After you dictate each word, write the correct spelling so everyone can see it. Have students check their work and rewrite the word correctly on a single line next to their original spelling (no lines or sound boxes this time).
5. Start small with sentence dictation; it’s exhausting for young writers. Gradually move from 1-2 sentences, and increase the length of the sentences as your students are ready.
6. If your students are doing dictation on a worksheet, prepare a set of lines for each sentence (one line per word.) After you dictate the sentence, have students repeat it as they point to one line for each word. They may need to repeat it again.
7. After students write a sentence, have them check it using CUPS.
- C: Capitalization: Does the sentence start with a capital letter? For older students – are proper nouns capitalized?
- U: Usage: Does the sentence make sense? Have them read it aloud to make sure they didn’t miss any words.
- P: Punctuation: Does the sentence end with the proper mark? For older students – are other punctuation marks used appropriately?
- S: Spelling: Are all the words spelled correctly?
8. After checking their work with CUPS, have students rewrite the sentence.
A sample dictation lesson for the digraph CH
Something important thing to remember
My new decodable books series (coming soon!) includes a simple dictation worksheet for each book. Because the page pictured above is for the first book, the page includes just four words. Pages for later books also include a simple sentence.
Check out these posts to learn more about spelling dictation:
- Spelling dictation with sounds, words, and sentences – Learning at the Primary Pond
- Spelling dictation with sentences – All About Learning Press
Did you know?When you join our online membership, The Measured Mom Plus, you’ll receive instant access to 2000+ math and literacy resources for Pre-K to third grade … including hundreds of phonics games, centers, and worksheets!
Check our the rest of our phonics series!