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I often hear colleagues say that students can verbally explain an idea better than they can write about it but this is a misconception. To test this out for yourself, try scribing for a student as he or she explains an idea. Write down exactly what that student says. Very few people can speak coherently enough to have it transcribed verbatim and then look like anything close to decent writing.

Two games that help with this are “Dictation” and “Just A Minute.”

Dictation Game


Dictation is a skill from a former time that few modern students have any knowledge about. Dictation involved the act of speaking words that someone else would write. The written product was only acceptable if the person speaking had great oral and written skills, or if the person taking the dictation was actively editing and improving the text to make it sensible in its written format.

How to Play

During or after the teaching of a concept, ask students to make pairs. One student is the summarizer and one student is the scribe. The summarizer attempts to verbally communicate what has just been taught in less than five sentences. The goal is to have the summary make sense as a written piece that is then read out loud. The scribe reads the finished summary back to the summarizer and the two have a discussion about how they can improve the text. Chose one or two dictations to be read aloud in class. This game takes several attempts, so persevere. Don’t worry about getting to the end of lesson before asking students to summarize. Summarization can happen at any point during learning.

“Just A Minute” Game

Students work in pairs. One student attempts to talk on a given subject for a minute without hesitation, repetition, deviation. The other student is the timer and listener. Students then switch roles. This game also gets better with perseverance. With younger students, try beginning with 30 second talks. Older students can work up to talks of five minutes.

“Just A Minute” can also be used as a pre-writing activity.