Did you know that teaching kids to how to spell starts with phonemic awareness? Spelling, or encoding, directly correlates to oral segmentation, just like decoding stems from oral blending. Before a student can spell a word, like h-a-t spells hat, they need to know how to orally segment the word. The next step in this process is dictation. Today, I will share how to practice dictation to help students spell independently.
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What is Dictation?
Dictation is a form of guided spelling practice, which allows students to apply the sound spellings they've learned to spell a word. You can use dictation to connect this phonemic awareness skill (oral segmentation) and apply it to phonics and written language. Dictation is not a spelling test, rather, it is a way to teach students how to spell step-by-step.
In A Fresh Look at Phonics, author Wiley Blevins shares the importance of dictation practice by saying “The great benefit of dictation is that it can accelerate students' use of taught phonics skill in writing” We know that students are more successful with reading and spelling when they are taught with systematic and explicit instruction, which is exactly what dictation does!
With dictation, you will model and provide supported practice to transfer phonics skills from reading to writing. Throughout a dictation routine, the teacher models and guides students to use oral segmenting to break apart words by individual phonemes and write the word down. You can add this simple dictation routine during any whole group phonics lesson.
Here is what a step-by-step dictation routine looks like:
- Say the word and have students repeat the word.
- Stretch out the word slowly. I like to use a slinky or my hands in a slinky motion to show myself slowly stretching the word out.
- Count how many sounds. Have students hold their fingers up as you count each sound. You can draw dots or use elkonin boxes to help visualize the number of sounds.
- Sound it out slowly again; this time write down each sound as you say it.
Ways to Practice Dictation
You don't have to do a formal dictation lesson to practice this strategy! As you are teaching your phonemic awareness lessons, you can also practice spelling some of the words while practicing oral segmentation. For example, you may do the first 3-5 words with just oral segmenting. Then, you will model yourself orally segmenting the word, and writing down a letter for each sound. Finally, you can have your students try.
You can also use dictation to practice other skills such as:
- Phoneme Isolation: have students write down a phoneme or grapheme in a word. For example, you can start with letter sounds, isolating the beginning, middle, or ending sound of a word, digraphs, blends, etc!
- Phoneme Manipulation: have students spell a word, then change (manipulate) a sound to make a new word. Read more about phoneme manipulation here.
- Writing a sentence: When modeling how to write a sentence, you are using dictation! Watch it in action here.
It is a powerful tool that you can use in so many ways!
Practicing Dictation with Write and Wipe
One of the activities you will find throughout the SFK Phonics Curriculum is Write and Wipe. This is just a form of dictation practice! With Write and Wipe, each student has a mini whiteboard and a dry-erase marker. As you go through your dictation routine, the students will stretch out the word, write down how many sounds, then spell the word using their whiteboard. Then, they hold up their whiteboard so you can quickly check to see which students are spelling the word correctly. You can use this activity in your small group reading lesson, too!
How does dictation helps students spell independently
Okay, so now that you understand what dictation is and how to practice it, how does dictation help students spell independently? When you model the step-by-step process your brain goes through when spelling a word, your students will begin to do this out of habit when they have to spell independently. Their brain will be hard-wired to go through the steps every time they have to spell a word. When they take their time with spelling, there will be less mistakes or sounds missing. Eventually, they will be able to spell a word quickly without even thinking of the steps because they have practiced it so many times!
Watch a dictation routine in action here:
If you want to see a dictation routine explained step by step and in action, make sure to check out this YouTube video here:
Will you be adding dictation practice to your phonics lessons? Let me know how it goes!