Conducting a ‘Running Dictation’ Online

Challenge – A ‘running dictation’ is a useful way for learners to improve listening skills, memorise text, and speak clearly with correct pronunciation. Whilst it is an easy activity to set up in a physical classroom, it’s harder to recreate in an online setting. This online version achieves most of these criteria by using movement between breakout rooms to recreate the ‘running’. It requires a lot of juggling from the teacher and relies upon the learners having good secure internet connections (something that proved a problem when I tried this)

Tools Used – Zoom Breakout Rooms, Phone Cameras, WhatsApp

Instructions for a dication activity

Activity Outline

In this example the learners were given the challenge to dictate / scribe two movie reviews to their partner in a breakout room, and to submit a photo of it on WhatsApp on completion.



1 – Ensure learners are comfortable with joining Break-out rooms and also that they are aware of the ‘call for help’ button in the Break-out Rooms (if necessary show a screenshot of this)

2 – Ensure the Zoom break-out settings allow learners to move freely as they choose.

3 – Display a list of Rules for the game — ie you may not screenshot the text for your partner. Give information about how the work will be marked: marks lost for spelling/ punctuation mistakes, marks added for correct sentences and finishing first. Check understanding with concept questions….

4 – Assign partners and write them down (try to do this earlier in the lesson if possible). Then ask learners to decide who is the ‘scribe’ and who is the ‘runner’. Put all the runners in the same breakout room to start, and send the scribes to their own individual rooms.

5 –  In the runners’ break-out room, display on the shared screen the words for the dictation. Runners should read as much as they can memorise then swap rooms to relay the information to their ‘scribe’.

6 –  When the runners need to ‘top-up’, they return to the Reading room for another chunk of words. NB This activity would be vastly improved by the presence of an assistant to hold the Shared Screen in the Reading room, so that the teacher is free to troubleshoot / monitor for progress and/or problems.

7 –  When the learners are satisfied with their dictation, the scribes take a photo and send it to the teacher via WhatsApp. This can be marked after the lesson, and common mistakes provide teaching points for following lessons.

See the file below for an example of how this method was used in an online class.


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