There’s a time-honored activity – some would call it a game – that lets parents quickly assess how well their children are mastering language arts skills such as reading, writing, speaking and listening. The rules are simple; just dictate a few sentences, and ask your child to write it down word-for-word.
This can be done with paper and pencil or with a keyboard. (Their skill level is what matters, not the medium.) After they’ve finished, go over their work with them and make any corrections.
Practicing dictation in this way can help parents understand how their child is progressing. Additionally, here’s what dictation can do to help your kids:
Enhance listening skills.
Tell them you’re going to say a sentence. (They’re just to listen.) Then they pick up their pencils. You say the sentence again, slowly, clearly, as they write it down. Then you say it again as they look at what they wrote. Then move on to the next sentence.
Enhance focus and concentration.
When they know you’re going to say the sentence only three times, they know they’d better pay attention. Focus.
Allow time for settling down and sitting still.
A couple sentences of dictation allows them to settle down, sit still and be ready to learn, to do homework or study.
Allow for doing one thing at a time, without distraction.
They can’t be distracted when they’re concentrating on listening, writing and proofreading. Again, focus.
Improve note-taking skills.
As they get older, note-taking becomes increasingly important, whether they’re using pen and paper or a keyboard. Listening carefully and strategically is key.
Allow to check for important skills.
With just a couple of sentences, you can check for spelling, capitalization, punctuation, usage and vocabulary. “Proper names are capitalized, remember. Did you not know the word ‘destiny’? Let’s learn it together.”
Eliminate common mistakes.
Practice makes perfect.
~ For they’re/there/their, try this sentence: “They’re over there with their bikes, ready to begin the race.”
~ For it’s/its, try this sentence: “It’s so much fun to watch the puppy chase its tail.”
~ For you’re/your, try this: “You’re going to get your turn in just a minute.”
~ For for/four, try this: “For your birthday, you’re going to get four presents.” (Notice how you sneaked in a your and you’re!)
~ For two/to/too, try this: “You two boys can try to climb the tree, too, just like the girls did.”
Make it easy.
Five minutes, two sentences ought to do it. Couple times a week.
Make it fun.
Make up funny sentences. Or switch, and have them dictate to you. Ask them to make up sentences with the vocabulary and spelling words you’re working on.
Use it for homework.
No homework tonight? Dictation time!
Mark B. Kance, M.A.T. is the Executive Director at the Hamilton Township Sylvan Learning in Hamilton New Jersey. Sylvan Learning is the leading provider of tutoring to students of all ages, grades and skill levels with more than 30 years of experience and nearly 800 centers located throughout North America. Sylvan's trained and Sylvan-certified instructors provide personalized instruction in reading, writing, mathematics, study skills and test-prep for college entrance and state exams. Sylvan also hosts MomMinded.com, a blog offering tips and resources from moms and education experts. For more information, call 1-800-31-SUCCESS or visit www.SylvanLearning.com.