A Dictation Lesson

I have been giving dictation exercises to my nine year old daughter. Interestingly enough, after just six weeks, not only has her spelling improved, her ability to focus and pay attention to instructions has increased dramatically. I was concerned at the beginning of the school year because, unlike her older siblings, this child's ability to recall a passage was pretty poor. She could devour a chapter book in an hour if I let her but couldn't explain most of what she had just read. I realized that due to her personality-active, hands on, flighty, easily distracted- she was unable to focus upon the readings. Much of what she read just flew by. Or maybe, she was the one flying away.

Anyway, I decided to strictly apply CM's dictation method every week and have been amazed at her increased powers of attention. I thought I'd share what a typical lesson looks like in hopes that it will take away some of the mystery of dictation. It is really quit simple.

Note: you'll have to pretend there are quote marks for the following conversation.
Mom: Would you like to have a dictation lesson today from your Beowulf book or Madam How and Lady Why? (notice I choose from books that will have some more challenging vocabulary. If my child was a really, really poor speller, I would choose something a little easier.)


Mom:Okay. Write the date in the right hand corner of your page. Then write Dictation and under that write Beowulf.

Mom: Alright, let's look at the chapter you read this week. Here. Look over this first paragraph very carefully. Do you see any words that you think you may have troubles spelling? (I skimmed the chapter looking for a short paragraph that didn't have quote marks because those can be frustrating at this stage. I looked for one with some new vocabulary that I thought would challenge her but not be overwhelming. This took just one or two minutes to find)

And now it came to pass that, across the sea in far Gothland, the songs of Grendel and his wrath were sung, until to Beowulf the Goth the tale of woe was carried. And Beowulf, when he heard of Grendel's deeds, cried that he would go across the waves to Hrothgar, the brave king, since he had need of men to help him.

9DD: I am not sure about Beowulf and Hrothgar.

Mom: Okay, let's write them on the board and take pictures. Look at the first word very carefully. Picture it in your mind. Now close your eyes. Can you still see the word in your mind? Great. Let's make sure. Spell Beowulf out loud. Wonderful! Now let's take a picture of the next word.

Mom: Now go over the rest of the passage by yourself. I want you to notice the capital letters and all the punctuation- that is all the commas and periods. Remember where they are. Read the passage quietly to yourself and learn it. Then I will choose a sentence from it for you to copy as I read it out loud, but you won't know which sentence it will be.

9DD: 2 minutes later... I'm ready.

Mom: That was awfully fast. I don't think you looked at it carefully enough. Spend some more time looking for commas.

9DD: 4 minutes later... I'm ready this time. I'm sure.

Mom: Listen very carefully and do not speak at all. I will read part of the sentence to you only once. If you don't listen well, you will miss it because I will not repeat it. Here we go.

And Beowulf, when he heard of Grendel's deeds,

9DD: ready

Mom: ...cried that he would go across the waves

9DD: I like this part. Beowulf is very...

Mom: Shh. No talking.

9DD: Was it sea or waves?

Mom: I'm sorry but I can't repeat it.

9DD: But I can't remember it.

Mom: Just do your best.

9DD: ready

Mom: ...to Hrothgar, the brave king,

9DD: ready

Mom: ...since he had need of men to help him.

9DD: done

Mom: Go over your paper and check your punctuation and capitalization. Make sure you dotted your i's and crossed your t's too.

Now, look at the passage in your book, find any errors you made and correct them by crossing out neatly with your pen and writing the correct word above it. I want you to see if you can find all the errors by yourself.

9DD: I get to be the teacher? Yippee!
... I just found one mistake. I wrote sea instead of waves.

Mom: That's because you talked while you were writing. That's not a good idea. Let me see if you missed finding any more errors. Oops. you didn't cross your 't' right here. (I put a tiny red dot under the mistake and she corrects it. ) I'm proud of you.

Lesson over.

My daughter enjoyed this lesson and learned a gentle lesson about paying attention.

Now wasn't that easy?