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How to Do Spelling Dictation

What Is Spelling Dictation?

Dictation is a great tool for teaching spelling because it allows children to use their spelling skills in a “real world” application. Simply put, you say a phrase or sentence containing their spelling words, and students repeat it and write it down.

Because it is such a beneficial tool, spelling dictation is included in every lesson of All About Spelling.

boy writing spelling dictation

How Can Dictation Improve Your Child’s Spelling?

One of the main problems with typical spelling instruction is that kids learn the words on a list but often forget how to spell the words the next week—and that’s discouraging. But one of the best ways to help new knowledge “stick” is to use it in a meaningful way, such as by writing sentences.

But when you’re first learning how to spell, writing decent original sentences can be hard! For kids who haven’t reached automaticity yet, it’s almost impossible to focus on all aspects of writing a sentence—spelling, mechanics, creativity, word choice, and grammar—at one time.

By dictating a sentence to your child, you’re separating the creative process from the spelling process, creating a stepping stone between “writing words on a list” and “writing original sentences.”

chart shows the progression of writing

Five Simple Steps for Dictation

  1. Step 1: Dictate a sentence.

    Depending on your child’s level, you’ll dictate two to five phrases or sentences each day, using only words that your child has already learned to spell. (If you are using the All About Spelling program, dictation sentences are provided in your teacher’s manual.) Let your student know that he needs to focus his attention since you will only be saying the sentence once.

  2. Step 2: Your child repeats the sentence.

    Repeating the sentence will help your child retain it in short term memory long enough to write it down. (If your child has a hard time repeating the sentence, see Troubleshooting section below.)

  3. Step 3: Your child writes the sentence.

    Don’t correct your child as he writes out the sentence, even if you see him start to make a spelling mistake. In fact, it’s best to look away while he’s writing! This will allow him to concentrate on what he’s doing without feeling like he’s being monitored or judged, and it allows him to “own” the process of spelling. There will be time for correcting spelling after the next step.

  4. Step 4: Your child proofreads the sentence she just wrote.

    In this step, your child reads her writing aloud or to herself. This is a good time for your student to practice self-correction. She should check herself by asking these questions: Am I satisfied that I spelled everything correctly? Did I use capital letters and punctuation properly?

  5. Step 5: Finally, check the sentence before dictating the next one.

    If you identify a misspelled word, swing into action with the steps listed in this article on how to correct spelling mistakes. This is important teaching time! Is there a specific rule or generalization that you need to review now or in tomorrow’s lesson?

Dictation is a wonderful tool to use for spelling, but you might have some questions at first. Check out the solutions to some common problems in the troubleshooting section below.

Troubleshooting for Spelling Dictation

My child can’t repeat the sentence I dictated.
In this case, it may be helpful to do some exercises to strengthen your child’s working memory. At this stage, instead of doing spelling dictation—which will only be frustrating for both of you—work on oral dictation for a while.

Here’s how oral dictation works.
  1. Say a short sentence and have your student repeat it back to you.
  2. As your student grows in ability, gradually increase the number of words in the sentences.
  3. When oral dictation becomes easier for her, go back to the spelling dictation exercises.

My child forgets the sentence before she is done writing it.
If your child was able to repeat the sentence back to you but then forgets it before she’s done writing, it may be because she is working so hard to spell the words correctly. As spelling becomes more automatic, it will be easier for her to remember the sentence long enough to write it.

In the meantime, break up the sentences into phrases. Encourage your student to repeat the phrase in her head (or out loud) several times as she’s writing. Gradually lengthen the phrases until she’s able to remember entire sentences long enough to write them.

My child writes down the wrong word.
Sometimes this happens because of short-term memory issues, but other times it is because the child is creative and embellishes the sentence. Children who are easily distracted often substitute words, too.

If your child is changing the words in the sentence, try saying something like this:
“I’ve noticed that you change some of the words in the sentences that I dictate. Today I want you to write the sentence without changing any of the words. In fact, let’s make it a challenge. If you can write TWO sentences correctly today, the dictation section will be over. Sound good?”

My child is overwhelmed by the amount of dictation.
Try doing just one or two sentences per day (whatever feels like a good number without being overwhelming) and spread the lesson out over more days. Or try this suggestion from one of our readers.

To determine the number of sentences my son writes each day, I let him roll a die. He delights in the hope that he’ll roll a “1” but doesn’t fuss if he has the bad luck to roll a higher number! This has completely settled the issue of “how many sentences do I have to write?” to the satisfaction of both mom and son. – Laurie H.

My child doesn’t like dictation exercises.
Some children like to write on a hand-held whiteboard, making it very easy to make changes. Other children prefer paper and pencil. Maybe another outside-the-box method will keep your child engaged. Find out what works best for your child and makes her happiest.

In addition to trying to make dictation time as engaging as possible, be sure to be as encouraging as possible. Celebrate your child’s achievements, even the small ones! After your child writes a sentence correctly, make a big deal of it! With your encouragement, she will eventually work up to writing more (and longer) sentences.

My child looks to me for approval after each word.
Let your child know that you won’t be looking at the sentence until she is completely done writing and reviewing it.

Also, be aware that most kids are very good at reading body language. You may not even realize you’re doing it, but if you subconsciously change your facial expression or lean forward a bit in response to a misspelled word, your child will notice your subtle body movements and will learn to rely on your cues instead of on her own ability to proofread. The best practice is just to look down at your teacher’s manual or out the window as your student writes from dictation. Resist the urge to look at her paper until she proofreads the sentence and says, “Done!”

My child doesn’t know which ending punctuation to use.
Let your child know that you won’t be looking at the sentence until she is completely done writing and reviewing it.

To give your child practice with choosing the correct ending punctuation, turn it into a game. Write a question mark, a period, and an exclamation point on a piece of paper. Read sentences and have her point to the correct punctuation. Show how you make it clear through your intonation. Then switch roles.

It’s Okay If Your Child Isn’t Perfect at This

The goal is to keep improving. Remind your child that he’s doing something that can be difficult at first, reassure him that you know he’ll get it, and reiterate that some things just take work. Your goal isn’t perfection; it’s simply to help your child expand what he can do, bit by bit and step by step.

For more great tips on teaching spelling, download my free “Six Ways We Make Spelling Easy” e-book.

Six Ways We Make Spelling Easy Report

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Leave a Comment

Jill

says:

I’m struggling with my child’s mispronunciations of certain words. Often mistakenly says “thum” for “them”, “ch-rain” for “train”. This has been problematic spelling. I do correct the pronunciation when I hear it however when she is writing she is not self correcting these spelling errors. What do you suggest?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

This is a common problem, Jill. It took years of gentle correcting for one of my sons to stop saying “thum”.

When she writes herself, does she habitually go back and self-edit what she wrote looking for errors? If not, I recommending having her do that. When students are writing, they have many things to focus on: content, creativity, organization, punctuation, spelling, grammar, capitalization, what kind of audience they are addressing, and more. It’s a lot to think about at once! Taking time to reread what she wrote looking for her own errors is an important step toward good writing. It can be done immediately after writing, especially if it is something like spelling dictation, but if it is longer creative writing it is often best to wait at least a day before editing. When we read what we write right away, we often tend to see what we meant to say rather than what we actually wrote.

Also, when she misspells something outside of spelling lesson time, make a note of it and add those words to your review tab during your next spelling lesson. Our blog post How to Handle Spelling Mistakes has more information about this.

Teach her The “Pronounce for Spelling” Technique. Discuss with her that while she says “thum” all the time, the word is actually “them” and she needs to remember to say “them” when she is spelling.

One extra help for train. Never in English does R follow the /ch/ sound. (There are some words that have CHR, such as Christmas, but these always have CH saying it’s hard /k/ sound.) Let your daughter know, and practice it, that every time she hears chrain or other words with /ch/-/r/ that is is spelled with TR. This changing TR to CHR is common because it takes precision to form the sounds of /t/-/r/ together and we get in a hurry in our speech. Many of us, even adults, say chrain at least occasionally. In addition, JR isn’t in English either. When a student hears /j/-/r/, such as “jrop”, it’s DR.

I hope this helps some but I’d be happy to help further if you have more questions or need more information. Let me know.

Renae Burks

says:

Thank you for the troubleshooting details. Very helpful!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Renae. If you need further help with dictation or anything else, just let me know.

Licia Morris

says:

Thank you for explaining the purpose of dictation! I have been struggling with WHY dictation is a good step on the way to writing mastery, and now I know!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

It’s great that this blog post helped to answer this question for you, Licia! If you ever have other questions or would like more information, just ask.

Katelyn Jackson

says:

Dictation is a least favorite activity in my house. There seems to be a tendency to “memorize and dump” from one lesson to the next.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Katelyn,
That tendency to learn-it-and-forget-it is often inadvertently encouraged with traditional once-a-week spelling test type instruction. Doing dictation that uses concepts and skills reaching back from when the student first started to learn to spell helps to counter that.

Ask your student to read over the dictation that he or she wrote to look for errors before you check it. If they find the error and fix it before you look it over, then it counts as if there were no error at all. Self-editing is an important skill and catching their own errors is very effective for long term learning.

When you do dictation and find your student has trouble with spelling a word, use it as a teaching point. Go over it right there, asking your student questions about it. What rule did he or she not apply? What phonogram was misused? What sound did they not hear in the word?

Then, leave yourself a note to start the next spelling lesson with review of whatever concept, phonogram, or skill he or she had trouble with. You can go back to the step it was first introduced to review but you can also choose a different word that uses the concept or phonogram and analyze it. AAS starts having a “Word Analyzes” section at the beginning of most steps in level 3 but if you aren’t at level 3 yet you can look at the sample to see how it is done. Build a word with tiles and start asking your student questions about why it is spelled the way it is, leading him or her to explain the rule, phonogram sounds, or skill that applies.

Also add the misspelled word to your review cards. I keep an index card behind the review tab in my students’ review boxes for noting additional words that need review.

I hope this helps, but I would love to help further if you need it.

Tammy

says:

This is very helpful. It really puts spelling into a practical lesson and it has even spurred my daughter into trying to write and spell things completely on her own.

Abby

says:

This is a helpful idea I had honestly not thought of. Thanks. I think it may get my stubborn speeder more interested in spelling on her own.

Anita

says:

This is very helpful. Sometimes we have problems with the dictation! Thanks!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Anita. Try out the tips and ideas in this blog post, but if you are still having problems with the dictation, let me know.

Melinda

says:

My struggling speller is successful with dictation for the first time ever since using All about Spelling. We’re up to level 3 with plans to continue.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

This is great to hear, Melinda! There are a lot of foundational skills necessary to be successful with dictation, and those skills help with many activities involving writing. Keep up the excellent work!

Jade

says:

I love this. I’m not a natural speller, so there are days I feel like I’m learning along with my kids.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Jade,
I never had much trouble with spelling as a student, yet I have learned LOTS with All About Spelling! Isn’t it fun to become better educated yourself as you educate your children? 😊

Melissa

says:

This is so helpful

Shivali

says:

What are the price of these 6 books?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Shivali,
All About Spelling includes seven levels. You can look them over here. Level 1 is $29.95 and levels 2 through 7 are $39.95.

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have further questions.

Dianne

says:

This strategy is beneficial for the learner to benefit from listening skills and processing cognitive abilities.
By asking self does this sentence make sense?
This benefits the individual learner for life long learning of listening with accuracy.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Great points, Dianne. Thanks.

Marlene

says:

Thank you, Marie, your resources are a great help with my small groups.

Melissa

says:

This is helpful for my reluctant speller!

Pamela

says:

Spelling dictation would work great, if my son didn’t loath writing so much.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I understand, Pamela. All About Spelling purposefully starts with very short dictation of just two-word phrases and gradually builds up to longer, complex sentences to allow students to slowly build their tolerance and stamina with writing. You could attempt something similar.

However, you may find our blog post on Dysgraphia helpful. I’m not saying a child that loathes writing necessarily has dysgraphia, but rather the tips in that post for helping a child with dysgraphia will be helpful for any student that has difficulties with the physical act of writing.

I’m available if you have any questions.

Kirsten

says:

I couldn’t get the troubleshooting part to work…

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sorry about that! Please try again, Kirsten, and let us know if the problem is still occurring with the troubleshooting portion of this blog post.

Kristin

says:

This is a wonderful way to help a child learn spelling. 😊

Deb

says:

I am really liking AAS for my third grade daughter. Is there drums point at which you have them begin doing dictation in cursive, or is it best to continue printing when the focus is spelling?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Deb,
That is a great question. When you are doing dictation for the purpose of spelling, it is best to allow the child to write in whatever manner is most comfortable to them. However, you could also do some copywork for practicing cursive.

Wendy H

says:

Learning so fast with the program!thank you

Jennifer

says:

I have not tried this method before. I can’t wait to use it this week as makes great sense!

Bonnie Ottway

says:

Love dictation! Definitely helps us at home.

Rachel

says:

Dictation is such a natural way to learn spelling. I love it!

Louise Anderson

says:

I love that a dictation segment is included in the curriculum. As the teacher/parent, I can get immediate feedback if they are processing (remembering) what has been presented to them. Bravo!

Karilyn

says:

Such great tips! Excellent curriculum!

Carrie

says:

Great tips!

Andrea

says:

I’m a little confused as far as dictation. We just started on level 3. I know 20 min of teaching is recommended. If we finish step 2 in one lesson and he grasps the concepts, do I dictate all 12 sentences or do I dictate only a few sentences at a time? If I AM supposed to only dictate a few sentences a day, what do I teach for that following day when I dictate the rest of the sentences left, if we have already finished the lesson?
Sorry I hope that’s not too confusing. I think I’ve been doing this wrong since level 1, my poor kid has tried to have a good attitude about doing all the dictation in one sitting. I need clarity.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Andrea,
Twelve dictation sentences is really a lot for any student to do in a single setting. It is better for most students to break them up over two or three days, so they don’t tire but also so they can focus more fully on each one to get it as correct as they possibly can. In addition, for learning to transfer from short term memory to long term memory, time has to pass. Teaching an entire step in one day and then moving on doesn’t allow the concepts to settle in deeply. Some kids are fine with that, but most do better if they spend two to four days (or even more if needed) per step.

Consider breaking up the dictation over at least two days. Then glance through the step and see how you can break up what is covered into two. I, personally, jump right into the new teaching when starting a new step (after reviewing the cards), so that we get to the new word cards to help my student be prepared for the dictation sentences. You would work through the step for about ten minutes and then do half of the dictation. The next day you would then do all the review sort of work in the lesson (analyzing words, homophone list, etc) and anything else left, and then finish with the rest of the dictation.

Another option would be to still be finishing the previous step’s dictation while working in the next step’s teaching. This may actually be better, as it has you reviewing past concepts through the dictation while working on the new concepts in the new step.

Starting in step 14 of All About Spelling 3, there is a new activity at the end of every step. This is called “Writing Station” and in it, you will read five words. Your student will write down those five words as you read them off and then he will write his own unique sentences using those words (he can do a sentence per word or can use more than one word in a sentence, it’s up to him). For most kids, this activity is too much to do after doing dictation as well. So, starting in step 14, you may consider spreading each step out to three days to allow room for this activity too.

My kids struggle with spelling, so we need more time on each step not only to master the concept but also to review more and allow everything to sink in. So, we spend four days on each step. We do a bit of each step each day and four dictation sentences for three days. By the fourth day, there is often very little left in the step to do, maybe just read a word bank or something, and then the Writing Station. That’s fine. My kids like a lighter, shorter day once in a while.

Oh, and we always start each day’s lesson with reviewing the cards. As my kids need more review, we review some of the mastered cards in each section as well as the ones behind the review tabs each day. We review 2 each of the yellow, red, and blue mastered cards and 5 of the green mastered cards each day. This, of course, takes a bit more time each day and helps stretch each step out to the four days we spend on it.

I don’t think you need to break up each step to four days necessarily, but spreading it out over more than one day is probably best. Keep in mind that All About Spelling level 7 is the last level and it covers through high school level words. You have plenty of time to finish all the levels well before high school.

I hope this gives you the clarity you need, but please let me know if you need further explanation or have more questions.

Heather F

says:

Love this, thanks!

Jessica

says:

Spelling dictation is so helpful!! Having my girls repeat the word/phrase/sentence helps us both understand what needs to be written.

Gaye anderson

says:

I have found spelling dictation very helpful for my tutoring students. Thanks for this post, especially the troubleshooting section.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Gaye, and I appreciate hearing that spelling dictation has been helpful or your students.

Kathleen

says:

This is such a better approach than the typical list-memorization! Thanks for the tips!

Jennifer O

says:

Have been homeschooling since 2004 and think your program is the absolute best! Thank you for helping my children in their reading journey!

Anna Bystrova

says:

Thank you for all the invaluable information you provide the readers! Makes the homeschooling journey that much easier!!!!

Carrie

says:

High hopes for this program!

Kelly

says:

Dear ALL ABOUT READING! My son is struggling with reading and our additional resources are few. I hope your program will help him

Thanks,
Kelly

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Kelly,
I am sorry to hear your son is struggling with reading, but I do think All About Reading can help. It was specially designed to take the struggle out of learning to read!

Here are some ways that All About Reading can help kids that have struggled to learn to read:

– Each lesson time is simple and explicit, and will include 3 simple steps: review of what was learned the day before, a simple new teaching, and a short practice of that new teaching.

– Incremental lessons. AAR breaks every teaching down into its most basic steps and then teaches the lessons in a logical order, carrying the students from one concept or skill to the next. Each step builds on the one the student has already mastered.

– AAR is multisensory. Research has shown that when a child is taught through all three pathways at the same time, a method known as simultaneous multisensory instruction, he will learn significantly more than when taught only through his strongest pathway.

– AAR uses specially color-coded letter tiles. Working with the All About Reading letter tiles can make the difference between understanding or not understanding a concept.

– AAR is scripted, so you can concentrate on your child. The script is very clear, without excess verbiage.

– AAR has built-in review in every lesson. Children with learning difficulties generally need lots of review in order to retain concepts. With AAR, your child will have a Reading Review Box so you can customize the review. This way, you can concentrate on just the things that your child needs help with, with no time wasted on reviewing things that your child already knows.

– AAR has lots of fluency practice. One of the things that Marie, the author, noticed when she was researching reading programs is that few programs have enough review built in for kids who struggle to gain fluency. AAR has fluency sheets or a story to be read with every lesson, so children can practice reading smoothly with expression and confidence.

All About Reading has a one-year “Go Ahead and Use It” guarantee. You can try it for up to a year, and if for any reason you feel that it isn’t the right match for your child, return it for a full refund.

I hope this helps! Please let me know if you have additional questions, need help with placement, or anything else.

Tina

says:

Very helpful

Michelle

says:

Great advice, I’m always looking for something to show my son who is a struggling reader how to use the words he is learning in other ways.

Sarah Raineri

says:

Very helpful!

Shannon

says:

Thanks for all the help with your products and on the blog!

Meg

says:

This is a useful tool.

Jessica R.

says:

I haven’t tried spelling dictation yet, but this article has convinced me that I should try it! I really like that one of the steps is proofreading – it’s so important for a child to correct and be satisfied with their own work before the teacher looks it over.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I agree, Jessica! Learning to self-correct their own writing is a very necessary skill for so many things and something people will use for their entire lives.

Julie B

says:

Love this!

Becky

says:

I have started doing the daily dictation phrases and sentences in AAS and my daughter has shown a lot of improvement! This is definitely not something that should be skipped. Thank you so much for this great program.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Becky,
This is so great to hear! Thank you for sharing your daughter’s improvement with dictation with us.

Laura Frezza

says:

New to the site my daughter struggles in reading.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Laura,
I am sorry to hear that your daughter is struggling. Can I help you in any way?

Here are some ways that All About Reading can help kids that are struggling with reading:

– Each lesson time is simple and explicit, and will include 3 simple steps: review of what was learned the day before, a simple new teaching, and a short practice of that new teaching.

– Incremental lessons. AAR breaks every teaching down into its most basic steps and then teaches the lessons in a logical order, carrying the students from one concept or skill to the next. Each step builds on the one the student has already mastered.

– AAR is multisensory. Research has shown that when a child is taught through all three pathways at the same time, a method known as simultaneous multisensory instruction, he will learn significantly more than when taught only through his strongest pathway.

– AAR uses specially color-coded letter tiles. Working with the All About Reading letter tiles can make the difference between understanding or not understanding a concept.

– AAR is scripted, so you can concentrate on your child. The script is very clear, without excess verbiage.

– AAR has built-in review in every lesson. Children with learning difficulties generally need lots of review in order to retain concepts. With AAR, your child will have a Reading Review Box so you can customize the review. This way, you can concentrate on just the things that your child needs help with, with no time wasted on reviewing things that your child already knows.

– AAR has lots of fluency practice. One of the things that Marie, the author, noticed when she was researching reading programs is that few programs have enough review built in for kids who struggle to gain fluency. AAR has fluency sheets or a story to be read with every lesson, so children can practice reading smoothly with expression and confidence.

All About Reading has a one-year guarantee. You can try it, and if for any reason you feel that it isn’t the right match for your child, return it for a full refund.

I hope this helps! Please let me know if you have additional questions.

Donald Errol Knight

says:

Once again, very useful and practical.

Shauna

says:

This sounds like a great way to help with my child’s spelling. She struggled with reading and now is becoming aware of some challenges in spelling. I think having her repeat the sentence back to me is going to help a lot, not only with her spelling, but also with her comprehension, as she is easily distracted. Thank you.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Shauna. Dictation is helpful for spelling review and as a transition from spelling words to writing original sentences. Let me know how it goes or if you have any questions.

Kelly

says:

I have noticed my kids spelling have progressed so much following this dictation suggestion. My son is also very challenged with his short term memory but this is really helping him exercise that skill as well. Especially works well with silly sentences. Giggles welcome!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

That is so true, Kelly! When you have giggles and smiles with learning, it not only makes learning more fun but it helps with retention too. Silly sentences are great with dictation. All About Spelling includes them occasionally. My kids still remember, “The baby blew blue bubbles,” years after doing that assigned dictation.

Ahmed

says:

I’m a bit confused.. what is the difference between dictation and spelling? Aren’t they the same?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Ahmed,
Dictation is a tool to work on and review spelling. Spelling is the ability to correctly write individual words. Dictation is when a student hears a sentence and writes it, hopefully with good spelling.

Does this help? Let me know if I can clarify things further for you.

Sarah Suuppi

says:

My son is 5 and so we are looking for a great curriculum to give him a great start at reading. My friend told me how great All About Reading is. We are hoping to try it.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Do you have any questions or concerns, Sarah? I’m here to help as much as you need at any time along the way.

Ina

says:

Great resource!

Kristen

says:

i Just received pre reading and am excited to start

Margaret Cox

says:

This is great advice.

Shannon Stubbe

says:

This would be wonderful to win, as I have heard great things about he program! Thanks

Kris Preston

says:

Hoping my child to learn through this way!

Dori

says:

My student is doing very well with this curriculum!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

That’s great to hear, Dori!

Elizabeth

says:

My son enjoys dictation more than just learning a list of spelling words and writing them over and over. We do more copywork and dictation than spelling lists. Really great to read about why and how dictation is so helpful! 😃❤️

Laura

says:

At first my son was reluctant to write the phrases or sentences, but now he doesn’t mind it. Sometimes he even makes up his own!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

That’s great, Laura! I love the progress he has made with dictation.

Monique Hall

says:

This is a great resource.

Amy

says:

This looks like a wonderful curriculum to use to help my child.

Heidi

says:

This is exactly what we do at home with my first grader. It’s helped a lot!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m pleased to hear that dictation is helping your student, Heidi! Thank you.

drasma

says:

thamks alot was very helpful

carolyn

says:

Simply wonderful tips. Answered all my questions in the “My Child _______ section”.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Carolyn,
I’m glad we were able to anticipate all your questions in this blog post. However, if you come up with a question not addressed here, just let me know. I’m always happy to help.

Jennifer

says:

Thank you. This helped me understand dictation better.

Sara Lowe

says:

Great information, thank you for explaining dictation!

Alison

says:

I am going to try these steps, thank you!

Dana

says:

Love AAR! Helped my daughter make leaps and bounds in her reading!

Shelley

says:

I loved this article. Thank you for the tips. I think i sometimes forget why I do certain things and this dictation article helped me remember the importance of why we do this with our lessons.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m pleased this article has helped you in this way, Shelley. I understand how easy it is to forget the whys behind what we do and it’s good to be reminded.

Kerry

says:

Thanks for posting this! I’ve always wanted to add dictation to my daughters homeschool regimen but didn’t know how to go about it. Thanks for your suggestions! :)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Kerry! Dictation is a great way to work on spelling, punctuation, homophone usage, and other aspects of writing. Let me know if you have any questions.

How often in a school year do children of all grades (in the USA) have to write a previously unseen or practiced (the children don’t know the text at all) dictation that is then graded? Regards from Southern Germany, Joe Kennedy

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Joseph,
In the USA, each of the 50 states set their own educational standards. Some do adopt outside standards that other states have adopted, but there has never been a time when all the states followed the same standards throughout (even when the Federal government was attaching Federal funding to the implementation of Common Core standards, some states still chose to not use those standards but kept their own). Because what is required may vary from state to state, your question is difficult to answer.

Writing from dictation is not very common a public schools in the USA. I am sure there are some schools that do use dictation, or some teachers that do, but I was publically educated in California and I never wrote a single sentence in English from dictation in twelve years. However, I did do dictation while I was learning a second language (Spanish) in the last four years of my schooling and it was done weekly.

We at All About Learning Press feel that dictation is very important as it provides not only a means to assess students, but also serves as a cumulative review of what they have learned. Starting about a third of the way through the first level, and continuing through all seven levels, every lesson in All About Spelling includes twelve or more dictation passages (the length and complexity of the dictation increases with each level). However, we don’t recommend grading dictation. Grades imply that regardless of what grade the student receives, they have to move on. We use dictation to assess whether students are ready to move on to new concepts, or if they need to continue reviewing until they have achieved mastery. A “C” grade is considered passing, but we feel a student that has only mastered 70% of the dictation needs further review. This blog article has more information about this mastery-based approach to learning.

Aimee

says:

I really like the dictation part of AAS. We are in level 3, where we dictate sentences. My son is FINALLY remembering to start a sentence with a capital letter and end it with puctuation. We are using someone’s idea of a chocolate chip for each correctly done sentence. At first the thought of a reward made my son try really hard to get all the parts of the sentence correct. Now, the capitalization and punctuation are more automatic for him. Children just need daily practice to learn many skills.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Aimee,
Yes! Dictation is a wonderful practice, even when it isn’t fun. It teaches so many skills.

Julie Rushton

says:

Great method! I will be using this for the student I tutor. Thanks for sharing!

Betty S

says:

My 3rd grader is in the middle of level 4 but I think we need to take a break from the dictation sentences. He has never enjoyed writing the sentences and they are causing him much distress. He is a reluctant writer and would rather dawdle and forget the sentence he is supposed to write. He does well with the writing station as long as he can work out the spelling of the words orally with me first.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Betty,
Dictation is how students review previous patterns and rules and how show they are maintaining mastery of them.

How many dictation sentences are you attempting each day? Consider dividing them up, so you are doing only a few each day. Often students do a lot better with dictation if they know they only have to do 4 or how ever many each day. If 4 is too many for one day, try 3, or even 2. Maybe start the day’s spelling with 1 sentence and then end spelling with 1 more. Dictation is an important step to being able to hold your own thoughts in your mind and get them down on paper.

Katie Bishop

says:

This post is great! I will have to try this!

Melissa

says:

What to do when your child hates writing & therefore, fights doing dictation?

Merry at AALP

says:

Hi Melissa,

You might find this article on Dysgraphia helpful: http://blog.allaboutlearningpress.com/dysgraphia/

If you are not using AAS, I would advise:
start with something very small and doable. Think about writing in stages:
handwriting–does he struggle with letter formation? start there
If he’s fine with letter formation, start with 1 word.
If he’s fine with 1 word, try a short, 2-3 word phrase.
And so on. Don’t aim to do a lot of dictation all at once, but to start small and gradually build up. Make sure that the dictation does not include new words that he can’t spell. Once he is able to write a bit more, you can expand a bit and include a new word or two, but pre-teach them first. Walk him through the phonics of the word and how to study and learn that word, and then try the dictation on a separate day.

If you are using AAS: Perhaps you could compromise with him and have him do some writing each day, and then work on some words orally? Are you spreading the dictations out over several days, or trying to do them all together? You can do just a phrase or a sentence each day while he works through the end of that step and also the next step. Don’t try to do them all in one day.

I think it’s worth slowing things down a bit to gradually work on stamina for writing.

AAS has a gradual progression for increasing the student’s stamina and fluency in writing that’s very helpful for reluctant writers. It starts with just words and short phrases in Level 1, bumps up to phrases and short sentences in Level 2, and progresses to 12 dictation sentences per step in Level 3. Partway through this level, the Writing Station is introduced. In this exercise, students write sentences of their own that they make up using some of their spelling words.

In this way, students have begun to use words in a more real-world context through dictation and writing, to help them transition to longer writing assignments.

Dictation and the Writing Station both serve as an important bridge between spelling words in the context of lists (where the patterns are similar), and more “real world” writing. By the end of Level 3, students have mastered about 1000 words from the regular and reinforcement lists, and they have developed stamina and some beginning editing skills that will help them when they start a formal writing program.

Another benefit to writing instead of spelling orally is that he is connecting the shape of the letter with the sounds. The more often he does this, the more automatic the process becomes. And brain research shows that two ideas practiced at the same time can permanently bond the ideas together. But you don’t have to do that with just pencil and paper. You can let him use a finger in sand or cornmeal, or a marker on a whiteboard, or go outside with sidewalk chalk. Here are some other tactile and kinesthetic suggestions: http://blog.allaboutlearningpress.com/kinesthetic-learning/

And a few more: http://www.allaboutlearningpress.com/how-to-use-kinesthetic-spelling-activities

I had a very reluctant writer at this age as well. I remember in 2nd grade I had a goal of getting him to be able to write 2 short sentences in one sitting without complaining. In 3rd grade I bumped that up to a short, 4 sentence paragraph. We worked gradually toward these goals throughout the year, just a little at a time. Decide what a reasonable goal is for your child, and then gradually work towards it. Some people use time or number of words for their goal–write for 3 minutes and then spell the rest orally, or write 3 words for example. When he can do that, bump it up to 4 minutes or 4 words, and so on. This gives him a smaller goal to work towards that he can accomplish and be proud of a new achievement, while gradually increasing his skills and stamina for writing.

I hope this helps! Merry :-)

Tammy

says:

I will be starting dictation with my daughter next week. Thanks for all your great work and ideas.

Candiss

says:

Dictation has been very helpful for my kids. It’s a great way to review previously learned phonics rules while introducing new words in the lesson.

Bethany Umble

says:

Thanks so much for these helpful articles! We love AAS! : )

Nannette

says:

My children are struggling with spelling. I will begin to make some changes. Thanks.

Tami

says:

I was not taught using much dictation so this is new to me but so beneficial to students! So glad for AAS and AAR. Thanks!

Cherie Anderson

says:

We have just recently included dictation in our daily studies. This was an informative article.

a

says:

This was a very helpful article. I feel a bit freer to change the way we do dictation. I realize that I’ve probably been doing too many sentences at each session.

Heather

says:

Dictation is definitely the surest way to tell whether my son *really* understands what he’s spelling. I haven’t been having him proofread his sentences, though. That’s a really helpful tip!

Kristin

says:

The dictation is also a great time for my son to practice cursive. AAS has been great! Now when I am correcting their spelling in other areas I can give them rules and reasons for why the word is spelled the way it is.

mickey

says:

My kids really don’t like dictation, but I do see a difference in their ability when we do it often. Thanks for the advice.

Nikki Jackson

says:

I’ve noticed the more dictation we do, the more the spelling lessons translate to their writing assignments. Seeing the word in a sentence is our best memory tool in my house.

Natalie Rounce

says:

I find my children spell words better in dictation than as “stand alones” … guess this is because they’re used to seeing words in context eg. books???

Shelley

says:

Thank you for all your wonderful helps, tips and hints.

stephanie

says:

Your article was very interesting. I will using some of the strategies mentioned

Kimberly

says:

Dictation is one of our favorite parts of the lessons. I love All About Spelling and how much it has helped my children!

Geneva Mills

says:

Just read about how dictation helps with spelling, I will be using some these suggestion with my son as he is struggling with spelling and I think using dictation will help him. He has trouble hearing certain sounds in words so I think this will be a good thing for him even though he is an older student, I guess it’s never too late to learn something new.!

Jennifer

says:

I had to laugh when I read about the non verbal cues because that is so us! My two look at me while they write to see how they’re doing because I’m horribly inconsistent about either looking out the window or watching them and responding non verbally. This was so great to read and be called out for what I know is stressful for them. Thanks for the reminder and tips!!

Jill

says:

These are great helps. My 6.5 year old daughter is learning quickly from your program. I can see how I need to change my teaching to help her even more.

Shannon

says:

AAS has been wonderful! I’m so impressed with my daughter’s progress the last 2 years! It has been incredibly helpful to use AAR and AAS together.

MELISSA

says:

I was wondering: How young would you recommend starting this? My eight year old is using AAS level 1,but he really dislikes writing.

Melissa,
We recommend starting dictation with short phrases when the student starts spelling. We recommend starting spelling after the student has completed All About Reading Level 1, or the equivalent. This puts most kids starting dictation between 6 and 8 years old. See this article, All About Spelling: The Right Time to Start, for more information. http://blog.allaboutlearningpress.com/aas-right-time-to-start/

All About Spelling has a gradual progression for increasing the student’s stamina and fluency in writing that’s very helpful for reluctant writers. It starts with just words and short phrases in Level 1, bumps up to phrases and short sentences in Level 2, and progresses to 12 dictation sentences per step in Level 3. Partway through this level, the Writing Station is introduced. In this exercise, students write sentences of their own that they make up using some of their spelling words. In this way, students have begun to use words in a more real-world context through dictation and writing, to help them transition to longer writing assignments. Dictation and the Writing Station both serve as an important bridge between spelling words in the context of lists (where the patterns are similar), and more “real world” writing. By the end of Level 3, students have mastered about 1000 words from the regular and reinforcement lists, and they have developed stamina and some beginning editing skills that will help them in outside writing.

Some kids want to spell orally, but I would use this sparingly (perhaps only occasionally for review.) One benefit to writing instead of spelling orally is that the student is connecting the shape of the letter with the sounds. The more often he does this, the more automatic the process becomes. And brain research shows that two ideas practiced at the same time can permanently bond the ideas together. But you don’t have to do that with just pencil and paper. You can let her use a finger in sand or cornmeal, or a marker on a whiteboard, or go outside with sidewalk chalk. Here are some other tactile and kinesthetic suggestions for when you want to change things up. http://blog.allaboutlearningpress.com/kinesthetic-learning/

If he’s very reluctant to write, set doable goals–a number of words or dictations, or a number of minutes you’ll write dictation sentences–something that you can do daily and gradually increase over time. Give him a small but doable goal to work towards, so that he can accomplish and be proud of a new achievement, while gradually increasing his skills and stamina for writing.

Lastly, here is a blog article on Dysgraphia that I think you’ll find helpful. http://blog.allaboutlearningpress.com/dysgraphia/

I hope this helps. Please let us know if you have further questions.
Robin E.

Teresa Firek

says:

This has helped so much – learning the CORRECT way to say the sounds and then spelling is really a snap! They share spelling rules I never knew about! This is amazing!

Kate

says:

AAS has been amazing! I cannot believe the progress my boys have made!

Christina M.

says:

Great article! Thank you.

Liz H.

says:

Thank you for this article. We will be adding dictation to our daily routine.

Julie H

says:

This was great info. This is something we need to start with our kiddo. I think we are ready to try AAS level 1. We are loving AAR!

Sharee Gatto

says:

Thank you for all your material. My kids just love it!

Anne Downs

says:

Dictation of any kind used to be my kids’ least favorite part of school work. BUT, I felt it was important for spelling and writing, so we kept it up. Now, with one little tweak, the kids love it. I read the sentences in funny voices or with humorous inflections, and it makes it a blast (but they are still getting the great practice of dictation)!

Yahiliz

says:

I think the dictation is great. I make sure to divide the lesson up to keep it short and sweet.

Wendy

says:

I love the dictation portion of the lessons, even if my child doesn’t! I think it is great practice for using the spelling concepts covered without them being lumped together. She actually has to think about how to spell, instead of just using the rule that is being covered that lesson. Thanks Marie!

Carlee

says:

Thank you for this! Sometimes we skip the dictation because it is the most frustrating part for my daughter. I am encouraged to do it every time!

Merry at AALP

says:

Hi Carlee,

Often those things that are frustrating are the most needed (unless she’s on the young side and just isn’t ready yet). If you need help with ideas on how to break things down for her more so it’s not so frustrating, feel free to email me at support@allaboutlearningpress.com

Sometimes dictation is hard because kids need more practice on the individual words. Be sure to keep them in daily review until she can spell the words quickly and easily–without having to self-correct or stop and think about the words. When the individual words are automatic (especially if you have a mixed review, where like patterns are not in a row), then dictation is a bit easier. Experiment and see what works for her.

Gel pens on black paper can be a fun way to write and mix things up–some kids like dictation better if they can experiment with different mediums.

Jessica

says:

Some great tips! I need to remember to let my son know that I’ll only be saying the sentence once, he often forgets to listen ;)

Merry at AALP

says:

Jessica, my daughter really struggled with listening. I often had to use a cue phrase, like “Are you ready?” to remind her to fully focus. Another thing that helps is if you have your son look at you and watch your mouth as you speak. This can help him focus and make the words sound crisper and clearer.

Aaron Schofield

says:

Thanks for this article – we have yet to really focus on spelling, but strategies like this make it seem much more doable.

Yuna park

says:

My son is 6 and he started asking me how to spell certain words when he’s drawing to label what he drew. It’s good to know how i can help with his spelling through dictation!

Charline Avila

says:

Thank you for sharing this information and this program. It is truly a useful tool in teaching our children.

Lois

says:

Great ideas, thanks for sharing!!!!

Juanita Williamson

says:

Great tips! Hoping to progress with dictation. Thanks!

Grace Chen

says:

Thanks for sharing this idea. Can‘t wait to use it on my students.

kedra rust

says:

i’m very interested in trying this

Karen

says:

I love this idea! Thank you for sharing!

Heather

says:

My son is attending school part-time and is being home schooled part time. We are half way through AAR 1 and are making progress. I’m not sure when to start to incorporate AAS 1? His IEP lists a reading and writing deficiency, although he doesn’t have a diagnosis we suspect dysgraphia. He absolutely dislikes anything having to do with writing, often becoming anxious and unruly. Any advice?

Merry at AALP

says:

Hi Heather,

As far as when to start spelling, we recommend waiting until after completing AAR 1. Here’s a blog post with more information: http://blog.allaboutlearningpress.com/aas-right-time-to-start/

This article on dysgraphia has lots of ideas that can help whether he has dysgraphia or just struggles with writing: http://blog.allaboutlearningpress.com/dysgraphia/

Please let me know if you have additional questions.

Christine

says:

Ditto with what Rae-Lynn said. I had been using dictation to capture a score for each child’s lesson. But now I see it is much more useful than that!

I would also like to mention that I rewrite the dictation sentences to make them silly, too. I find that my children remember the sentence better when I make it funny. The words I use in the dictation are taken mostly from the words and phrases given for that lesson. Any other words I use follow Key Card rules the child has already learned.

Here’s an example for Level 2, Step 7 dictation:
Jane bit Tom, then she ate the snacks.

Or for Level 2, Step 12: The stout men put out the house fires with old tires, green grapes, and trout.

We do a whole lot of giggling during our dictation time, and it makes the kids really look forward to their dictation time.

Lydia R.

says:

My 6-y.o. is halfway through AAS 2, and it’s starting to get tricky =)
Lately I notice that he’d make mistakes on the easier words in sentences; it’s probably because he’s concentrating on spelling the harder words correctly. I need to remember to have him proofread his phrases and sentences.

Currently I don’t penalize him for punctuation and capitalization (I ask him to correct it, but not rewrite it the next day). That’s probably why he doesn’t pay as much attention to them!

Penny Jorgenson

says:

We love the dictation portion of All About Spelling’s lessons. It really helps me reinforce the rules.

Christy H

says:

I never thought of dictation as being so important. We will be incorporating more of it.

Rae-Lynn

says:

Thanks for the great ideas! I have always thought of dictation as an asessment tool. Now I have some ideas of how to incorporate it into my teaching in new ways.

I have been using your program for nearly 2 years and I love it so much. I have never read this post about dictation and I am so glad I did. You listed several important things that will help me from here on out to do an even better job with spelling. Thank you!!

Jenny

Laura

says:

This year we’ve been really working on doing the dictation sentences. Some weeks are better than others! Are we meant to do some every day – including the first day in the new chapter? We’ve been waiting until the end to do them.

Merry at AALP

says:

Hi Laura,

You can do the dictation in a variety of ways. I used to do several sentences per day until we finished that step, and then go on to the next step. But some people do the previous lesson’s dictation as they start a new step, so that they can have some dictation to do every single day. The important thing is to give your student lots of review in small bits over time–and not overwhelm the student with too much in one day, or conversely to skip review for a child who needs it.

I hope this helps!

Emily

says:

Love this! Teaches them so many things in one activity!

Jill

says:

I have so enjoyed all about spelling with my kiddo in Kindergarten. This is encouraging to work more on dictating. Thank you!

Linda

says:

I agree with your emphasis on the benefits of dictation. Thank you for giving you readers a process, as well.

Karen

says:

Thank you so much for this article! I thought, “What could be simpler than saying a phrase and them writing it down?” But, now I see there is more to it. I especially appreciate the information in step 2 regarding a child who isn’t able to repeat back a phrase. I have a 7-yr-old who has trouble memorizing scripture and I have to break into very small pieces. I see now that I may need to work on this more consistently to see improvement. There were many other lessons to improve spelling that I wasn’t aware of, so thank you!

Angelina bock

says:

I am so thrilled that you have put together such amazing easy to use learning tools! As a busy homeschooling (and work from home) mom I need simple, useful and effective curriculum! Thank you!!

Jacqueline

says:

I’m excited to see if spelling dictation will help my students who are not naturally inclined to spell correctly. Thank you for your hard work in providing such great products!

Grace H.

says:

I have done dictation in the past, but my kids always were frustrated because the passages were lengthy. I like the shorter dictation right now in Level 2.

Susen Waller

says:

I will try this with my dyslexic learner this week!

Juli Vrotney

says:

Yes, I find using dictation helps my children to use the words in a real world situation. It is exciting to watch them grow in knowledge. Great tips.

Kristin

says:

Thanks for the great tips for dictation. I sometimes (maybe often?) need to repeat sentences, but it has more to do with the natural level of noise that occurs in a house with nine children ;)

I will be implementing the proofreading tip in our next lessons. I do something similar to help them find errors on their own, but will make it a regular part of checking *every* word/sentence rather than just the incorrect ones. I simply say, “Can you read to me what you just wrote?” Generally, that is all that’s needed for them to find and correct an error.

One additional thing I’ve done is asking, “Why did you spell the word that way?” (This is usually used in words that are spelled correctly.) It has come in handy to review Key Card concepts within the context of a lesson. For example, if the word is “cross” I will ask, “Why did you spell that word with two s’s?”

Thanks for a great product that has simplified reading and spelling for both myself, and my students!

Merry

says:

Kristin,

I love how you review the key card concepts by asking your child a question and getting them to explain the concept to you. This really helps kids to see that the rules are practical, and it helps them to become more automatic in applying them.

Having them read what they wrote is another great strategy. Great job!

caryn

says:

I am looking forward to trying this program.

Sara

says:

My children love the dictation exercises! When they finish they like to read them all together to make a funny story. We have struggled with spelling for years until we found this program, and I finally feel like I am preparing my children to succeed.

Lisa Smith

says:

Thank you for this post I am going to try using this method with my children, I have two that struggle with spelling.

Michelle

says:

I am new to this idea, but I think I will try a dictation exercise before we write today. It sounds like a way to get the brain in tune to words. Thank you for your thoroughly written instructions.

Kezia Schutz

says:

Thanks for this post. It was very useful.

Becky

says:

Thank you so much for this article. It has helped me immensely. I am that mom that watched my children’s paper, or even their pencil. I can usually tell what they are writing just by the way their pencil moves. I am sure that I have caused them to know what to write. I didn’t even think that was possible. I have never had my children repeat what I have dictated or proof read it. I have been missing two steps. I also wait until the end of our dictation exercise to see what they have written. Do I need to look at each dictated sentence for mistakes before dictating the next? Or should I do it at the end of the lesson? I have noticed that I mouth the sounds when doing the yellow cards. I have really had to focus on keeping my lips closed tightly while they tell me the sound that those letters make. I can’t even express how much I appreciate this article. Thank you for offering a free level of All About Spelling and asking us to post on a blog. This got me to take the time to actually read and post.

Merry

says:

Hi Becky,

I think you’ll be pleased with the results as you start to implement the steps. Have your students proofread each sentence and say “done!” and then look at it. Help them correct any mistakes before you move on to the next sentence.

I’m glad you stopped by to read today!

Rachel

says:

I use the dictation in the AAS books with my children and it has really helped them with their spelling!

Amanda

says:

Would using a big chart and making sentence strips with sentences be part of dictation writing for pre k? Even if the child sees me writing it?

Merry

says:

Hi Amanda,

Dictation involves the child writing what you say, but your example could still be a fun activity for reading reinforcement, or as a way of teaching a child how to make a sentence. For more ideas on reading, check out All About Reading: http://www.allaboutlearningpress.com/all-about-reading/

Pyra

says:

I can truly say this has process is one of the most solid for strengthening the sub-steps of spelling which lead to better independent composition of sentences. Your explanation is spot on! Thank you for continuing to share great processes and the why behind each step.

Michelle giers

says:

This sounds great.

Martha Padron

says:

We love AAS. It is so easy to use.

Brittany C

says:

I’m going to have to work on not looking at my daughter’s paper whenever she is working.

Jennifer Woeste

says:

We are just taking off with ASS and love it. It makes my child stop and think before putting pencil to paper.

Krista

says:

My 11 year old learning sight reading in public school. Her spelling is terrible. We just started All About Spelling. Thanks for all the good information on your blog.

Alicia

says:

Great tips! Love your program. Thanks.

Sherry

says:

I just started trying this with my daughter. I think it has really increased her awareness of spelling.

Michelle T

says:

I always find it amazing how my kids can easily spell a word by itself or in a spelling list, but forget how when adding it in a sentence!

Merry

says:

Hi Michelle,

Yes, it’s a very common problem, and dictation helps us to find those words and concepts that really need more practice. This article on automaticity (or making spelling automatic) can help you understand more about why it happens and how to help: http://blog.allaboutlearningpress.com/helping-kids-achieve-automaticity-in-spelling/

Lindsey

says:

It’s so awesome that you explained all of this out! I deal with my six year old getting easily frustrated with anything pertaining to writing and this gives me some new ideas on how to word things and try a few other things. :)

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