Learn English Writing: Vocabulary Builders


Writing in English requires vocabulary fluency


Sometimes English composition teachers need to focus ESL student attention on word fluency. That is, the ability to recall words without dictionaries. Thus, teachers need a bag of activities to build and improve student vocabulary power. Here is one of those activities which all ESL teachers should keep in their back pocket.

ESL Dictogloss

This activity combines a variety of skills and doesn’t take much time. It’s called a dictogloss, a kind of dictation that involves note taking, group discussion and focused attention on language.

To begin, all you need is a short text. Perhaps 50 (beginners) to 200 (high intermediate level) words. It should be a passage which the students have read before (e.g. a section from a textbook).

The activity runs like this:

  1. Teacher reads the text normal speed – students listen. No writing while reading. After reading give students 3-5 minutes to write notes.
  2. Teacher reads the same text a second time at normal speed – students listen while reading; 3-5 minutes of note taking after reading.
  3. Teachers reads a third time. Then, students in small groups reconstruct the whole text from their notes. One person is the writer.
  4. When time is over, teacher gives students full text. Students self check for accuracy.


This 30 minute activity combines lots of important skills, like listening, speaking, note taking, memory recall and writing.

It’s a worthwhile activity to give students a change of pace while building vocabulary and writing skills a the same time.

2 thoughts on “Learn English Writing: Vocabulary Builders”

  1. Thanks Rob, will give this a go. I’ve tried once before with a pre-intermediate class but the text was too long and it took forever. Agree that keeping it short is the key to making this work.

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