Chunk Dictation works best at the end of the year when the kids have had lots of comprehensible input. It obviously can’t work in the beginning months of study since output in the form of writing can only follow massive amounts of input (listening and reading) as per Krashen.
How does Chunk Dictation work?
On the resources page of this site under Workshop Handouts, regular dictée is described in detail. See:
It may help to refer to that when reading the following description of Chunk Dictation.
The only real difference between regular dictée and chunk dictée is that we offer the kids little chunks of sound in chunk dictée instead of bigger texts. But the difference is significant – the smaller chunks of dictée are very effective when the kids are restless, as they are now at this time of year.
Anything can be used for chunk dictée. You don’t need a text in front of you at all. Just make up short sentences (short clauses are even better) that come into your mind. Vary the verb tenses.
Since it is the end of the year, you may want to use it as a diagnostic exercise to show you if things have been learned. I just use it to kill time when they are squirrely.
If you use it as an assessment instrument – for example, if you want to see if your students have learned the difference between the prepositions “on” and “under” (which sound very similar in French) – you say this, using the standard “three times through* format described at the link above:
…un garçon sur un cheval….
*[First, say it fast while they process the sound. Then pause and, after five or six seconds, say it slowly so that they can write what they heard. Then pause again, saying the third utterance quickly, while they review with their eyes what they have written. Finally, reveal the text so that they can make corrections.]
The secret to this is that the chunks must be short. Much easier for the kids to process than full regular dictées, they are perfect for holding their attention.
They also can be used to teach grammar. If you said:
…les filles marchent….
You can explain that the “nt” means there is “more than one” and move on. Always keep to the truth that explaining grammar to kids is pointless. I am all for getting to the end of the year in the least stressful way – if you want stress, try teaching grammar to kids at the end of an academic year.
When you do chunk dictée, be sure to do the entire activity in silence, as with all dictées. If you don’t follow the rule about total silence, then don’t even try this.
Once each sentence or clause has been processed, if a child has written it perfectly, they are usually very excited and want to say something. Don’t let them. I have them simply raise their hand and then I ask one kid in the room – you know which one – to snap to attention and say, in English, “Congratulations, Sarah, good job!” That is the only sound I allow during dictation, from this one military kid. It’s good. Kids don’t get enough genuine praise. But, aside from The Complimentor’s voice when a kid raises their hand, there should not be a sound.
In this activity we see input create output. The kids hear it and process it into output in the form of writing. It shuts them into their little listening and writing world and catches their attention in a very powerful way.
But it only works if you follow the format and insist on the silence. The point can’t be repeated enough. I’m really stretching this activity out right now, along with a lot of reading and poetry and songs, because this is a VERY rough time of year for us, right?
Assessment is easy. I just collect their papers at the end of the week and rubrically grade what they have written. You kind of have to do this because the kids won’t space out when they know that you are going to collect their work.
Try it. Realize that we are working in a broken system and that it never was our fault that reaching these kids is almost impossible in April and May, as per the preceding blog post.
You will find that this is a very effective way to get through a class. There isn’t a lot there to confuse them. They like the feeling of success. It keeps them busy.
I use it up to twenty minutes a day now, as I feel the kids defiantly signing up for summer in so many ways, from texting to sleeping to cheating to talking to walking in late – you know, I don’t have to tell you.
Try the Chunk Dictation. You’ll like it. It eats up time at a time of year when that is a necessary thing.
Oh and one other thing about it – if you have a sentence like “…the two boys are on the car…” – after the dictation process described above, remember that you can also circle that into something that will shift the kids out of their writing brain into their listening brain for a short while, before you do the next sentence. Just circle it and PQA it and you see where it goes. That particular sentence, actually just today, turned into “…the two very small boys are on a yellow cockroach with freckles…”. So that is something else that you can do with Chunk Dictée.
The Problem with CI
Jeffrey Sachs was asked what the difference between people in Norway and in the U.S. was. He responded that people in Norway are happy and