A running dictation gets students out of their seats and engages reading, writing, listening and speaking skills. It can be used in a variety of contexts, but I like it for reinforcing those “little” words (e.g. helping verbs, articles) that are sometimes overlooked by students.


Set-up: Prepare a short text (3-5 sentences) that incorporates the target grammar. You can also use an excerpt from the textbook that contains the grammar point. Print a copy in a 16-point font for easy reading. Place the text at the front of the room. It remains there throughout the activity. (For larger classes, you may need 3-5 copies placed around the room.)

Groups: Students can work in pairs or threes. One person is the designated writer. The other partner is the runner. They can only read and speak. (If you have groups of three, the two non-writers take turns being the runner.)

Action: When time starts, one runner from each group “runs” to the front and memorizes as much text as possible. He or she then returns to the writer and reports what was read. The writer writes. This continues until the text is complete.

Rules: The students should try to reproduce the text exactly – including correct spelling and punctuation. With advanced groups, fine points like italics, parentheses, or other features must be accurate. The first group to finish with a correct text is the winner.

Review: After everyone finishes, pass out copies of the text. Student can check their work, note the target grammar structure, and do a follow-up activity.


The downloadable for this lesson gives sample running dictations at three levels. It targets “to be” as a main verb (in the lower-intermediate sample) and in passive constructions (in the other samples).

Click here to download.